Practical Factors to Consider When Planning to Develop an Online Course

Here I am one day to the end of EDUC4151 and I am genuineley overwhelmed by the growth I have experienced and the new understanding I gained of what goes into designing an online course: from thinking about structure, format, assessments and assignments, learning strategies and technology, to how to build the community and increase interactivity.

Give yourself enough time to design the course. The Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning through Research (CATL) from Northeastern University in Boston recommends that faculty should anticipate spending 4-6 months of regular work time to design and develop an online course. It seems an awfully short time to me, to tell you the truth but EDUC 4150 and EDUC 4151 have given me the confidence to try my hand at it. Going through an online self paced course as a learner while gaining knowledge on the best practices and the theories that apply to the online environment allowed for quite a few “a-ha” moments and reflections on what goes into the planning and preparation for such a course.

Course Structure and Organization The structure of a course is one of the most important topics that need tobe addressed when designing an online course. In everyday life, we differentiate between a safe and an unsafe house based on the integrity of its structure. The architectural elements can be altered in colour and design to meet our artistic wants, but the integrity of the structure is a critical need that we are less inclined to compromise on. The same idea should be applied when deciding on the structure and organization of a course. Tony Bates (2008) observes that there are two critical elements that need to be taken into consideration when thinking of a course structure: the choice, breakdown and sequecing of the content and the deliberate organization of students activities and assessments. Choosing the most appropriate course structure that will consider the instructor’s teaching style, the needs and learning styles of the students and the particularity of the content is critical for the quality of the learning experience, outcomes and student satisfaction.

Choose and Use Technology Wisely Technology has been the only main reason why eLearning has come to exist and continues to be the preferred way of learning for adults. And yet, instructors, faculty and learners alike have a love-hate relationship with technology: it can be wonderful and save you lots of time, money and resources when it works flawlessly or it can cost you grief, frustration, stress and pure embarrassment when it decides to stop working right before you have to post your last assignment, for example. While we can recover from this little mishap, when designing an online course consideration should be given to the type of technology we will choose to support our teaching, the content or curricullum needs, the various learning styles of our students and the online community. Technology should be the boat that will help us cross the river, and not the main attraction of the trip. Doing the research and choosing the technology that is most aligned with the educational needs of that syllabus is crucial for the success of the course.

Interactivity Creating interactive lessons is a great way of presenting required readings and resources to students with different learning styles in an online environment. Streaming video and audio, online lecture text, and engaging interactive Web content are just a few methods that students can access at their leisure and revisit to check for understanding and comprehension. Adding assessments in the form of “check-for-understanding-questions is a great way of helping students understand what their level of understanding of the concepts presented is. By creating links to loop the student back to the chapter/content that needed revision allows students to move at their own pace and customize their learning. By using diferent types of media and creative ways of forcing the student interact with the content on a regular basis, the instructor will ensure that students are kept engaged in the learning process. A second thought should be maybe given to accomodating for otehr needs when using one type of media. For example, when offering a video as a resource, maybe have a transcript of the video or provide a synchronized closed caption. I find it really helpful at times when I cannot play the sound of a video (on an airplane, on the public transit, etc..) We keep talking about the benefits of accessing online education from anywhere and at anytime but we still prepare lessons and resources with the traditional quiet room/office or library in mind as “the place” where learning happens.


Boettcher, J.V. & Conrad, R.M. (2016). The online teaching survival guide. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Hart, T. & Shaw, A. (2017). Creating Interactive Content. Retrieved from https://ctl.learninghouse.com/creating-interactive-content/

Uderman, B., (2019) Seven Things to Consider Before Developing Your Online Course. Retrieved from https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/seven-things-to-consider-before-developing-your-online-course/