First Pathway Post

Last Updated: June 17, 2020 • Competency: Institutional, Managerial


Designing an online course can feel overwhelming. These steps can help you prepare for the upcoming Fall Semester. This learning pathway will walk you through the basics of a process for designing an online course. This pathway is going to assume you have already have a good understanding of the Basics of Online Teaching & Learning, and that you are comfortable working on your own. If you prefer a different experience or need help, there are additional options for a more facilitated opportunities on our learning experiences page.

Recommended timeline: 6-8 weeks before you will be teaching

Time to complete pathway: 1-2 hours (depending on plan)

Getting Started

Pause and reflect

Before jumping into development, get started by reflecting on the class you will be teaching and your teaching style. What is important to you? What makes you a good teacher? These are all important aspects to bring into your online course as well. It’s also a good time to think about what tools you might need to learn more about to be successful.

Prepare to plan, plan, plan

Designing and preparing for an online course should take time and thoughtful planning. One way to get started is to use a planning guide to help organize all of your thoughts and goals for the semester. We have a planning guide that can help you build the foundation for your online course by walking you through writing learning objectives, making decisions about content and aligning activities and assessments with your learning objectives.

Spring/Summer planning guide (view only please make a copy for your own use)

Fall planning guide (please make a copy for your own use)

Describe your learners

When we start planning, the first thing we do is consider who we are designing for. For example, you’ll notice on the first page of the planning guide some general information about planning for your course. Who are your students? What information might be useful to consider for your course? You may have it in your head, but it’s useful (especially if you get some help) to have it written out. In the planning guide mentioned above, we have a sheet to help you reflect on the students that might be taking your class and how those demographics might impact your course design.

Define your goals and objectives.

The next step is to think about your goals for the class. Creating clear learning objectives is the foundation of a well-planned course. Much like a thesis statement, they can help development stay focused.

Writing good learning objectives

Connect the dots

Believe it or not, planning and preparing for your online course is one of the toughest parts of the design process! Having a clear foundation makes everything easier. Once you have your learning objectives specified, you can start building out course content, assignments, activities and ways to build community in your class.