For Faculty Members,

For Faculty Members, Content Planning Guidelines

Sometimes instructors who are new to online teaching view course content as lectures or PowerPoint presentations. A lecture approach is common in the classroom, but it overlooks other possibilities. It can also result in a limited course design that simply records classroom lectures and puts them online. While technology can convert classroom lectures to online lectures, it is not good pedagogy. When using existing content materials, such as lecture notes or videos, redesign them for online learning so they are properly chunked and formated. Also think about content options.

Here are guidelines to keep in mind when planning online course content: 
  • Consider a variety of content sources and media formats to motivate learning, appeal to different student needs, provide multiple perspectives on issues, and draw upon resources available on the Web.
  • Divide the content into logical units or modules. A modular approach organizes content at the topic level, where each module is devoted to a major topic. Each module should include its relevant subtopics, objectives, materials, and activities. A modular structure makes it easier for students to locate all the information needed to learn that topic and complete the work.
  • Chunk and format the content for the Web. Break the content down into manageable pieces and use headings, bullets, graphics, and other formatting devices that make Webpages easier to read and comprehend.
  • Emphasize relevance. Trigger intrinsic motivation to learn by articulating the content's relevance to learner needs and learning objectives. Provide familiar or real-world examples, and write in a conversational style.
  • Provide for accessibility. Use technologies available to the learners. Format course materials to comply with accessibility standards for students with visual, hearing, and other disabilities. The Web accessibility guidelines summarize major design and layout recommendations for Web content. 
  • Check copyright guidelines. Copyright legislation governs use of both print and electronic resources, including the fair use guidelines that apply to online and classroom courses. If you are including outside sources in your course, you should determine if copyright permission is needed. Websites often have statements about their copyright policy, including whom to contact for permission. An author may want compensation for use of materials or may set limits on how the materials can be used in a course. 

Overall, allow plenty of time for front-end planning and development. On average, an online course can take twice as long to develop as a face-to-face course. In addition, all components of an online course should be developed and tested before the course is offered. Do not make the mistake of developing an online course "on the fly" or just a step ahead of students.