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Designing an Online or Hybrid Course

A Guide for First Time Course Designing

What Are Online and Hybrid Courses?

The term online course has become a more common term since the COVID-19 Pandemic started and many more schools and colleges offer these style courses. According to Online Course Show, an online course is a course “delivered via website and can be viewed on a mobile device, tablet, or web browser” (Online Course Show, n.d). Online courses are great because they allow students to work from any location at any time. This helps working adults be able to work on their degree while having a career.


What are hybrid courses? A hybrid course is a mix of a traditional course and an online course. Online Course Show defines a hybrid course as a course where “some or most of the learning is done through online courses. But you meet once per week or month for in-person class” (n.d). Many teachers choose to use those in-person class days for exams or test and lessons that need to be interactive in-person.


There are several things that come together to make a great online course. Those include:

·      Quality Content

·      Use of Multimedia

·      Pacing Material in Course so that it is best spaced out for students

·      Gaining a community within the online class

·      Making the course accessible and easy to navigate

·      Allow for self-pace and self-direction within the course


What Should I Do to Get Started?

There are several steps to having a successful online course. You might be presented with some challenges along the way, but it should not be anything that is not easy to figure out. Organization is important when started to design your course. Make sure to gather the information and anything else that might be needed for the course ahead of time. According to Mesa Community College, “Designing a quality course takes time. You need to dedicate constructive and uninterrupted time to plan, design and build” (Mesa Community College, n.d). Do not hesitate to ask your colleagues for sample courses or syllabi to help you plan your course. While planning the course make sure that you are giving students ample time for each module and its assignments.


Planning Quality Content for My Course

To plan an online course with quality content there are several standards or guidelines to keep in mind. Academic Partnerships (n.d) list the categories to focus on when planning quality content. Those include:

·      Instructional Support (vision, planning, and infrostructure)

·      Course Development

·      Teaching and Learning (Instruction)

·      Course Structure

·      Student Support

·      Faculty Support

·      Technology

·      Evaluation

·      Student Assessment

·      Examination Security


Other than the standards/guidelines listed above remember to take other elements into consideration when planning: class size, number of hours required for course, the type of technology the course will be delivered through and the costs to design this course along with many other elements that need to be considered.


Student insight also is helpful in providing a quality course. At the end of each course have students evaluate the course. Doing this will allow you to see if anything on the student side of the course needs to be changed or adjusted. This will allow the course to continually grow in the amount of quality given to students and may give the course creator a chance to question themselves on aspects of the class they may not have considered when initially designing the online course.


Checklist to Help Your Planning

Above we talked about the importance of planning your course. Penn State has released a great checklist for to use when are planning your course to allow you to create quality content for your course and help the students to learn what is required to achieve success in said field.


6 Step Course Design Checklist

(Adapted from Penn State University’s Checklist for faculty)

(Penn State Coordinating Council, n.d.)


Step 1: Developing Course Goals and Objectives

   Clearly State the Purpose of the Course

   State what achieve (be able to do) by the end of the course


Step 2: Developing Course Outline, Schedule, and Syllabus

   Define all course requirements via a syllabus


Step 3: Developing Assessments and Assignments

  •    Design and develop assessments

  •    Develop and Design quizzes

  •    Design valid questions

  •    Design/Develop non-graded Sample Quizzes to use as review

  •    Develop a rubric for each assignment


Step 4: Develop Instructional Content and Materials

  •    Create Course Content

  •    Determine the copy right restrictions or guidelines

  •    Review learning objects and modules/lesson and the accessibility of content for students

  •    Decide on the technology and tools being used for the course

  •    Plan how to create multimedia content in an accessible way

  •    Test the course content from the perspective of the student.

