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Online Instruction >> Pedagogy >> PLANNING YOUR COURSE

There are several steps to planning a good online course that will be equal in quality or better than a face-to-face class. The activities available with technology allow for student-centered and assignment-driven courses. Try following these steps in order.


Step 1. Goals

Decide on one to three goals for the course. What do you want your students to be able to do with what they have learned in your course? Good examples of goals for different kinds of courses might be:
I want my students to be able to...

  • Analyze the plot, characters, and theme of literature.
  • Argue persuasively for a particular point of view.
  • Solve differiential equations.
  • Create an original and technically proficient work of art
  • View science as questions that are continually under reinvestigation.

Step 2. Assignments and Exams

Usually step 2 is about content coverage, which considers how much material or how many chapters can be be covered in class and what information should go in what week. By considering the assignments and exams right after the goals, you can make sure that the two items are directly related.
Create a course skeleton from the following chart, plugging all the assignments into the weeks:

Course Title:

Course Goals:

Assignments and Exams:

















Reconsider whether the assignments and exams actually will "teach" to the goals.
Or try an alternate and more elaborate planning worksheet to help in converting from a traditional course to a new online course.

For example, if my goals in an art history course were to have the students learn to analyze the function and style of art and appreciate the different experiences between art presented on slides and in museums, a midterm and a final that stressed memorizing the name, titles, and dates of fifty art objects for slide identifications would not be appropriate. Instead, analzing art works in small groups and museum trip assignments would fit better.

However if my goals were to have my students absorb a large body of historical visual images, committed to memory so that they could draw on those images in creating future art work, those same slide indentification exams would work very well.

Step 3. Content and Activities

Now consider what content and activities you can add week by week. This is where technology can really help by saving class time as well as outside instructor time on grading. In traditional lecture classes, the first exposure of new material is given in the lecture and they spend time outside of class studying that material for the exams. Students soon become dependant on only being responsible for what's in that lecture, since they know it's what the instructor considers the most important.

If the first exposure material were put online, then the classroom time could be free for what was formerly done in the student's and faculty's outside time, namely study and grading time. These activities could change to group work and demonstration of the student's knowledge of the material and faculty reponse and grading in class.


 Students with Instructor (in class)

 Students Outside Class

 Instructor Outside Class

 Traditional Lecture Mode

 Lecture of first exposure material

 Study and assignment time

 Response and grading time


 Student study and assignment time & Faculty response and grading time

 Online first exposure material


Interactive Mode

I. Online first exposure material

Lecture can be converted to online material by a number of different means. If you have a very good and easily understood textbook, online quizzes in Quizmaker or WebCT are all that are needed to create a climate in which the students will do the reading. The quizzes are automatically graded if they are multiple choice or true/false.

Alternate graded motivators for reading could be participation in an online bulletin board like HyperNews or WebCT, where a check or check minus could be quickly assigned by skimming the student reports.

If you want to put your orignal lecture material online, the easiest way is to use a Course Management system like WebCT or Blackboard. The files must be save as html or plain text files and then uploaded through your account on the course software. Or your HTML webpages can be mounted directly in a faculty csun.edu account. Also PowerPoint presentations can be saved as HTML and mounted in your faculty account. CD Roms can be burned and handed out to students with videos of the lecture material, keeping in mind that watching someone lecture on video is much more difficult than watching them in person, so compensate by adding images, demonstrations, movement, or keeping the segments short.

II. In class activity

If the first exposure material is moved out of class, the class activity can then change to group study, work, and discussion, that can concentrate on particular problems arising from the first exposure material or further depth of the content. An instructor can cut down on out of class grading by presenting more oral response to work in class and allowing student groups to evaluate one another.