Online Course Development
Online Course Defined
An online course is one in which more than 50 percent of its content is delivered online. It typically consists of:
- Documents: for example, syllabi, assignments, project instructions, rubrics, offline tests, etc.
- Service-based features: for example, online assessments, discussion forums, grade book, synchronous communication. Services include TRACS and other third-party software.
- Asset-based materials: for example, graphics, animations, video, Web pages, interactive activities, etc.
What are the steps in building an online course?
First: Plan Your Course on Paper
Start early — at least six months in advance. Set interim deadlines for yourself for completion of each task. Developing an online course is labor intensive and can be difficult to do concurrent with teaching the course.
- Create a content outline, chunking the content into lessons. View an example.
- Write learning objectives for each of the lessons. Learning objectives provide specifications for assessment and guide the development of instructional strategies. They communicate to students the standards and expectations of the course. Read about important considerations when writing learning objectives.
- Become familiar with TRACS and third-party tools and how they can be used to support learning and assessment. Read about technology options.
- Develop a planning matrix. The planning matrix provides an overview of all the activities in the course.
- Enter the titles and objectives for each lesson. View an example.
- Determine how you will provide online content. Read about content options for online courses.
- Determine assignments and assessments by which students will demonstrate mastery of each objective. Consider online quizzes and exams as well as discussion prompts, essays and papers, student presentations or media, etc. Add the online content, assignments and assessments to the matrix and indicate after each objective how students will demonstrate mastery of that objective. View an example.
- Review the planning matrix to determine if there is a mix of activities that engage students and if the workload is manageable. Read about important considerations when reviewing the planning matrix for an online course.
Second: Produce or Obtain the Course Content
Developing online content is the most time-consuming aspect of designing an online course. Plan to carve out plenty of time to do this.
- Develop online lessons and assignments. Read about important considerations when developing online lessons and assignments.
- Produce media (e.g., production video, graphics, Captivate). Staff in the Faculty Project Lab (firstname.lastname@example.org or 512-245-7375) can assist you.
- Acquire course content that you will not produce yourself. Read about public resources for educational content.
- Address copyright issues before you post third-party materials. Read about important considerations when addressing copyright issues.
- Construct a detailed syllabus. Include a list of tasks with due dates. View an example.
Third: Build TRACS Components
After you have planned the course and developed all the course materials, you are ready to build the course in TRACS.
- Post content to Lessons or Resources. View training documents for Lessons and Resources. We recommend Lessons because it enables a guided structured learning sequence. You may also want to create a document with your content in it before working in Lessons so that you can easily copy and paste it into the tool. Read more about keeping track of linked content content.
- Create Assessments. View training documents for Assessments.
- Create Discussion Forums. View training documents for Forums. For information on best practices, refer to Discussion Forum Guidelines.
- Create Assignments. View training documents for Assignments.
- Post the syllabus.
- Post a welcome announcement. A welcome announcement helps establish your presence and sets the tone for the course.
Fourth: Pilot the Course
- Facilitate the course. Building a well-structured online course is only part of the equation for successful online teaching; facilitating is the other part of the equation. Facilitation includes creating a social presence and providing regular, timely feedback. For tips refer to Course Management and Communication.
- Survey students at mid semester and at the end of the semester to collect feedback about the course. View a list of possible survey questions.
- Analyze the feedback from the survey(s) and revise the course accordingly. As you continue to tweak your course, you will have fewer questions from students and your workload will decrease.
- Complete the Texas State Best Practices Checklist.
How ITS Can Help
Schedule a time to meet with an instructional designer to talk about your course. Contact Ann Jensen at email@example.com.
- Apply to either the 40-hour Foundations of Online Course Design and Development or semester-long Advanced Online Course Design and Development.
- Attend one or more of the following 1-2 hour pedagogy and technology workshops. For more information, visit the ITS Workshop site.
- Survival Skills for Online Teaching
- Manage an Online Course and Still Have a Life
- Using Online Discussions Effectively
- Online Collaboration: Supporting Student Teams
- Attend technology workshops. For more information, visit the ITS Workshop site.