Designing an Online Course

I’ve worked with technology in a university setting for a long time, including offering workshops and tutorials on using and integrating instructional technologies, and how to use online learning management systems, like Moodle.  But this is the first chance I’ve had to follow the instructional process and create the bones of an online course intended to engage faculty more intentionally in online teaching, as well as to help them learn the how-tos of our new learning management system, Moodle.wheel

This website is a final project for EDUC-763, “Instructional Design in E-Learning” with Dr. Susan Manning.  It is part of the E-Learning and Online Teaching Graduate Certification Program at UW-Stout.  As I work through the courses toward certification, I will provide links to portfolios for each class. Links to individual classes are in the menu above to the right.

In this project, I looked at the processes used to develop an online workshop.  I will offer the workshop in 2015 to inexperienced faculty who need to learn how to use Moodle to teach in a hybrid or web-enhanced class.

The workshop is in a hybrid format (face-to-face and online), and I’ll meet with the faculty twice – at the beginning and at the end, and they will work with me through the online portion of the workshop that I have addressed here.  They will be asked to complete readings, view websites, videos and other media, work on assignments, and reflect on their learning.  I will facilitate the workshop and the faculty-learners will work through questions and issues related to questions and issues in online teaching through their readings and other content, through assignments, and participation in weekly discussion forums.

The online workshop is intended to assist faculty in making instructional choices that enhance learning online, acquire experience with Moodle’s tools, and to think deeper about online learning than perhaps they have.  It is also my intention to create a fully online, self-paced version of this workshop.

Let’s see how it goes.  I expect I will need to revise, revise and revise again.  For more information about the online portion of the course proposal, go to the  Course Proposal, Form 3b.

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Learning Guides

A learning guide is a list of everything that will happen and be expected in one module or unit of a course, one per module.  Creating them in advance means that much of the work is done before I even start making the course.  And by that I meaning the thinking, planning, outlining, all of the objectives, readings and other materials, assignments, quizzes, and all assessments are determined and scheduled.  The textbook used in EDUC-763, “Instructional Design for E-Learning” (fall, 2014, Susan Manning, UW-Stout), was Conquering the Content, A Step-by-Step Guide to Online Course Design by Robin M. Smith, Jossey-Bass 2008.  The course design and forms are in the text and were adapted for the course by Susan Manning.





Learning Guide Module 1 – Using Moodle and Making a Plan
Learning Guide Module 2 – Choosing and Adding Activities
Learning Guide Module 3 – Setting up and Moderating Forums
Learning Guide Module 4 – Creating Quizzes and Question Libraries
Learning Guide Module 5 – The Use of Web 2.0 Technology

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Course Outline

The format of the Course Outline I used was adapted by Susan Manning from a form in Robin Smith’s book (see the citation under Learning Guides) and really covers the gamut of learning in the workshop.  In Instructional Design for E-Learning, Susan asked us use a simple and useful model of instructional design from William Horton’s E-Learning by Design, Wiley, 2012:  Assessment first, then Absorb – Do – Connect.  In a nutshell, the course outline (Smith) includes module objectives, assessments, readings and other materials about ideas, concepts, skills (absorb), completing activities to practice (do), and activities to find relevance (connect) (Horton).  There you have it; another amalgam of information.

Course Outline with Activities, Form 6-3


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Graphic Syllabus

MindMapI first made the schedule of learning events, a course outline, then learning guides for each module, finally the Syllabus, a Graphic Syllabus, not exactly like the image to the right.

I experimented with several programs including inDesign, PowerPoint and Word.  When I was about finished a friend showed me some very nice free mind mapping software online, XMind.  Too late for me, but it’s all for the best since this amalgam of a syllabus doesn’t look like a template.  I’ll be running the workshop in 2015.  We’ll see how well it works.

Intro to Moodle Graphic Syllabus

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Student Learning Activity

A learning activity is a process through active stages of learning where students are introduced to a topic, given opportunities to absorb information through readings, websites or media, and given assignments or other assessed activity to try out their learning.  An activity also contains ways for the student to make connections between her learning and her current world or something she will do in the future, i.e., a job, graduate school, or in this case, teach an online course.  Here is an example of a learning activity from the workshop.

All Learning Activitiesbrain-left

All learning activities in this workshop, including the activity presented below, will follow principles of universal design found on the CAST website (  For the learning activity in the following module incorporates these principles of UDL:

  • Content and discussions are linked to teaching the students have done and to their end products, which is a course the students are building and will use.
  • Video content is available on YouTube with closed captioning.

For more information on organizing  the learning process, see Learning Process, Form 7.

