Planning an Online Course

December 4, 2023

Whether taking a face-to-face course online or building a new one from scratch, designing an online course takes time and planning. Here are our recommended steps for getting your course ready to go in time.


Getting started- 6 months out

In this phase you want to take an inventory of your “non-negotiable” course components. These are the things that you, as the instructor, cannot change. That could be the schedule of the course in regards to the term, the format (synchronous/asynchronous), or where the course fits into the curriculum. Additionally, the textbook and learning objectives that are mandatory should be accounted for when you are getting started.

Establish strong learning objectives. Learning objectives are a great place to start when planning your course because they help you understand why you are teaching the course and what you want your students to achieve on the other end. Setting learning objectives lays the foundation to understanding what activities and materials you will need to add to your course as it develops.

Create the structure- 4 months out

To begin giving your course structure, organize the modules. Chunk your material into logical units that will help learners make progress in the course. To plan for alignment, support your learning objectives with appropriate content, assessments, assignments, and tools. One helpful tool to help you get started is a course map. Use a course map to outline what you will include in the course.

It is important to keep learner engagement in mind when planning your online course. Interaction with the instructor and between learners has to be established more intentionally in an online classroom than in an in-person classroom, so be looking now for creative ways to boost engagement.

Fill in the Details- 3 months out

Three months before the course is published you will want to add all the necessary details to your course. This refers to completing the syllabus and incorporating instructional materials. These materials may be recorded videos, links to readings, or explanations. It is important that the details are clear and organized well within your course. In this stage, planning for accessibility should be a focal point. 

Final Touches- 1 month out 

Now that the major course components are in place, add a home page. You can include information about how to get started, where to find course materials, and the purpose of your course. Adding a self introduction is also a nice touch to your course. This helps build a connection with your learners and makes you more approachable. Likewise, establishing a place in your course where learners can introduce themselves is a great way to create a sense of community.

Before you publish your course double check that all of the various attributes of your course are in working order and have correct due dates. Publish your course well before the start of the semester to make sure everything is correct and accessible.

How a Digital Learning Strategist Can Help

Meet with one of Clemson Online’s DLSs as you work through developing your course! A digital learning strategist can help you in the planning phase with detailed feedback about learning objectives, alignment, and the overall framework of your course. They provide course content reviews that can give you structured guidance in not only the content of your course but also in technical skills you will need to know while developing the course in Canvas. Schedule a consultation.

Upcoming Events

Quality Matters Course Review

Wednesday, December 6th, 1:30-2:30 PM

This presentation will provide an overview of the Quality Matters online course review process and the available tools for online course quality assurance here at Clemson. Learn about the QM Rubric, how to apply it to your online courses, and how to schedule a full course review with Clemson Online. This workshop is open to all instructors, whether you have taught online before or not.

Facilitated by Jana Radley, Quality Matters Coordinator. 

When: December 6th from 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm.
Modality: Virtual and synchronous—an Outlook Calendar invite, with the Zoom link, will be sent.
Registration: Quality Matters Course Review

Clemson Online Fall 2023 Events Calendar

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Review our Fall 2023 Events Calendar to see what Online Instruction Development opportunities await!

We have a robust lineup of topics and live training formats to support your use of Canvas and other e-learning tools. Topics cover demonstrations of using Kaltura, presentations on inclusive practices for online education, and workshops to get your Canvas site ready to teach!

All of our live training is recorded. Registrants will automatically receive a link to that day’s video after it has been processed.

Contact James Butler with any questions regarding these sessions. 

Clemson Online – Where Tech and Teaching Meet

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