Welcome to Online Course Development

Congratulations! You are in the fortunate and potentially overwhelming position of designing an online class. It may be a class you have already taught in another format, or it may be a brand new offering. Before you jump into the technology pieces, it is good to start with a concrete teaching and learning plan. That is what this resource is designed to support. We have broken down the planning into some basic theoretical and practical considerations and have foregrounded a student-centred approach to our course planning process. Our goal in creating this resource is to place pedagogy and evidence-based teaching practices at the forefront of our courses. We think that by providing faculty with research and supports related to teaching and learning, we can provide our students with a first-rate education that prepares them for their future as well-rounded global citizens. 

The development process as outlined in the chapters to come generally follows what is commonly described as a backward design process. Backward design was originally mapped out by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe in their book Understanding by Design (1998). This process means that instead of starting with the content you want to cover, you start with your learners and set your goals for the course. Only after you have determined the end point of where you want your students to end up, do you begin to fill in the supports and milestones you need to meet to help them get there.

Jared Quinn (2021) briefly explains the Backward Design approach in this short video:

Video: “About Backwards Design” by Jared Quinn can be found online at

What Will You Get Out of this Resource?

Here are some of the questions this resource can help you answer:

  • Who are my learners and what will they need to succeed?
  • How can I design a more inclusive classroom?
  • What skills and attributes do I want to foster in my students?
  • How will I engage and provide feedback to my students?
  • What content do I need to cover?
  • How will I assess my students?

Consider this resource as a kind of teaching and learning virtual consultant. It is a space you can use to learn more about course design.

Organization of This Resource

This resource organizes content into groups. It is designed to be completed somewhat chronologically, starting more theoretically and ending more concretely. However, the sections are self-sufficient. So, if a choose-your-own-adventure approach suits your needs, this resource can support you. Here is what you can expect to find in each section:

  1. Learners. This section will guide you through profiling your learners and then using these profiles to assist you in your decision-making throughout the course design process.
  2. Inclusive Pedagogical Approaches. This section introduces you to two different approaches to inclusive teaching: Culturally Responsive Pedagogy and Universal Design for Learning.
  3. Course Goals. This section will prepare you to write impactful goals for your course to help create a foundation for your course design.
  4. Engagement. This section will focus on strategies for engaging your students in different online formats to reinforce the goals of your course.
  5. Feedback. This section will help you plan for rigorous feedback to assist your learners on their learning pathway.
  6. Learning Activities. This section will help you develop activities that deepen your students’ understanding, build their skills, and hone their attributes in relationship to your course goals.
  7. Assessment. This section will provide options for assessment to ensure your students have opportunities at multiple stages to gauge their progress in your course.
  8. Content. This section will help you select your content. Don’t forget to consider incorporating Open Educational Resources content into your courses to help equalize the playing field for all students.
  9. Organization and Balance. This section will reinforce the alignment of your goals with your assessments and activities. It will also help ensure you have devoted an appropriate amount of time to each section.
  10. Additional Supports. This section offers some supplementary supports for the design process, including a course outline template and a course development plan.

Supporting Templates for this Resource

Accompanying this resource is a variety of downloadable assets you can use as you plan. If you would like to download the complete package all at once, email


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Online Course Development Copyright © 2022 by Teaching and Learning Centre, Mount Saint Vincent University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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