Example of Learning Activities, Absorb – Do – Connect

The learning activities presented here are Absorb – Do – Connect activities and are written according to best practices from Quality Matters (QM) and the Quality Online Course Initiative (QOCI).  Learners will read and review material related to discussion forums and creating a discussion rubric.  This is followed by activities to engage with ideas presented in the discussion, and connect to courses they are preparing as web-enhanced or hybrid courses by creating a discussion rubric and upload it to their course site being developed.

  • Learning activities encourage interaction between students, students-content, and instructor-students. Discussion forums are particularly emphasized to 1) build a cadre of instructors who can discuss online course instruction together after this course is through,  and 2) model how to facilitate discussions and encourage student ownership of learning through their active use of discussions to ask and answer questions (QOCI, QM).
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Assessing Learning

Learning in the workshop will be assessed in several ways with the intention of developing the faculty’s awareness of what activities they perform as instructors, what they ask of students, and why.  Each module includes a self-reflection in a personal blog located within Moodle.  In conjunction with other topics, discussion forums will focus in part on why choices are made and how those choices promote learning.

Attached is the Discussion Guidelines and Rubric which will apply to each module’s discussion forum.


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Reflections on the Course

Week 1

We started the course with discussions and thoughts on course design or revision a la Robin Smith, Conquering the Content. We jumped right into a podcast, video intro, readings and YouTube, as well as a graphic syllabus laid out like an organizational chart. I took to the variety right off and looked at how the media affected the content. I don’t know if one of the objectives was to get us looking at different modes of absorbing content, but we certainly had it from the start. It was an excellent lead-off in that sense.

Reminders of learning theory was included in the content for the week — an appreciated review for me since I love learning theories. It was a good foundation.

Week 2

Learning objectives are very familiar to me, which doesn’t mean I always like to write them, but I do appreciate them. I have seen several revisions of Bloom’s Taxonomy and they all are more or less the same. Like learning theories, I like to use Bloom as an underpinning for building a course. Dr. Manning especially focus on Bloom’s taxonomy and the learning objective verbs related to the steps. This is abundantly useful in writing objectives and understanding how to tap into learning at different levels.

In applying Bloom’s taxonomy we begin to see the meaning and importance of alignment that is so important toward the end of the course.

Discussions This is the second class I have taken in the E-Learning Graduate Certificate Program at UW-Stout and in this as well as the first, I enjoy and learn so much in the discussions with the other students. They are insightful, helpful and so well-experienced in different areas. There really doesn’t seem to be enough time to really keep the discussion going – that is just impractical. I value this part of the courses and cannot see not using them to a great advantage in any courses that I design or teach.

Week 3

Placing assessment after learning objectives makes a lot of sense to me — my background is in instructional systems design where we assessment is closely tied to objectives. I think this makes the loop and closing the loop clear and easier to accomplish. I also enjoyed the updates to instructional systems design and other methods which are essentially variations on a theme, but need updating for digital learning and teaching.

journal-onlineWeek 4

In week 4 we were introduced to William Horton and his deceptively simple Absorb-Do-Connect model of course design. With objectives in place and assessment aligned, Horton fills in the gaps. I was not aware of this model and love the simplicity and power of it.

We also looked at differences between learners and had some good discussions on digital natives, gen-xers and baby boomers and where and whether they are different. This is a good discussion to have as we try in an online environment to understand who our students are and how they learn.

Week 5

Week 5 had us writing the syllabus for our courses and was the first task, to my mind anyway, that really started to put the course into a course-making mode. I found this week the most difficult as I struggled to complete the assignments and think both broadly and in detail about the course I wanted to offer. I also found myself needing to revise earlier assignments to create alignment across objectives-absorb-do activities and connect-assessment activities. This was a lot to put together.

Week 6

We have been reading Conquering the Content throughout the course and week 6 was the first time I felt that I could conquer the content, and the objectives, activities, assessments and make everything align in a logical, useable way. That was quite a mountain to climb. Chunking content is fun and makes so much sense. This may have been the easiest week for me.

Week 7

We pull our courses together by looking at an often ignored aspect of learners — how to use universal design principles to meet needs of all students. This enlightening week had a surprising amount of content to think about. I have not used UDL principles in the past and found this new and a bit odd to work with, but very sensible. UDL is indeed for everyone.

Week 8

As we finish up our projects and portfolios, I see that this was a carefully laid out course leading us to something based on research and theories and ending with a n onion course to be used, revised and used again. The practical results and the theoretical underpinning has been exceptionally well designed to support each other.

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