Online Course Design Institute

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Zala Fashant, Karen LaPlant, Linda Russell and Stewart Ross, experienced directors in faculty development with the Minnesota State system have presented to over 300 university and college faculty in the first six months of 2020 on redesigning their courses to create online delivery for the summer and fall sessions. These presentations began as campus workshops and as the pandemic severity increased were delivered through an online institute. The content for the institute is based on the recently-published book, Designing Effective Teaching and Significant Learning which Zala, Stewart, Linda and Karen co-authored with Jake Jacobson, and Sheri Hutchinson who have all led online and teaching and learning centers on university and college campuses in the Minnesota State system.

The online institute models how to use many learning management system tools and the pedagogy behind them for online teaching so faculty can use them in the design of their own courses. The facilitators are also working collaboratively with campus staff to provide optional online synchronous sessions to use the learning management system (LMS) tools to deliver instruction in their course design.


This three-week, Online Course Design Institute is divided into nine sessions. It uses Zoom web conferencing for the synchronous component and the institution’s LMS for online asynchronous content and activities to guide faculty who are creating a new course, want to improve a current course, and change a course to deliver it online. Using the book, Designing Effective Teaching and Significant Learning as a text, author facilitators lead participants through the elements of integrated course design to support effective teaching and provide significant learning for students. The institute also examines how to assess the quality of courses and student learning results can serve in program review and institutional outcome assessment. The institute’s unique design provides participants to work with campus staff and resources to blend into the content and presentation to tailor the learning to faculty of the institution. Team-based strategies are used as groups from individual programs and departments can share their work and reflections of their practice to gain valuable ideas from one another.

Overarching Course Goals

  1. Prepare you to redesign your course and consider pedagogical opportunities so you can teach it online.
  2. Provide you with an online learning course experience so you will better understand what your students will experience.
  3. Develop a community of faculty learners who can be a resource to one another, sharing prior knowledge and experiences as a means of support as you teach online.

This course is designed to replicate the online learning experience for students so faculty can understand. Obviously, this is a fast-tracked course  and we will do in 3 weeks what you would have your students do in approximately 16. Each unit will move quickly so we want to give you the chance to complete work with us online so you can focus more of your time on getting your online course created. This may also be the first time you have used an eBook for a course, rather than reading recreationally.

Course Outcomes

Our hope is that, by the end of the course, faculty will be able to:

  • Identify the key elements of the integrated course design principles and process. (Foundational Knowledge)
  • Analyze standards for evaluating course design established by self- and peer-reviewed rubrics. (Application)
  • Develop engaging and accessible learning activities and assessments for courses. (Application)
  • Assess the quality of course design. (Application)
  • Align course learning outcomes, activities, and assessments through the integrated course design model. (Integration)
  • Integrate course communication to build community and increase retention. (Integration)
  • Reflect the effect integrated designed course has on the ability to improve teaching. (Human Dimension – Self)
  • Describe a variety of best practices from other colleagues, experts and resources used in course design. (Human Dimension – Others)
  • Express the value to students of significant learning course design. (Caring)
  • Select items from Course Design Action Checklists to implement in the future and/or gain additional training. (Learning How to Learn)

Philosophy of Course Design

Faculty and instructional designers realize the importance of delivering courses with a clear focus. Many faculty have little formal experience in designing courses. With the COVID-19 virus, the need for dual course delivery (face-to-face or blended and online) is essential. Environmental challenges will continue to force courses to change delivery modes quickly and effectively. So designing the course properly will provide for dual delivery. Institute participants use team-based learning strategies to design the framework and pedagogy, align outcomes, assessments and activities, plan communication, create accessibility for all learners and integrate technology to analyze the delivery of significant learning both in classroom and online environments.

