Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

Discover quality course design

Instructional designers may start with the following “criteria” or rules.  Your online course should have

  • a set of clearly articulated outcomes and expectations
  • an easily navigable course site
  • a course structure that facilitates collaborative learning
  • assignments and activities that facilitate participation and communication among students
  • timely feedback for students from the Instructor
  • tools and media that may be used to enhance learning
  • a discussion space for learners to talk openly about the course and get questions answered

All of the above criteria are embedded in the Course Query Guide, the main online course design tool used at PCC. This guide was patterned after the official PCC Online Course Review, the tool used by online faculty mentors to officially review new and revised online courses.  (The PCC Online Course Review is modeled after the official course review rubric designed by Quality Matters. You will need your PCC login credentials to access the review document. Just copy it over to your own drive in order to use it.)

Also, make sure that your course environment does not create additional or confusing layers of navigation and course management complexity.  Courses should integrate textbook media, publisher websites, CD/DVDs, and other course asset resources so they appear seamless to the student user.  Avoid using additional logins or student accounts.

Course planning activities must always take into account  “course” and “weekly” measurable learning outcomes that relate to the PCC Course Outcome Guides.

Additional strategies

  • The expectations you lay out for your students are very important. Be clear about what you want your students to do.
  • Learning objectives must guide your students in every aspect of your online course.
  • Assessment strategies are important as they measure whether students met the course learning objectives.
  • Instructors are responsible for providing a rich array of learning resources and meaningful feedback for students.
  • Active learning is essential.  It is not enough to just put in some text; we learn by doing. Social interaction cements learning, so the amount of interaction provided in an online course directly effects what students take away from the course.

Additional resources

  • Faculty Focus is a free online resource that provides practical guidance on course design as well as specific examples that relate to the application of the Quality Matters rubric.  Here are two insightful articles to start with:
    • “Online course design: 13 strategies for teaching in a web-based distance learning environment”
    • “Assessing online learning: strategies, challenges and opportunities.”