This section specifies the principles that should guide the course design process. It also illustrates how course design can embody educational values in well-structured course materials. These principles interact with each other, so should not be considered as a sequence of steps in a construction process. Instead, these principles inform the development process in the same way that an understanding of architecture and structural engineering informs the construction of a building.

There are four comprehensive design principles described below: Organization and Course Design, Course Content, Assessment, and Interactivity. Each of these principles will be described in a separate section below. Each section begins with a table listing the design elements for that category, and showing how each of these elements supports the educational values described above. Each design element is then listed, together with an overview, a brief description of ways to incorporate that element into your class, and a list of resources.

You will note that some elements are listed in the table and in the body text in italics. The italicized elements are considered to be the most critical elements, which define a baseline level for course quality. If possible, these elements should be achieved in an online class as soon as possible.

A. Organization and Course Design

Course materials are more manageable when they are segmented and grouped together in an organized manner. Typically, segments are organized thematically or topically into units or modules. The organization scheme clarifies the progression of concepts and cognitive skills to be learned in the class. An orderly sequencing of materials also helps students understand how course activities contribute to fulfilling specific learning objectives.

Underlying Values
Organization and Course Design
Design Elements

B. Course Content

Evaluation of the quality of course content should follow normal faculty and disciplinary guidelines. The content elements described below are generic concepts to consider while creating or analyzing course content, and should apply to a wide variety of disciplines. However they cannot be analyzed without a complete understanding of the positioning of a particular course within an overall curriculum, level of student preparation, and other factors unique to a given course.

Underlying Values
Course Content
Design Elements

C. Assessments

Assessment of student performance has greater validity when assessment tasks are aligned with learning objectives. Further, appropriate assessment methods will take into account the particulars of the teaching modality (fully online or blended) for each course, and make adjustments for specific environments. Ideally, when assessment is conducted in appropriate ways it provides effective feedback for students, and encourages them to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of their own approaches to learning.

General Resources
Authentic Assessments:

9 Principles of Good Practice for Assessing Student Learning :

Evidence of Learning Online: Assessment Beyond The Paper:

Online Course Assessment Part I:
Online Course Assessment Part II:

Underlying Values
Design Elements

D. Interactivity

Students often approach coursework with the expectation that they will benefit most from direct contact with the faculty teaching the course. While it is critically important that faculty members establish a sense of co-presence or “being there” for their students in both online and blended environments, it is also important for students to engage each other in relevant discussions, and for students to make use of expertise of many others outside the university. So interactivity may refer to student-to-student interaction, as well as faculty-to-student interaction, and to contact with external resources as well.

Also, because it can be difficult to anticipate what directions such computer-mediated interactions as discussion board participation or e-mail list subscriptions may take, it’s generally a good idea to make instructional expectations as explicit as possible, using methods such as rubrics

Underlying Values
Design Elements