This theory-to-practice institute is based on over 300 scholarly workshops delivered over 15 years as applied research and participant reflection. The course design strategies shared are based on student success methods by clearly defining course expectations and increasing student engagement to deliver significant learning. Faculty insights from current teaching are shared. These experiences enhance participants’ professional growth because they learn from content, other participants, and the reflection of their own practice. Solutions offered in the institute provide leadership in course design and opportunities for practice in a collegial and collaborative learning environment. The content is based on practices faculty have shared as evidence of proven methods in their teaching. Moreover, the Cycle of Course Design (see Course Map) implements expanded course design and is an innovative campus model for participants to use to meet their own professional needs in teaching. Evidence of success from past participants applying Fink’s theory to applied practice will be shared. Today the critical need is for one course design to provide dual-delivery modes quickly and effectively. Participants will reflect about the move to online learning and the needs to include an institutional migration design so all students will succeed and can have access through the consideration of their ability to afford technology access so that no learners are left behind.

Course Map – The Cycle of Course Design

Cycle of Course Design

Course Outline

Online Course Design Institute (Sample Schedule)

June 8-26, 2020

Book: Designing Effective Teaching and Significant Learning


What is the time commitment?
Participation in synchronous learning sessions. (18 total hours) Synchronous learning sessions will run each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9:00-11:00 AM for the duration of the course. There are eight unique sessions in total, with an optional day (June 26) to work on your courses with Institute faculty and CTL staff.
Participation in optional synchronous open lab sessions. (18 total hours) Synchronous open lab sessions will run each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 12:30-2:30 PM for the duration of the course. Come to these sessions if you would like to work on application of new concepts to the design of your course with Institute faculty and CTL staff.
Review of content/materials in D2L Brightspace. (3-9 total hours) Institute faculty and CTL staff will make content available in D2L Brightspace. Time required for review of this content will vary by participant, based on their experience teaching online.
Participation in optional asynchronous class discussions. (3-6 total hours) Institute faculty will facilitate asynchronous discussions for each unit of the course. You are encouraged to participate in these discussions with your colleagues in order to get the most out of the course content.
Reading and other preparation. (3-4 total hours) You will receive a free e-copy of the book Designing Effective Teaching and Significant Learning as part of your registration for the Institute. Each unit of the course will draw upon sections of this book. You are encouraged to read specific sections of the book in advance of each synchronous session in order to get the most from these experiences.


What are the benefits?
The chance to work with former university and college faculty, directors of campus faculty development (Centers for Teaching and Learning), authors, and experts in online course design! The guest facilitators of this course are all former Minnesota State faculty, and have taught in a variety of universities and colleges in face-to-face, blended and online delivery of courses. They have presented over 300 highly-rated workshops and conference presentations and online courses with faculty worldwide. Each of them have directed Centers for Teaching and Learning on their campus and for a system of over 10,000 faculty.
One-on-one work time with your CTL staff! Your CTL staff will be leading some of the course modules, co-facilitating some of the synchronous sessions, and working with you during all open lab sessions.
A certificate of completion! Upon completion of the course, you will receive a certificate that you can include as part of your professional development plan. Certificates will indicate an engagement of 80% or more of the activities.


Synchronous Learning Sessions (9:00-11:00 AM)
Topics and Activities
Friday, June 5 Course Orientation

·       Course preparation and walk-through

·       Orientation survey

·       Introduce Yourself Discussion

·       Course materials discussion

Monday, June 8 Preparing for Course Design

·       Pre-Read Chapter 1 in eBook

·       Situational Factors

·       Pedagogical Challenge

·       Big Dream (course mission)

Reflection 1 Discussion

Wednesday, June 10


Integrating Your Course Design (Outcomes)

·       Pre-Read Chapter 2 in eBook

·       Reflection 2 Discussion

·       6-Column Table (Outcomes feedback)

Friday, June 12 Assessing Student Learning

·       Pre-Read Chapter 8 in eBook

·       Assessing Student Learning Assignment

·       Reflection 8 Discussion

·       6-Column Table (Assessments feedback)

·       D2L Tools Integration Overview: Rubrics, Quizzes, and Surveys

Monday, June 15 Creating a Learning Framework and Developing Learning Activities & Techniques

·       Pre-Read Chapters 4 and 5 in eBook

·       Reflection 5 Discussion

·       6-Column Table (Learning Activities feedback)

