Designing Online Courses Overview

As with face-to-face courses, quality online courses require careful planning and sound pedagogy. It can be challenging to know where to begin and how much is enough. Instructors (and their students) sometimes struggle with too much course content and activities, since it’s so easy to link to rich, wonderful, interesting online resources.

The “Designing Online Courses” Quick-Start topics provide a framework for planning and designing a quality online course. Each topic provides research-based best practices and instructional design strategies and resources.

Review the following important topics to learn more:

  • Course Planning considers big ideas and essential questions, how Backwards Design helps align and focus courses, as well as organization and navigation.
  • Learning Objectives and Alignment focuses on practical strategies for building measurable objectives that provide the framework for learning materials and assessments.
  • Assessment and Measurement includes great resources and examples of diagnostic, formative, and summative assessment strategies.
  • Instructional Materials provides many examples and resources about online lectures, digital media, open educational resources, and copyright and accessibility considerations.
  • Course Activities and Learner Interaction introduces the Absorb-Do-Connect framework and provides examples of different types of interactions.

Each of these brief topics provide an overview along with practical strategies and useful resources. If you need more information and want to explore further, links to recommended Deep-Dive Topics are also provided at the end of each topic.

Note: These topics are organized and aligned with the Quality Matters Standards (Trouble viewing this document? View our instructions for logging in with Google Apps). What is Quality Matters? It is a faculty-centered, peer-review process designed to certify the quality of online and blended courses. UW-Madison is an institutional subscriber to Quality Matters so that faculty and instructional staff can use the nationally-recognized Quality Matters Rubric as a guide to develop and evaluate their own online course design. The Deep-Dive Topics for each of these brief topics provide more information about each standard. To access all of Quality Matters resources, including the rubric and course review tools, UW-Madison employees can create a Quality Matters account.

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