Online Course Review and Recommendations

CETLOE online learning experts have pulled together a collection of resources for faculty interested in reviewing and improving their online courses. The DIY Course Review Checklist has been designed for faculty interested in completing quick self reviews of their courses. The CETLOE Diversity Readiness Suggestions Checklist and Career Readiness Suggestions Checklist offer deeper dives into those two areas. And, the Comprehensive Design Suggestions Checklist pulls together a full set of detailed recommendations.

While designed as checklists, we fully recognize that not all checklist items will apply in all contexts. And, while we know that our faculty are overachievers nationally known for their commitment to teaching, it’s unlikely that there has ever been or ever will be a course that checks all of the boxes, especially on all but the DIY checklist. With that said, we hope that unchecked boxes will spark interest and lead to some good conversations.

Also, please note that these checklists are living documents. If you have suggestions, spot problems, or have other comments, please let us know!

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In addition to the CELTOE design suggestions below, Georgia State University faculty also have access to resources provided by the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) and Quality Matters (QM). The OLC provides free access to many resources, including several quality checklists, as well as free or discounted access to workshops, conferences, and certificate programs. Quality Matters provides research-supported standards and faculty-centered services to ensure the quality of online education and digital learning, including many freely available resources on research and best practices from the community such as QM’s Bridge to Quality Course Design Guide. QM’s professional development and course/program review and certification provide a variety of pathways to institutions and faculty to reach their quality assurance goals. To access these OLC and QM resources, create accounts with these organizations using your GSU email address. These resources have certainly inspired CETLOE’s work. Many thanks to QM for allowing us to directly quote their design standards in our comprehensive checklist and to OLC and SUNY for making OSCQR resources freely available. We’d also like to thank Digital Promise and the Institute for Applied Neuroscience for their excellent resources and willingness to share.

Lastly, to see how many of these recommendations might look in iCollege, check out our CETLOE Sample Online Course.

DIY Course Design Suggestions Checklist

This do-it-yourself (DIY) checklist is a condensed version of our Comprehensive Design Suggestions Checklist, built for faculty interested in doing high-level reviews of their own courses. Check out the DIY suggestions or download the DIY checklist below. Also, check out this Course Workload Estimator to make sure that you’re complying with GSU’s credit hour policy.

      1. Prior to the start of the semester, students are provided information regarding workload, course-specific fees, and any requirements for in-person or synchronous attendance. Updated Banner notes and/or an email to registrants before classes start could accomplish this.
      2. The syllabus meets university requirements.
      3. Online courses are delivered via the iCollege Digital Learning Environment. (iCollege resources)
      4. Online course content and activities are organized in topic-based modules that have a consistent look, feel, and flow of activities. (iCollege design suggestions)
      5. The purpose, task, and evaluation criteria for all learning activities are clearly communicated with students. (TILT - Transparency in Learning and Teaching resources)
      6. Students have frequent opportunities to practice new concepts/skills and receive constructive feedback before they are assessed for a grade. Auto-graded iCollege quizzes are one way to provide quick formative feedback to students. (iCollege quizzes)
      7. Links to relevant support resources (tutoring, office hours, the GSU Writing Studio, etc.) are embedded throughout the course.
      8. Students are provided structured pauses (such as low-stakes or no-stakes quizzes or surveys) to reflect on how their behaviors are influencing their success in the course. (iCollege surveys and Reflective Questions)
      9. Students have opportunities to learn from and support each other. Opportunities for collaboration, peer review, and discussions can help accomplish this. (iCollege discussions)
      10. Course materials and activities reflect and honor the diversity of our student body. (Asset-based pedagogy resources)
      11. Course materials and activities support students’ development of relevant career competencies. (Career relevance resources)
      12. The course workload is reasonable for students and instructors.(Student course workload estimation tool and GSU credit hour policy)
      13. Students have opportunities to provide feedback, preferably anonymous, to the instructor regarding course design, including but not limited to elements such as clarity of materials, workload, ease of navigation, and access to support resources. iCollege surveys can be set to collect anonymous feedback. (iCollege surveys)
      14. Course materials meet accessibility requirements, including clear and consistent navigation, accurately captioned videos, machine-readable text alternatives for media elements, etc. (CETLOE accessibility resources)
      15. Citations, copyright information, and sharing permissions are included for instructional materials, when applicable. (Georgia State Library resources on sharing instructional materials online)



Comprehensive Design Suggestions Checklist

This is our comprehensive list of recommendations regarding online course design and delivery, including links to relevant resources and policies. When CETLOE design teams engage with faculty on course development projects, this checklist anchors our conversations and helps us track progress. Given its comprehensive nature, some recommendations might not be relevant or could be a bit too technical in some contexts. While faculty are certainly welcome to review the recommendations and resources, those interested in a comprehensive review are strongly encouraged to partner with a CETLOE designer and discuss recommendations. Recommendations are organized around the following design standards:

  1. Prior to the start of classes, registered students are welcomed and provided information regarding how to access the course, find the resources they need, and learn successfully online.
  2. Prior to the start of classes, registered students are welcomed and provided information regarding how to access the course, find the resources they need, and learn successfully online.
  3. The course syllabus clearly conveys all important information and sets a positive tone for the course.
  4. A Welcome Module “deconstructs” the syllabus, foregrounds important links and information, introduces the instructor, establishes a community of learners, and verifies enrollment.
  5. The course is easy to use for all students and complies with Section 508, WCAG, and ADA.
  6. Instructional materials help all students achieve course goals and master student learning outcomes.
  7. Course materials and learning activities are introduced in ways that engage students’ interests, integrate their prior experiences, and motivate them to learn.
  8. Students are provided opportunities to engage in frequent, structured practice and reflection, receiving advice and feedback that encourages a growth mindset and positive academic behaviors.
  9. Learning activities provide students opportunities to engage deeply, substantively, and collaboratively with course content.
  10. Course requirements, important dates, evaluation criteria, instructions, and grades remain clear and easy to access.


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Diversity Readiness Suggestions Checklist

Grounded in an asset-based approach, the Diversity Readiness Suggestions Checklist was designed for faculty with a particular interest in making sure that their online courses reflect and honor student diversity. This checklist expands on DEI-related items included in CETLOE’s Comprehensive Design Suggestions Checklist. Faculty may use the checklist to complete their own reviews but are encouraged to request that a CETLOE design team use the checklist to review their course and offer recommendations. For more information on asset-based approaches, visit CETLOE’s Embracing Diversity with Asset-Based Pedagogies webpage.


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Career Readiness Suggestions Checklist

Based on the career readiness competencies published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the Career Readiness Suggestions Checklist was designed for faculty with a particular interest in supporting students’ development of career-relevant competencies. This checklist expands on career-related items included in the Comprehensive Design Suggestions Checklist. Faculty are encouraged to use the checklist to do their own course reviews. Faculty may also request that a CETLOE design team use the checklist to review their course and offer recommendations. For more related resources, check out our Career Readiness Suggestions Checklist webpage.


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