Planning Your Course

Although many of the things you do in face to face classes can be done in online courses, you will find the planning process different.  Rather than recreating what you are doing face to face, you will want to re-think and re-design your course for the online environment, incorporating the tools and resources that are available online.  The following steps will help you get started.

Step 1 – Prepare Yourself

If you have never taken an online class yourself, you might want to spend some time becoming familiar with online learning BEFORE you jump into the planning process.  The best way to be prepared is to take an online course yourself.  This enables you to gain a student perspective as well as become familiar with all aspects of the online learning environment.  If you are interested in taking a Faculty Orientation to Online Learning course, please send an email to InstructionalDesign@unco.edu with your request. 

  • Designing E-learning (by Gilly Salmon a well known distance educator) - video
  • Online course demo (short demonstration of the parts of an online course) - demo

Step 2 – Develop a Course Blueprint

A course plan or blueprint is an effective way to plan both face to face and online courses.  All courses should start with clear, concise, and measurable learning objectives.  Map out the online course components by creating a chart that includes course objectives, unit objectives, and the readings, activities and assessments that help students achieve the objectives.  This blueprint not only helps with course design, it becomes an excellent course schedule for students.

  • A chart or table can make it easy to plan all components of the course. sample blueprint - pdf
  • Blooms Taxonomy provides an excellent tool for writing objectives using action verbs. Blooms chart - pdf

Step 3 – Plan the Content and Learning Activities

What happens in a face to face class?  Do you lecture? Have group discussions? Take field trips? How will you accomplish these same goals in an online course and engage the learner?  And how will you inject your unique personality and experiences into your online course?  Think about ways that the online course can provide students with your insights about the topic – something that is just naturally there in your face to face courses.

Step 4 – Plan the Assessments

Assessments should be designed to measure the stated learning objectives.  Online assessments can include participation, papers or projects, discussions, collaborative work, quizzes and tests.  In addition, tools such as blogs, journals, and wikis can be used to create unique assessments in the online environment.  For online assessments, you will need to create detailed assignment descriptions (since you won’t have face to face time with students to explain the assignments) as well as specific grading criteria (rubrics).

  • A comprehensive rubric development, assessment, and sharing tool. iRubric.com - website
  • Sample online discussion board rubric - pdf

Step 5 – Plan for Communication and Interactions

In face to face courses you probably do not think about the various types of interactions that occur because they happen naturally in the classroom.  However, since you do not see your online students in person, you need to be aware of, and plan for, three important types of interactions: student – content, student-instructor, and student-student. 

  • Incorporating Interaction into your Distance Learning Course (WPI Academic Technical Center) - pdf
  • Improving Your Teaching Presence in Distance Learning Courses - WPI website

Step 6 – Plan the “first day” of Class

Think about what happens in your face to face courses.  What do you do on the first day of class?  In many cases, you will set the tone for the semester by introducing students to the course, reviewing the syllabus, providing big picture of the course content and an over-all plan for the course, giving an overview of the assignments, and so on.  Include this same information in your online course via a welcome email, welcome announcement, or “start here” selection on your course menu.

  • Sample outline for the first day of class information - pdf