I. Course Design Principles > A. Organization and Course Design

I.A.1 The course is broken into meaningful learning modules. In a typical semester-length course,
modules may represent single class sessions, a week of classes, or units of two to three (or more) weeks duration.

Values Supported

Universal Design


It is very helpful for students to break the material into a number of meaningful chunks. If there are too few chunks, students have difficulty making sure they are following the material. If there are too many modules, it becomes difficult for students to get a coherent sense of how the modules go together, and how they are sequenced.

This element supports the values of Transparency and Alignment, by separating course content into meaningful segments. It also supports the Adaptability value, as it is generally easier to edit a small module rather than one that is longer or more complex. Because these organizational concerns may be magnified for students with certain physical and learning disabilities, this element also addresses the value of Universal design.


Organize using a modular structure. Students also expect a modular structure to conclude with an assessment (and we encourage this). The modules therefore serve to guide the students’ time management and help moderate the flow and pacing of the course.


A good resource for planning online courses and defining objectives is available from Portland State University on their Center for Academic Excellence site:

A short video presentation on Planning Online Instruction by Professor Curt Bonk is available from the Instructional Systems Technology Department at the School of Education at Indiana University (requires QuickTime):