Top 10 Course Design Considerations

1. Design, develop or choose an existing interface.
The course interface should be user-friendly, intuitive for the learner and accommodating to a variety of learning styles.

  • Find out your learning style.
  • Learning styles inventory.

2. Chunk content.
Present your content in smaller chunks. Try 10 to 15 minute lectures and then vary the strategy (have students do an exercise and respond to a discussion question on the bulletin board).

3. Organize content visually.
Use intuitive icons, readable text formatted for computer display, color, pictures, animations and charts.

4. Use interactive teaching and learning strategies.
Include interaction with instructor, other students, the content and media. Use panel discussions, role-play, small group brainstorming and reporting, student presentations and virtual teams.

5. Get some technology training.
Before teaching online, give students an orientation to the online tools or provide an online tutorial for using the online tools.

6. Include communication tools such as bulletin boards, chat rooms and white boards.
The instructor's role should include being a facilitator. Assign students to teams, pick group leaders to coordinate exercises and guide discussions.

7. Consider student-centered approaches and self-directed learning strategies.
Identify the students' level of self-directed autonomy (dependence, interest, involvement and self-direction), serve as a motivator and guide and attempt to move them to the next level (e.g., from interested to involved).

8. Use authentic assessment strategies such as papers, projects and portfolios along with traditional assessment measures.
Typical objective tests have one right answer. Authentic assessment strategies include the coordination and integration of many aspects of knowledge and skills including critical thinking ability. Students should be given assignments and assessments that require them to use their knowledge to identify and address enduring and emerging issues and problems in their disciplines.2

9. Build rapport with the learners. Distance learners often feel isolated.
Use streaming media to retain the "live" presentation in a classroom. Encourage student discussion on the bulletin board. Respond to students on the bulletin board along with encouraging students to respond to other students' questions. Put students in small discussion groups or teams to brainstorm or create a solution to a problem.

10. Provide appropriate infrastructure for learning.
Students must have access to libraries and other resources online. Admissions, registration and technical support must be user-friendly. Quick resolution of technical issues is very important. Institutional strategic vision and administrative support is required.

1. Content on this page is a summary of key ideas in the paper, "Let's Consider the Learner! Top 10 Course Design Considerations," by Kim Dooley, Lance Richards and James Lindner of Texas A & M University, 2002 Distance Education Conference Proceedings, Center for Distance Learning Research.

2. Huba, M.E. and Freed, J.E. (2002). "Learner-Centered Assessment on College Campuses: Shifting the Focus from Teaching to Learning." Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Page last updated on November 7, 2012 .