Instructional Design

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Course Design

Instructional Design Unit

Office of Faculty Support and Development



Course Design
Course Template Considerations  
    Research suggests that the following elements greatly increase the effectiveness of an online course. While you ultimately decide what to include, we encourage considering the following:

On the Home Page
    • A Header and Footer section adds much to the sense of identity as well as add a pleasing aesthetic to your online course. A Banner can be placed in one of these sections that engages the student from the very beginning. Other information for the Header and Footer would be the Course Name and Number, the instructor contact information, and office hours.


    • A Welcome section is a way for the students to connect to you and the course. This would be the area for you to give a short bio with an image or short video of you. It’s a way to set the tone of your course, whether it’s formal, informal, or a blended environment. Video goes a long way in setting a tone especially if you plan to use humor because text does not convey humor very well. This is also where you can give students instructions on how to get started, what to click first, etc.


    • A Start Here module is designed to introduce the student to course policies and other matters BEFORE instruction begins. This would be the area for your Syllabus, communication rules, student introductions (or another icebreaker to get students talking to each other), a place for students to ask and answer introductory questions, and technology requirements (will they need microphones, or particular software to play videos, etc). This area can also contain a quiz to test their knowledge of the material in this area.


  • Your course content area is basically where instruction begins. This is where the knowledge is organized into different units of learning (chapters, topics, weeks, however you prefer to break it up). This is where you would put your handouts, audio, Vista tools, etc. Using learning modules adds structure for the students but also helps you as the instructor to think through the instruction and decide on how to sequence the instruction.
On the Left Navigation
    • Mail– This allows you to send and receive private emails within your course. By enabling this tool you also allow students to send private messages to fellow students. This allows easy automatic organization of mail specific to the course instead of getting mixed up in all the other email. Guarantee that you will get it, it does not go to junk box. This promotes GTP #1 and #2


    • Discussions– Enable this tool if you want students to work together in groups, give student presentations, or review each others work. You will be able to read, search, compile, or download class discussions. You will have discussion topics that notify you if there are new messages waiting, and can hide messages that were already viewed.


    • Chat– Use this tool if you need to archive chat sessions, communicate with students in real-time, and have online office hours. You may have more than one chat room (so multiple chats can happen simultaneously).


    • Who's Online– Another real-time text chat tool. Even if you choose not to use, enabling it will allow your students to IM each other.


    • Calendar– Very effective tool in emphasizing time on task. Info can be exchanged about class events, entries can include links to course content or external websites. Notifications serve to remind students of new entries.


    • Announcement– This also allows for emphasizing time on task. Can also be delivered as a pop-up window to emphasize the importance of a certain deadline coming up.


    • Assessment– Enable this tool if you need automatically graded quizzes, practice quizzes, self-tests or anonymous surveys. If you need class statistics and reports based on student performance. If you want to include graphics, charts, tables, links to other websites, video, audio, etc. in your tests. You can use this tool as an aid to accomplishing 4 of the principles (faculty-student interaction, communicate high expectations, active learning, time on task).


    • Assignment– Enable this tool if you want to create and distribute assignments, and be able to download, evaluate and assign a grade to the completed work. This needs to be turned on in order to have a dropbox where students can “turn in” their assignment in an organized way instead of sending you email with attachments. This provides extended and meaningful feedback that the students cannot lose and can access anytime.


  • My Grades– This must be turned on in order for your students to see their grades, including quiz results and assignment grades. This provides students with prompt feedback so they can know what they don't know and better target their learning.