Wednesday, June 17 Course Design Workshop

·       6-Column Table completion and Gallery Walk (Share with Colleagues in Discussion)

·       Final Course Planner Assignment (Due Monday, June 22)

·       D2L Tools Integration Overview: Assignments, Discussions, and Groups

Friday, June 19 Communicating in Your Course

·       Pre-Read Chapter 3 in eBook

·       Communication Plan Assignment

·       Netiquette Quiz

·       Syllabus Quiz

·       Reflection 3 Discussion

·       D2L Tools Integration Overview: Announcements, Calendar, Checklists, Intelligent Agents, and FAQs

Monday, June 22 Making Your Course Accessible and Integrating Learning Technologies

·       Pre-Read Chapters 6 & 7 in eBook

·       Checking for Accessibility: Syllabus Assignment

·       Web Accessibility Quiz

·       Reflection 6 Discussion

·       Integrated Technologies Assignment

·       Reflection 7 Discussion

Wednesday, June 24 Assessing Your Course Quality, Program, and Institution

·       Pre-Read Chapters 9-10 in eBook

·       Course Quality Assignment

·       Reflection 9 Discussion

·       Assessing Course/Department/Institution Quality Assignment

·       Reflection 10 Discussion

Friday, June 26 Optional Open Lab for Online Teaching Tools – run by university staff.


Feedback for design and activities is provided asynchronously via the learning management system. A series of optional afternoon work sessions to help participants with individual and small team needs. During these we can address department ideas. We can also break participants into colleges, departments or position types. For instances, faculty could be in one group, TAs in another and instructional designers in a third so each can ask questions freely. The design of your institute is created to meet your needs.

An optional set of 4 afternoon sessions can be provided to teach faculty about using the tools from the learning management system that deliver online pedagogical strategies. Examples of topics for these sessions include:


Online Course Design Institute – OPTIONAL Afternoon Lab Topics:
Friday, June 12

Optional lab 12:30-2:30 pm

Assessing Student Learning

D2L Tools in Optional Lab: Quizzes, Self-Assessments, Surveys and Rubrics

Monday, June 15

Optional lab 12:30-2:30 pm

Create a Learning Framework and Course Communication

D2L Tools in Optional Lab: Notifications, Pulse, Glossary, FAQ, Links

Wednesday, June 17

Optional lab 12:30-2:30 pm

Develop Learning Activities & Techniques

D2L Tools in Optional Lab: Assignments, Gradebook, Discussions, Groups, Attendance

Friday, June 19

Optional lab 12:30-2:30 pm

Communicating in Your Course

D2L Tools in Optional Lab: Announcements, Checklists, Email, Calendar,  Intelligent Agents, Awards


Course Review Results

A summative institute evaluation was provided at the end of the course of study. The results shared here are broken into three sections: course ratings, summative feedback, course takeaways, and Appendix A about what they learned as an online learner. Participant feedback is as follows (N=74): 

Course Ratings

  • This institute (course redesign, online teaching tools and pedagogy) prepared me to deliver a successful online course: 97%
  • Feedback was provided in a constructive and timely manner: 100%

Summative Feedback

Faculty participant comments from the Online Course Design Institute, Spring 2020. Many participants  commented that the online version of their course redesign provided an even stronger course than what they had traditionally taught for years.

“This course has been great for an old dog to learn new tricks. I have taught face-to-face for many years and this definitely been a great course to help me transition to the online world.  Thank you to Zala and all of you for the discussions and learning opportunities.”

“I wanted to thank you very much. This has been eye opening. As a part-time faculty member at a variety of colleges, I never know how engaged I am. This institute has gotten me really excited again about teaching and teaching in the online environment. The hybrid classes were always a challenge because of the way my full-time schedule works and so I rarely have a set time to teach. It is hard to have been a student as well in online courses that have set class times for the same reason so they need to be asynchronous. But now I am really seeing through this accelerated course how I can make a course completely asynchronous and have the same exact quality if not better than a face-to-face course.”

“Thanks! It’s been a great learning opportunity for this newbie.”

