What does a good online course look like? What are the essentials?

If you need assistance with designing your online course, please contact our instructional design team at idteam@gmu.edu.


The Importance of Course Design

Through thoughtful and purposeful course design, faculty can:

  • Provide students with information about how to navigate the course, including a detailed syllabus and clear instructions for getting started.
  • State and build upon clear, measurable learning objectives or competencies.
  • Employ relevant learning activities, assessments, and course materials that align with objectives or competencies.
  • Provide regular opportunities to interact and engage (student-student, student-faculty, student-content).
  • Use technologies to achieve objectives or competencies.
  • Inform students about how to find support for their needs (technical, student services, academic, and so on).
  • Offer a course that is accessible to all students, including those with disabilities or different learning preferences.

Recommended Timeline for Course Development

Select time ranges below for development suggestions.

Two to three semesters before the course begins...

  • Attend IT training workshops, as listed here.
  • Complete professional development for online teaching. Check our Events page for upcoming opportunities.
  • Write measurable learning objectives, as described here.
  • Select Course Materials (textbook, e-Reserves, publisher content, and so on), perhaps using Library Services.
  • Identify course technologies (lecture capture, blogs, wikis, collaboration, web conferencing, and so on).

One to two semesters before the course begins...

  • Identify or produce any new instructional materials (videos, presentations, and so on), with the option to use Library Services or Video Support resources.
  • Create course activities and assessments.
  • Work with campus offices to ensure accessibility. See resources here.

One to three months before the course begins...

  • Finalize the syllabus using our Syllabus Checklist.
  • Arrange for any proctored testing, as noted in University Policy 3004.
  • Create a Welcome/Getting Started video, presentation, or announcement. See Video Support for resources.
  • Test the course site from the student view (external links, navigation, assignment links, Grade Center, and so on).
  • Make the course site available to students, no later than the first day of class. See steps here.

Learn more about teaching online

Designing or teaching an online course? See our list of best practices.

Seeking fresh ideas or chances to network? Attend an event.

Looking for feedback or have questions about online teaching?

Request Info