Tips for Developing an Online Course

For educators, online courses are instrumental in reaching a vast and varied number of students. While aiding to reduce cost significantly, and improve collaboration, online courses meet the ever-rising demand for education. By going the digital way, educators can offer students flexible and simple ways in accessing variety of educational resources in a comfortable learning environment. Therefore, developing an online course requires some expertise to optimize online courses. Here are easy tips to consider when developing an online course.

  1. Have a syllabus

A syllabus is an academic document that gives a framework of a course of study. The syllabus helps both learners and instructors to communicate on the way a course will be administered. It enables the instructor to select best learning experience and contents to be taught. Read how to make a syllabus engaging.

Components of a Syllabus

Generally, a syllabus should include the following information:

  • Learning Outcomes/Objectives. Learning outcomes are specific statements that describe significant and essential skills/knowledge that learners should take away from the course.

Tips: Use action verbs in to express what students will be able to do, e.g., analyze, create, compare, evaluate. The use of action verbs facilitates alignment of program and course learning outcomes and assessments. Bloom’s Taxonomy will help in having observable and/or measurable objectives.

  •  Course Goal/Rationale

Course goal describes wide-ranging aspects of behavior which incorporate how the course relates to the larger ideas and making connections to the curriculum. Helps students see the purpose and relevance of the course content.

  • Basic Information

The syllabus should contain summary information about the course. This can include course name and code, instructor name, logo, contact information, office hours, instructional support and staff information.

  • Course Content

This will highly be determined by the Learning Management Software (LMS) in use. The arrangement should be such that there is flow of major topics and sub-topics preferably with rationale for inclusion. The choice of topics and their organization should always support the learning objectives for the course.

  • Student Responsibilities

This includes particulars and rationale for assignments, projects, quizzes, exams, reading requirements, participation, due dates, etc. Policies on lateness, missed work, extra credit, etc.

  • Grading Method

This is a clear summary of how each activity will affect the final grade. For example:

Assignments   20%

Quizzes   15%

Discussion 10%

Final Exam   55%

Total 100%

This is important for the learners to understand each section is important.

  •  Grading Scheme

Grading schemes are built based on percentage ranges, and each percentage range is assigned a name value.

NB: Setting up a gradebook earlier in LMS is crucial for easy allocation of assessment category. Gradebook entries that are not specifically defined in the grading scheme will revert to the icon showing that the submission needs to be graded.

A           >80% to 100%

B            70% to 79%

C           60% to 69%

D           50% to 59%

F           <50% to 0

  • Materials and Access

Add required texts, readings, and additional course resources. How to get important links to materials including relevant instructional technologies.


           2. LMS: Content Development

Content development can be an important part of online learning initiative. When developing elerning content one can directly generate content using authoring tools in LMS or may decide to use content authoring software and then package the course into SCORM. The choice will depend on several factors. One of the most important aspects of designing a course in an LMS is the availability of a wide range of multimedia content. For instance, one may want to integrate video, audio, and images into the course design, so that the course may be appealing to all learning types and styles.

Below are the most crucial sections in content development:

  • Welcome Message

A welcome message can be posted in the course discussion forum to give room for interaction and knowing each other. The instructor gets to share a warm message of reception as well as basic information about the course. The message should be detailed enough to help students become familiar with the instructor and the course; help ease any anxiousness about taking an online course; give students the feeling that you are accessible, approachable, and a real person; set the stage for continued and positive interactions between you and your online students.

  • Include Activities throughout the course

Effective eLearning courses should incorporate activities that cater to different learning preferences. This can be in form of online discussions that build teamwork skills to interactive problem-solving scenarios. All of these strive to immerse online learners in the environment and help them truly connect with the eLearning content. It is important to keep in mind the needs of your learners, as well as the context and objectives as they should influence which activities to be included.

  • Make eLearning courses self-instructional

The content should be well structured and organized as per learning outcomes. There should be consistency and two-way imaginary dialogue to the end user. The course content can be presented in small chunks to enable learners gather and retain information more effectively.

  • Include links to additional information and resources

Add additional links to the course to enable learners gain access to a breadth of information. Rather than making the learners go through the hustle of searching for supplementary content, one can simply provide a hyperlink that allows them to access the material quickly and conveniently.