Online Course Development

This section includes information on course development, navigation, management, and transferring your F2F class to online.

Research says...

  • Course structure and navigation should be clear, consistent, and intuitive
  • Take technical limitations into account
  • Keep it simple
  • Face-to-face materials may need to be reorganized/compartmentalized
  • Group together everything for one "module" (probably one week); manageable chunks
  • Scaffold learning within the course development to "lead" student from one concept to the next logical concept
  • Students easily become frustrated with confusion within a course, inconsistent instructions, overkill of do's and don't's
Kathy Chatfield, Clark College eLearning

See video about why we need student interaction online.

An Online Course in a Nutshell
A clear 1-page article that describes the essential features of an online course. There is a good visual that shows the features.
Planning Matrix
A "planning stages" document to help you think through all the features of your class (probably some you never even though of!) and how you might want to deliver them.

Online Activity Index
An index of links to about 40 different types of activities. "A complete description of each activity is given, along with examples. Common educational uses of each activity are discussed as well as common educational objectives. Furthermore, teaching strategies for the given activity are provided." An excellent resource.
Instructional Strategies for Online Learning
A discussion of 10 different types of instructional strategies, from learning contracts to case studies, that would appeal to different types of learners styles.
How Users Read on the Web
This is an older article, but it's short and has a good example chart of how to improve your writing so that your students will actually read what you post!
Writing for the Web
Short, with some examples.

This is a sample course from U of Maine.

Sample "How To" Handout:
Many students are visual learners and need visual navigation instructions, especially if they have not taken online courses before. Develop a bank of "How To's" using screen shots (I also use the pen on my tablet computer). I have a separate "How To" button for these documents.


  • Students don't like to click around. They want everything right in front of them, so your goal when setting up your course should be to have as few "clicks" as possible to get from Welcome page to assignment.
  • Most students are visual learners, and with some forethought, instructors can accommodate these learners. One important aspect is navigation help. I have a "How To" folder with screen shots for most basic navigation and courses tasks (see handout in Example folder).
  • Use color and motion (sparingly, but don't be afraid!) See exampe:
  • Use good English writing skills without typos and, especially, without inconsistencies. Keep your terminology and directions consistent. Keep your look and feel and flow throughout the course consistent.

Tips to Lower Your Drop Rate
Here are some tips from an article in the member section of (an online learning organization):
  • Interactivity is the key; group discussions, special interest groups, email for individual communication, group projects, online quizzes, student homepages, drop boxes, etc. (It's time-consuming, but I email students if they have missed a couple of assignment just to let them know I'm aware of what they are doing.)
  • The first week is very important. Students shoud be required to practice all of the tasks they will be required to perform in the class so that they have the process down: post something to the discussion board, send an email, submit a sample assignment...whatever you will require of them. And you must give complete step by step instructions (I use lots of screen shots).
  • Have an on-campus orientation. Similar to the above - it's even better when you can do it in the lab so that you can guide students through and take care of any problems right off the bat. Also include organization and study skills tips in your orientation.

I can't agree with Julie more (having learned the hard way) that students should "be required to practice all of the tasks they will be required to perform in the class" right away. I even give them 3 points on the first test if they change their email address on Blackboard themselves. Amazing how that works. jhubble, acc, austin, texas