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This is your first step for designing your course. In this phase you will simply think through what you want to do. This is the "big picture" of the complete instructional design process, so all you're doing for now is THINKING about your students and course. Don't get hung up on any particular item, and don't worry if you don't understand something. We'll discuss everything later.

Design of Course

  • Why are you doing this course?
  • What is your timeline for developing this course?
  • How will you schedule your time to work on this course?
    • Scheduled times to work on the course
      • What days/times?
    • Scheduled consultations with an Instructional Designer at CET
    • Scheduled time for Vista training at ETC
  • Will anyone else be involved with the design of the course?
    • Other instructors
    • Student assistants


  • Who are your students?
  • How many students will you have?
  • Why do they need this course?
    • prerequisite?
    • elective?
    • course in major?
  • What do they need to learn?
  • What do they already know?
    • Is there a "gap" between what they know and where they need to go with this instruction?
    • What do you need to teach?
    • Do you need to do a pre-test to see "where they are" and "where you need to begin?"
    • Will you need to do a review with the students?
  • What types of learning need to happen? (See Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning for domains of learning.)
    • Knowledge
    • Skills
    • Attitudes


  • What is the big picture for this course? In general terms, what is going to happen?


  • What are the specific learning objectives (outcomes) for this course?
  • Are the objectives based on accreditation agency, program, or university mission requirements?
  • What will the students be able to do, or how will they demonstrate that learning has taken place?
      • What is ESSENTIAL to know?
      • What is just nice to know or worth being familiar with?
      • How much emphasis needs to be placed on "nice to know" and "worth being familiar with?"
        • How will you handle that?
  • What LEVEL of learning will you target for learning outcomes? (See Writing Goals and Objectives.)
    • Knowledge
    • Comprehension
    • Application
    • Analysis
    • Synthesis
    • Evaluation (creative thinking)

Identify Content

  • What text books or workbooks will you use?
    • When will you order them?
    • Have you requested a teacher's copy?
  • Do you need to reserve material in the library?
  • Do you need copyright clearances? (text, images, audio/video)
  • What content already exists?
  • What content needs to be created?
    • Syllabus
      • Policies
      • Grading
      • Student handbook/plagiarism
    • Course schedule/calendar
    • assignments
    • Study guides/Rubrics
    • Illustrations
    • PowerPoints
    • Scanning text or images
    • Convert content to Adobe Acrobat (pdf)
    • Audio or video conversion
    • Audio/video lectures
    • Lecture outlines (Print)
    • Study guides
    • Instructions, procedures
    • Reading assignments
    • Exercises (individual or group)
    • Assignments
    • Quizzes or practice tests
    • CD or DVDs
    • Locate Web resources (Links)
  • Due dates for assignments, group work, quizzes, etc.
  • Fees (Supplies for students, etc.)

Identify Environment & Delivery

  • Face-to-face
  • Completely online
  • Hybrid (how much online?; how much face-to-face?)
  • CD/DVD
  • Labs
  • Proctored exams
  • Vista Course Management System
    • Assessments - Quizzes
    • Assessments - Self-Tests
    • Assessments - Survey
    • Assignment Tool
    • Chat Room
    • Discussion Area
    • URL for Links to External Sites
    • Grade Book Columns

Instructional Strategies

Instructional strategies provide us ways to enhance teaching and learning. The Seven Principles of Effective Teaching: A Practical Lens for Evaluating Online Courses is a good framework for thinking about instructional strategies and course design. The items listed below support the seven principles.


Assessment Strategies


Formative Evaluation

  • While you are teaching the course, will you ask for student feedback, i.e., "How's it going?" to catch potential problems with course content or strategies?
    • What will you ask? Open ended questions get the best results.
      • What do you like best about this learning unit?
      • What do you like least about this learning unit?
      • How would you improve this learning unit?
  • At what points during the course will you ask for feedback? 2nd week, other weeks?


  • What possible limitations might there be in this course's delivery?
    • Low bandwidth for some of the students
      • How will you handle this? DVD, CD, course requirement to have high bandwidth?
    • Technology issues
      • Software incompatibilities (Students don't have Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, SPSS, etc.)
      • Plug-ins (audio/video, Flash, etc.)
      • Time zone differences? (If you require chats)
    • Do any of your students have disabilities that would render accessing content in your course difficult? How will you accommodate this?
    • Others?

Quality Assurance of Course Design

All throughout the design and development process, you will be making decisions, rethinking content, instructional strategies, etc. What you identify in the design phase might not be what actually evolves. At some point, you will want to step back and have a look at the course to see that content, strategies, and instructions are congruent, and that the course interface is functional. External review by peers and instructional designers is important at this point. Things of consideration follow.

  • Is the user interface easy to understand and follow?
    • Are the learning modules consistent in form and function?
    • Are the overview pages professional looking?
  • Is all the content in place?
  • Do all the links work?
  • Are the objectives signaling what the students will be able to do?
  • Do the assignments support the objectives?
  • Do the assessments measure the objectives?
  • Are the instructions concise and clear?
  • Is there sufficient opportunity for interaction between students and instructor?
  • Is there a means for the student to give feedback on how the learning experience is going?