Design & Development Process for eLearning Courses

Planning and Organization of eLearning course content in advance of the term is a best practice from the Online Learning Consortium and Quality Matters.  The Office of Academic Technology has adopted the Quality Matters (QM) standards as the measurement for effective course design and development.

The ADDIE course model frames the alignment of the course: Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation.  It has been applied throughout this design and development process i.e. analysis, design, and development.  Implementation and Evaluation are the final stages for continuous improvement.

The design and development process listed here includes an 11 stage checklist.  Worksheets and resources are linked throughout for your convenience.  Contact an Office of Academic Technology team member for assistance at any stage of the design and development process.  

Analysis (Stages 1-3)

Stage 1: Consider the Delivery Method

Determine in consultation with your department head whether your course will be offered as a traditional face-to-face, fully online, blended, or web-enhanced course. A link to the Texas A&M University-Commerce Course Type Definitions is provided here.  Your department will place the course on the schedule with the appropriate course section designation.

Stage 2: Know your Students (Student Discernment)

Students' prior knowledge and experiences, learning styles, intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, generational connections, cultural backgrounds, and intellectual and social backgrounds contribute to their learning experiences. Therefore, as the instructor and designer of effective learning environments, it is important you understand the make-up of the students in each of the courses you develop.

  • Andragogy / Pedagogy
  • Generational learning styles
  • Learning styles
  • Motivation to learn
  • Intellectual development
  • Cultural background

Stage 3: Identify Important Situational Factors

Answers to these questions will have implications for the decisions you make regarding learning objectives, instructional activities and assessments, and consideration as to the depth and amount of material you can reasonably cover in the course.

  • How many students are/will be in the class?
  • Is the course lower division, upper division, or graduate level?
  • What curricular goals does the institution or department have that affect this course or program?
  • How long and frequent are the class meetings?
  • How will the course be delivered: live classroom instruction, interactive TV, as an online course, or some combination?
  • Why do students need the course? (Prerequisite, elective, required course for major?)
  • What is the life situation of the students at the moment: full-time, part-time working student, family responsibilities, work responsibilities, and the like?
  • What life or professional goals do they have that relate to this learning experience?
  • What are their reasons for enrolling?
  • What prior experiences, knowledge, skills, and attitudes do the students have regarding the subject?
  • What are the students' learning styles?
  • Prior Knowledge - what they already know. Is there a gap between what they know and where they need to go with this instruction? What do I need to teach? Do I need to do a pre-test to see "Where they are" and "where I need to begin?

Design (Stages 4-8)

Stage 4: Formulate student learning outcomes

Prior to deciding on course content and developing the course, it is important to formulate strong, well-written student learning outcomes. These student learning outcomes are the focus of the learning planned for and demonstrated, or assessed, in the course.

Articulating well-written student learning outcomes will assist you, the instructor, in selecting and organizing content and determining appropriate assessments and instructional strategies. Additionally, they will direct the attention and learning of students and assist them in monitoring their own progress.

Alignment among the three main course components provides the supporting structure for an effective course. A Course Alignment Worksheet has been provided to map the student learning outcomes with activities and assessment.  Alignment occurs when:

  • STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES articulate the knowledge and skills students are to acquire by the end of the course
  • ASSESSMENTS allow the instructor to check the degree to which the students are meeting the student learning outcomes.
  • INSTRUCTIONAL STRATEGIES are chosen which foster student learning towards meeting the student learning outcomes.

When these components are not aligned, students might rightfully complain that the test did not have anything to do with what was covered in class, or instructors might feel that even though students are earning a passing grade, they haven't really mastered the material at the desired level.

Stage 5: Identify and Align Assessments with Student Learning Outcomes

Assessments provide instructors with evidence of how well students have learned what was intended that they learn. Student learning outcomes should guide the choice and design of the assessments.

The content and assignments each match a specific assessment item.  The linked Course Content Worksheet will aid in mapping the alignment of the course.

Stage 6: Identify Appropriate Instructional Strategies

After selecting the student learning outcomes and assessments for the course, think about the various instructional activities you will use to engage students and enable them to meet the learning outcomes. Quality Matters (QM) breaks instructional strategies into three areas:

  • Resources and materials
  • Learning engagement
  • Tools and media.

In most cases, a combination of instructional strategies will be best. The instructional materials, learning activities, tools and media support the learning objectives and are chosen to contribute to, promote, and deliver the content of the course.

Stage 7: Plan the Content Layout of the Course

Alignment of the student learning outcomes, assessments, and instructional strategies provides for the sound structure of the course. After this structure has been determined, it is time to plan for the content layout of the course. 

Determine the most effective means of laying out the course in manageable instructional pieces. For some courses, the best layout may be chronologically by each week of the term, for other courses, it may be best to use a modular approach by topic or phases of a semester-long project. At each point of planning, keep in mind who your students are and the other Situational Factors you identified in Stage 2.

A Course Content Template is available as a Word document for building content prior to accessing the Learning Management System.  Build the content within this document. Store all course files [e.g. worksheets, instructions, test banks, case study] in your computer, USB drive and/or external hard drive.

Stage 8: Write the Syllabus

The syllabi serve several important purposes, the most basic of which is to communicate the instructor's course design (e.g., student learning outcomes, expectations, organization, policies, and requirements) to students. The syllabus sets the tone for the course and conveys the role of the teacher and students. It is a type of contract with students regarding the stated policies, requirements, and procedures for the course.

The linked Syllabus Template contains required information for students.  This includes the ADA statement, student conduct, technical requirements, and academic honesty.  This template is updated frequently.

Development (Stage 9)

Stage 9: Save Course Content

The previous stages included templates and worksheets for developing course content.  As content is created save it to your computer, USB drive and/or external hard drive.

The following is a list of some types of documents and content items you may be creating for your course:

  1. Syllabus word document and PDF
  2. Course Content word document
  3. Course Alignment Worksheet
  4. Course Resources
    1. Respondus test banks
    2. Assessment instruments
    3. Case Studies
    4. List of URL (resources and video links)
    5. Transcripts

Stage 10: Develop Your Course on the Learning Management System (LMS)

Texas A&M University-Commerce contracts with Pearson Learning Studio to deliver fully online, blended, and web-enhanced courses.  Contact the AT to establish a faculty account for developing a new eLearning course.  Faculty submit the electronic Course Copy Application prior to each term.

The Course Copy Application allows faculty to choose a previous course, a course template, or a course in a development term to be copied into the new term.  This copy process can take place as soon as the Registrar releases a new schedule of classes.  Faculty have access to their copied course immediately to revise and update as needed.  Students will not have access to the course until the first day of the term.    

Implement and Evaluation of Content (Stage 11)

Stage 11: Quality Matters Review including Accessibility

Quality assurance is a process to assure adequate instructions and best practices are provided for student success. The eight QM standards are to be met prior to offering the course in a term.

  1. Course Overview and Introduction
  2. Learning Objectives
  3. Assessment and Measurement
  4. Instructional Materials
  5. Learner Interaction and Engagement
  6. Course Technology
  7. Learner Support
  8. Accessibility