by Messiah University Instructional Design Team
April 6, 2022
5-7 min read
Instructional Design for Online Learning
Designing an online course uses the same patterns and procedures as instructional design for any other modality:
- Start with your learning objectives, potentially breaking them down into stepping stone learning goals (scaffolding).
- Design varied and authentic formative and summative assessments to measure mastery of those learning goals/objectives.
- Create and curate the instructional content that students need in order to complete those assessments.
For a much more detailed look at the instructional design process, check out Instructional Design Frameworks.
The difference between designing an online course, as opposed to a face-to-face (F2F) or hybrid course, is in the specifics of each of those steps. Let’s look at each one a bit more closely with the online learning environment in mind.
NOTE: Class Time
When planning your online content and activities, it’s important to keep in mind how credit hours translate to the online classroom. Check out Class Time in Online/Hybrid Courses for information on instructional and non-instructional time, which must be documented on online course syllabi.
Online Course Design Plan Document
All these steps are laid out in our online Course Design Plan (CDP). This document includes breaking down your learning objectives, mapping out your topics for the course, and detailing week-to-week your instructional materials and activities/assessments. A CDP can provide necessary structure for your course as you develop it. If you don’t already have a model/template for course design, consider using Here’s an example of a completed online CDP. If this is an entirely new course for you, you may want to first start with a mind map to collect and organize all the great ideas you are considering.
If you want to learn more about online course design, check out our annotated bibliography.