“This should be a required course prior to hiring 😉 I have benefited immensely.”

“Thank you so much for this course.  I now have a passion to improve my courses based on all that I’ve learned.” 

“This course is amazing!  I wish it had been available to me in my early years of teaching.  I’d recommend it as a requirement for all new instructors.”

“The course was wonderful, and I really enjoyed it. I appreciated the clear organization and the logical and meaningful progression of events, activities, and assignments. The course was important before the pandemic, and it’s importance now couldn’t be overstated. Thanks again.”

“Thank you for the course. It was really nice to see a quality online course that I can try to duplicate. The information and quality of the delivery was really impressive and I hope others will take your course to get the benefits I have received by taking it.” 

Course Takeaways: What do consider to be the strongest components of this course?

  • The course methodically went through the considerations for designing a course from situational factors to institutional assessment.  I found that structure and accompanying meetings, assignments, to be incredibly valuable.
  • The knowledge of the instructors. The quality of the content. How the course is laid out.
  • Forcing deep thought into revisiting rubrics, assignments, outcomes and assessments.  It is presented in a way that followed a stepwise approach while covering a massive project.
  • For new instructors, the TES aspect was great. I’ve been through it already and was good review.
  • Building the “big dream.” The human dimensions of learning. The tools to make our courses more student involved.
  • The community it builds.
  • So much of this information was new to me so I needed to time to process and understand what I was learning. The course work time was helpful during class time to ask questions and work through the processing the new information for each assignment.
  • The work on aligning outcomes, objectives, learning activities, and assessments
  • How quickly feedback was given and the communication.
  • The knowledge of the instructors and how they shared that with the group.
  • The instructors’ extensive background and solid experience with learning theory and modern technical tools.
  • The variety of activities and challenges.
  • The instructors are incredible. The knowledge they possess and their ability to communicate the information to us in a meaningful way with clear precise steps for applying the course materials is modeling the significant learning I want in my own courses. The book is a wonderful and has dynamic information in it.

Appendix A: What have you learned about being an online student that will be helpful in the teaching of your own course?

  • How to improve my course outcomes and how to create an online course.
  • Unit checklists embedded in the content are redundant and can be confusing for students if not exactly aligned with the course progression/expectations explained each week.
  • The level of organization and consistency that is important for simple things like navigation.
  • Primarily how to make my courses more engaging than before so that my students learn and retain more.
  • I think I learned the most about different delivery methods and focusing on the outcomes.
  • Have clear instructions and expectations
  • The tools needed to implement a great online course. This was one of the best courses I have taken and now have a new confidence to succeed in creating my own courses.
  • I had a few take-aways from being on the student side of an online course.
    • It is very nice to have reminders and also to get the encouragement that you have completed the work required for the unit.
    • The importance of providing multiple ways to do things.  I have resisted using checklists because I have always felt that they are so redundant because of the way I have my course designed but it isn’t about how I feel about it, it is about if it will help to engage that one student that prefers the use of the checklist.
    • The importance of having multiple ways to access course materials.  There are some documents in my course that are only in one place and it would be better if they were in a few locations so they are easier for students to find.
  • Things need to be as easy to navigate as humanly possible.  There are also have to be alternatives when the technology doesn’t work.
  • I learned how helpful the course checklists are and the chapter focus reviews. I learned tips through end user perspective on how to communicate better using the D2L tools and engagement badges.
  • Communication, and multiple forms of communication, is essential to an effective online class.  I also learned that everyone organizes their course shell a bit differently. I need to give students an orientation to the course shell so that they can navigate through it and get to what they need. I need to find ways to make students more accountable to do the readings.
  • The more questions you ask and give time for response, the more engaging it feels.
  • It is really easy to get distracted with online classes. I think that is the struggle I will need to overcome.
  • The power of assessments, how little I know about technology and how easy it is once you know the systems to make things more accessible.
  • I’ve learned that engagement can be a more challenging issue for online students. The use of certain LMS tools to communicate with students regularly and provide them with frequent, timely, and ongoing feedback can make a big difference in terms of their engagement and success with the class.