Designing an Online Course: Tips and Tools for Success

Designing an Online Course: Tips and Tools for Success

UO Online's training site walks you through how to design an engaging and accessible online course.

Designing an Online Course: Tips and Tools for Success

Student with laptop, books, and graduation hat

Teaching an online course can be a tremendously rewarding experience for instructors: the challenge of teaching online invites us to experiment with new ways of engaging students and to expand our creative toolkit as educators, all while making education more accessible to diverse learners. But it can also be a daunting and disorienting experience at first. To help you translate your expertise in the classroom to expertise teaching online, UO Online is delighted to share a new training site, Designing an Online Course: Tips and Tools for Success, that will help guide you through the process of developing an online course.

UO Online authored the site to serve as a central resource and reference point for the University of Oregon’s broader learning community committed to accessible and transparent education. For that reason, we have designed the site to support instructors who might be new to online teaching and course design, those who want to explore specific topics related to course design, those who are revising a course, and those who just want to learn more about accessible education. Below you will find an introduction to the site and online course design, highlights from the core skills of teaching online you can learn about in-depth, and general information about how to use the site:

The Designing an Online Course site is one part of a broader continuum of support offered by UO Online and TEP to University of Oregon instructors. Beyond the site, UO Online and TEP offer drop-in consultations, host regular workshops, and author articles and how-to guides on pedagogy and course design.

Introduction to Online Course Design

We begin by orienting you to the basics of online course design, what makes an online course different from other modalities, what you can do to help your students be successful, and how you can prioritize inclusion and belonging in your course design. In particular, we emphasize two key elements of design: 1) using the Community of Inquiry Model to select the learning materials and activities you will use to engage your students; and 2) using learning modules to organize and structure your content in a way that makes it easier for students to move through your course and, therefore, spend more time thinking about what they are supposed to be learning rather than thinking about how to navigate new technologies.  

Before moving on to take a closer look at the core skills of teaching online, we prepare you with a Course Development Toolkit that includes everything you will need to stay organized as you design your course, including the following:

  • Development Checklist
  • Course Mapping Template
  • Syllabus Templates
  • Accessibility Checklist
  • Course Review Checklist 

But you will not be alone as you design your course: we also link you to a network of support services at the University of Oregon to help you with all your questions related to multimedia production, Canvas, and Panopto.

Core Skills for Teaching Online

Once you are comfortable with the basics of teaching online, you can move on to train in the four core skills of designing and teaching an online course. We have given each core skill its own module, beginning with the theory and frameworks that inform the skill, moving through practical applications and how to leverage Canvas tools in service of those skills, and finishing with an activity for you to put into practice what you have learned.

Aligned Design: Why designing an online course is all about beginning with the end, starting with learning outcomes and working backward to create learning materials, activities, and assessments.

Teaching Presence: How to illuminate your unique voice as an instructor and cultivate a sense of community with your students that values curiosity and honest inquiry.

Assessing Student Learning: How to design assignments that align with your learning objectives, tap into your students’ creativity to promote academic integrity, and apply Canvas tools to expedite grading. 

Active Learning: How to emphasize active learning in your online course by creating opportunities for students to interact with and reflect on what they are learning, collaborate with their peers, and build on the feedback they receive.

The examples of online teaching that animate the site have been generously shared by your peers and colleagues in the UO teaching community. Likewise, UO Online has authored and curated all the resources, guides, and checklists specifically for UO instructors with our diverse community of learners in mind.

How to Use the Training Site

We have built the Designing an Online Course site to reflect the easy wayfinding and module design of online courses. To get started on your training, simply navigate to the site homepage and click on the green button labeled “Intro to Online Course Design” and click on the first page titled “Overview: Intro to Online Course Design.” If you would like to move through the full training, simply click the “Next” button on the bottom-right of each page. Alternatively, if you would like to skip ahead to a more advanced topic, or if you would like to return to an earlier topic, look to the navigation bar on the top-left and click the “Modules” button.

As you navigate through the site, you will often encounter text boxes labeled “Meta Moments.” These boxes will prompt you to take a moment to think consciously about what you are experiencing and learning. They also help bring in additional strategies related to important topics such large enrollment classes, inclusion and belonging, UO libraries, and accessibility.

Get Help Designing Your Course

UO Online is eager to help you get started designing your course and support you through the entire process. We have a dedicated team of instructional designers, media producers, and support staff ready to help in-person or virtually. To get help: