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Online Instructor Guide

The Learning and Applied Innovation Center (LAIC) creates, promotes, and supports effective and accessible online education at North Dakota State University.

    Online Instructor Guide

    New to teaching online? Thinking about how to design online courses, and how are they different from face-to-face? What technology tools are available to help facilitate online teaching? How to keep students engaged, active, and motivated to learn?
    Many resources are available including professional development workshops, knowledge base articles, and instructional design consultations to support faculty teaching online.
    Online courses increase educational opportunities for students in many different ways. Students can collaborate with others form a distance while continuing to meet their family and/or job responsibilities. Though the online environment has many opportunities available for students, it takes far more preparation time for instructors to develop a quality course. The online environment interaction, engagement, and community do not happen organically. They must be planned.
    Both face-to-face and online classrooms have real advantages and disadvantages, which require instructors to think about how the student and curriculum needs are different and what is the most effective means of presenting and sharing different types of content. Regardless of the mode of delivery, our goal is for us to teach and for students to be successful.
    As a foundation, the principles identified by 50 years of research by A. Chickering and Z. Gamson in the “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education” are still identified as the most frequently referenced by course designers as best practices. (AAHE Bulletin, March 1987)
    • encourage faculty-to-student interaction
    • encourage student-to-student interaction
    • promote active learning
    • communicate high expectations
    • facilitate time on task
    • provide rich, rapid feedback
    • respect diverse learning
    To start learning more about teaching online, begin with Course Design and Development.

    Course Design and Development

    Backward Design

    As with all quality course development, start by using the backward design model (Wiggins and McTighe, 2005) when designing or redesigning your course. In the backward design process, you structure student learning based on assessments that are intentionally designed to provide evidence that students have achieved the course goals.
    The first step in backward course design is to clearly articulate the final results of the course. Begin by asking yourself
    • What do I want my students to be able to think and do by the end of the course?
    • How will my students be different by the end of the course?
    • What are the course Goals (aligned with program goals)?
    • What are the unit Objectives (aligned with course goals)?

    Goals & Objectives

    Bloom’s Taxonomy, which is organized into six categories, lists a variety of verbs to represent the action expected of thinking and doing. Bloom’s Taxonomy can be used to develop goals and objectives for the course. Goals are broad, generalized statements about what if to be learned in the course. Objectives, designed to be included in weekly units, should be more specific. Include, only, one action verb in each objective. Objectives are S.M.A.R.T.:

    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Achievable
    • Relevant
    • Time-bound


    After creating course goals and unit objectives the next step in designing your course is to think about and plan what evidence will the students provide to show they have achieved the final goals for the course and the progressive unit objectives. Once you identify these different types of evidence, it is time to start planning the communication, activities, assignments, and course content that will be aligned to meet unit objectives and final course goals.

    The following Course Design Worksheet is a word document that can be used to develop your course before adding it to the Learning Management System (Blackboard Learn original). The worksheet is used as a storyboard, outlining the flow of your course.

    Course Design Worksheet

    The worksheet is immensely helpful for starting to think about the flow and organization of your content and how this aligns with your learning objectives, outcomes, and assessment. Download the Course Design Worksheet to begin designing your course. Download the Course Design Worksheet to begin designing your coursedoc.

    NDSU Exemplar Course Design Rubric

    To assure the quality of courses and course design, use the Exemplar Course Design Rubric. This rubric is grounded in research and scholarship and articulates the indicators and standards of quality. The rubric can be used to guide the development of new courses or review existing courses, and to recommend where improvements are most impactful. Download the NDSU exemplar course design rubric.

    Online Course Checklist

    The Online Course Checklist is a final check, before making the course available to ensure you have of the key components of your course ready for students. Download the Online Course Checklist before activating your course.

    Simple Course Design - Blackboard Learn Original Course Layout

    The Blackboard Learn Original course layout should be easy to navigate and understand. A major complaint from students is that they spend too much time clicking around trying to find the information, tools, and resources they need to succeed. We recommend using a defined navigation pathway following a unit or weekly model design. That way, when students see a familiar layout at a high level, they can find the rest of the content for the week without having to guess where things are located.
    When considering your content design, again at a high level, it is helpful to think about how content is chunked into manageable segments such as lessons, modules, or weeks. Each unit will include all of the information, content, and activities the students will need to help them be successful. All course materials, assignments, activities, and assessments are aligned with the lesson objectives and course goals.
    Sample Week/Unit Layout:
    • Lesson overview – text and/or video
    • Learning objectives/outcomes
    • Task list/to-do list
    • Course materials – readings, videos, web links
    • Assignments, activities, and assessments

    Blackboard Learn Original Course Screenshot:

    More information is available at the NDSU Office of Teaching & Learning Course Design

    Online Instructional Strategies

    Teaching in an online environment changes the way we interact with students, design assignments, work in groups, collaborate on projects, assess learning, and provide feedback. Below is a listing of instructional strategies and tips to help teaching and facilitating online.  

    Online Technology Hub

    Technology can be a great tool to facilitate student engagement and promote student success. It offers the opportunity for instructors to become more collaborative, promote interactions, improve access to instructional materials, and extend learning beyond course time. 

    While technology alone does not improve online teaching, it can be a powerful tool in promoting the online learning experience if effectively implemented. The Online Teaching Technology Hub provides technology tools that can help instructors seek instructional technology solutions for their online courses.

    Professional Development 

    Additional Resources

    Keywordsonline course, online teaching, course design, online student, instructor guide, student guide, course design   Doc ID122751
    OwnerSharley K.GroupIT Knowledge Base
    Created2022-11-29 16:43:50Updated2024-01-25 16:50:10
    SitesIT Knowledge Base
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