  •    Check the value of materials being used (making sure any textbooks have the best value of information for that course)


Step 5: Develop a User-Friendly Course Site

  •    Consistent format used throughout course site

  •    State learning objectives

  •    Give lesson introductions

  •    Provide Course content that can be provided via various methods

  •    Provide learning activities for students to practice what they have learned

  •    Clearly Define Assignments

  •    Review and ensure accessibility requirements are met

  •    Ensure copyright requirements are met


Step 6: Gathering Student Feedback and Course Evaluations

  •    Evaluate Course Navigation

  •    Ensure titles and naming are concise and easy to understand

  •    Check functionality of the navigation

  •    Review Course Sequence

  •    Review student concerns and questions (usually via email)

  •    Mid-term and End of Semester User Survey

  •    Ensure accessibility

  •    Assess frequency of engagement

  •    Evaluate whether materials used were useful

  •    Describe and summarize purpose of materials

  •    Evaluate the perceived value of materials used for course

  •    Evaluate Assessments and overall outcome


Keeping Courses Interactive

Maintaining focus is very important when it comes to online courses. Technology is continually growing which makes it easier to keep online courses interactive. By keeping courses interactive you are able maintain focus from students. Interactive does not just pertain to the courses content, it also relates to the connection of teacher to student. Have a great communication keeps the students focused more and allows them to become more interactive. That connection is more important that anyone realizes and can impact the way students perceive online courses.


In online courses, make sure you are allowing for active learning instead of passive learning. This alone will allow the students to be more engaged. As defined by Louise Jones (2021), “Passive learning is where students receive information from the instructor and process it internally, like lectures.” While she defines active learning as, “a process where you directly engage students with the course by actively interacting with them” (Jones, 2021). To do this allow for multimedia interactions, use gamification to learn information, do virtual meetings to make live connections with students, or even allow for group projects/cohort learning.


Self-paced courses can get overwhelming and difficult on the teacher to keep the focus and engagement alive. Allowing for different types of active learning will help the students stay focused so that they do comprehend the information need to move on to the next course.


Copyrights, Open Educational Resources, and Accessibility

 Copyrights for online courses can be more difficult on teachers that it would be for those teaching traditional face-to-face courses. According to Penn Libraries there are a few questions that the teacher should ask their self before using materials in any form within an online course. Those include: (Penn Libraries, n.d.)

  • How does this material (image, text, video, etc.) help me to make my point?

  • Have I made the link between the material and the point I wish to make clear?

  • Is the material being used to teach a concept, or is the material being used to entertain? 

  • Do I need this item to make my point or is there a potential substitute that is not still within copyright?

  • How much of this material do I need to use?  Is it possible to use only part of it to convey my point?

  • Is my use "transformative;" in other words, am I interpreting the material, placing it in a new light or context, or using it for something different than the original author? 

When materials are used, make sure those items are cited in the work or area that it is being used.

If you are worried about copyright, you can find materials that are public domain meaning anyone can use and adjust the material to fit their need. These are called Open Educational Resources and can be found with a simple search. These items are free for anyone to use whether it be an instructor or student. Make sure to cite these items as well.

Lastly when designing your course make sure that The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) of 1990, Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act is followed and put into place for your course. This act states, “that all individuals should have equal accessibility -- including online instructional opportunities. ADA requires that all online courses be fully compliant from the start of the course, which can be challenging” (Rabidoux & Rottman, 2017).  Rabidoux and Rotten (2017) give five ways to make sure courses are made accessible including the use of hyperlinks, text design, usage of imagines and graphics, audio/video items, and documents. It is important that every course follow the guidelines that the ADA sets in place for online course.




Jones, Louise (8 September, 2021) 8 Ways to Make Online Classes More Interactive. THINKIFIC.


Mesa Community College. (n.d). Designing An Online Course. Mesa Center of Technology and


Online Course Show. (n.d). What is an Online Course?. Online Course How.


Penn Libraries. (n.d.) Using Online Materials in Online Courses. University of Pennsylvania.


Penn State Online Coordinating Council (n.d.) Course Design Checklist Resources. Penn State


Rabidoux, Salena and Rottman, Amy. (3 May 2017). Five Tips for ADA-Compliant Inclusive



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