Online Course Development
The following is a high-level summary of the tasks involved in creating and teaching an online course. For more information, please refer to "How We Can Help" at the bottom of this page.
Online Course Defined
An online course is one in which more than 50 percent of its content is delivered online. It typically consists of:
- Documents: for example, syllabi, assignments, project instructions, rubrics, offline tests, etc.
- Service-based features: for example, online assessments, discussion forums, grade book, synchronous communication. Services include TRACS and other third-party software.
- Asset-based materials: for example, graphics, animations, video, Web pages, interactive activities, etc.
What are the steps in building an online course?
First: Plan Your Course on Paper
Start early — at least six months in advance. Set interim deadlines for yourself for completion of each task. Developing an online course is labor intensive and can be difficult to do concurrently with teaching the course.
- Create a content outline, chunking the content into lessons. View an example.
- Write learning objectives for each lesson. Learning objectives provide specifications for assessment and guide the development of instructional strategies. They communicate to students the standards and expectations of the course. Visit our Learning Objectives page for important writing considerations.
- Become familiar with TRACS and third-party tools and how they can be used to support learning and assessment. Visit Technology Options to read about what's available.
- Develop a planning matrix. The planning matrix provides an overview of all the activities in the course.
- Enter the titles and objectives for each lesson. View an example.
- Determine how you will provide online content. To read about options available for online courses visit our Content Options page.
- Determine assignments and assessments by which students will demonstrate mastery of each objective. Consider online quizzes and exams as well as discussion prompts, essays and papers, student presentations or media, etc. Add the online content, assignments, and assessments to the matrix and indicate after each objective how students will demonstrate mastery of that objective. View an example.
- Review the planning matrix to determine if there is a mix of activities that engage students and if the workload is manageable. Visit our Planning Matrix page to read about important considerations when reviewing an online course.
Second: Produce or Obtain the Course Content
Developing online content is the most time-consuming aspect of designing an online course. Plan to carve out plenty of time to do this.
- Develop online lessons and assignments. Visit our Lessons and Assignments page to read about important considerations for developing online.
- Produce media (e.g., production video, graphics, Captivate). Staff in the Faculty Project Lab (firstname.lastname@example.org or 512-245-7375) can assist you.
- Acquire course content that you will not produce yourself. Visit our Educational Contents page to read about available public resources.
- Address copyright issues before you post third-party materials. Visit our Copyrights Issues page to read important considerations.
- Construct a detailed syllabus. Include a list of tasks with due dates. View an example.
Third: Build TRACS Components
After you have planned the course and developed all the course materials, you are ready to build the course in TRACS.
- Post content to Lessons or Resources. View training documents for Lessons and Resources. We recommend Lessons because it enables a guided structured learning sequence. You may also want to create a document with your content in it before working in Lessons so that you can easily copy and paste it into the tool. Visit Managing Linked Content to read about tacking linked content.
- Create Assessments. View training documents for Assessments.
- Create Discussion Forums. View training documents for Forums. For information on best practices, refer to Discussion Forum Guidelines.
- Create Assignments. View training documents for Assignments.
- Post the syllabus.
- Post a welcome announcement. A welcome announcement helps establish your presence and sets the tone for the course.
Fourth: Pilot the Course
- Facilitate the course. Building a well-structured online course is only part of the equation for successful online teaching; facilitating is the other part of the equation. Facilitation includes creating a social presence and providing regular, timely feedback. For tips refer to Course Management and Communication.
- Survey students at mid-semester and at the end of the semester to collect feedback about the course. View a list of possible survey questions.
- Analyze the feedback from the survey(s) and revise the course accordingly. As you continue to tweak your course, you will have fewer questions from students and your workload will decrease.
- Complete the Texas State Best Practices Checklist.