Online Course Development Best Practices

In a shifting technology landscape, pinpointing what exactly counts as best practice in teaching online can be a tough job. To support you in your teaching, the many teams of CETLOE have come together to provide a quick summary of current online best practice. This summary is just the start though. As time goes on, we’ll be fleshing this page out with examples, how-tos, and constantly revising it to make sure that what is here reflects the best thinking in the field. We hope that you’ll continue to come back here to update your thinking on how to best serve our students.

The course is delivered via the iCollege digital learning environment. When external learning technologies offer important and unique affordances or when copyright restrictions apply, content may be delivered and course interactions may occur outside of the iCollege digital learning environment. In cases where external learning technologies are used, iCollege remains the course’s organizing hub, coordinating learning activities and course communications. External learning technologies must be vetted by CETLOE to ensure adequate faculty and student training and support, adherence to accessibility and privacy requirements, sufficient funding, and integration into iCollege to the fullest extent possible.
Course notes in Banner state the course modality, specifics about any in-person meetings or proctored exams, note that course content is delivered via iCollege, list any course-specific fees, and link to other relevant information. Instructions on how to access iCollege and iCollege FAQ’s are provided.
Components of the iCollege digital learning environment are used as they were intended.
Course navigation uses the default navigation bars and layout found in iCollege.  The Content Tool is used to organize content into modules.  Important links are also provided in content throughout course content modules.
The syllabus includes all the required elements and recommended elements and uses learner-centered language. Syllabus content can be accessed via an accessible PDF, as separate components in a "deconstructed" syllabus content module, and in-context throughout course content modules.
iCollege serves as the official course gradebook. All gradebook items include due dates. Students are provided instructions on how to sign up for email and/or text messages to remind them of these due dates. The gradebook will be structured so that learning analytics tools can regularly and accurately assess and report student progress to the instructor, the students, advisors and student success coaches.
Clear grading criteria are provided for all graded assessments, using rubrics when possible. Overall grading schemes, whether point-based, weighted, or combination thereof, are clearly explained in the syllabus and reiterated throughout the course. Letter grade cutoffs are clearly outlined in the syllabus and consistent across courses in the same program.
Concrete steps have been taken to limit cheating and promote academic honesty, including but not limited to use of proctoring labs and technologies, plagiarism prevention tools, varied activities and assessment types, and randomized test questions.
A Course Welcome content module introduces students to their professor, course expectations, and key course procedures and requirements. Professors are encouraged to ask their students to post “introductions” to help establish a positive class culture and fruitful course community. We encourage instructors to use the common course environment to guide your design.
Pre-, mid-, and post-course surveys assess students’ confidence regarding course content as well as comfort with course design, delivery, and assessment. The Pre-Survey should be conducted in the first week of the course to serve as a Roll Verification
Student learning outcomes are observable and written using student-centered language. Student learning outcomes as well as means of assessing those outcomes are consistent across all sections of the same course, including those taught in face-to-face or hybrid formats. Student learning outcomes are connected explicitly, in context, to content, actions, assessments, and rubrics, as well as program-level outcomes and strategic university initiatives. Students are reminded of these connections as they occur in the course.
All relevant objectives, grading criteria, materials and assessments, interactions, links support resources, etc. are sequentially organized as discrete objects in topic-based modules using the content tool.
Faculty provide timely, in-context access to relevant student success resources, including up-to-date links to tutoring, online office hours, tech support, career services, supplemental resources, the library, financial aid, advising, counseling, and the Access and Accommodation Center.
Using opportunities such as the module and topic object description fields in iCollege, faculty explain the purpose of everything that students are required or encouraged to do when and where students are required and encouraged to do so.
Content and multimedia are up-to-date, accessible, and make use of embedded assessment technologies in the iCollege digital learning environment.
Faculty remind students of all upcoming due dates, assessments, readings, major projects, and other important milestones.
Faculty are attentive and responsive, interacting with students regularly and in ways that contribute to student learning and successful course completion.
Faculty encourage a growth mindset and facilitate student metacognition.