Organizing Your Course Material

One of the more challenging tasks in developing an online course is dividing and organizing course material so that it presents students with a coherent and manageable sequence of relevant topics and activities.

Questions for the instructor:

  • What material is essential to be covered?
  • What web resources should be included?
  • What is a learning unit or a module?
  • How should modules be arranged?
    • by week
    • by topic
  • What number of topics per week should be covered?
  • What size should the documents be?
  • What discussion topics should be assigned for each topic?
  • What assignments will assist students with mastering the concepts covered in the module?
  • What assessments will gauge student learning?
  • How to time the course: when and how much material should be released to students at any given time?
  • How to pace the course so that it is rigorous but does not overload students with materials and tasks with limited payoff?

Practical suggestions for organizing online course material:

  • Develop a module structure that is consistent throughout the course.
  • Define module components, such as:
    • Module introduction
    • Learning objectives
    • Readings
    • Lecture notes or material
    • Activities
    • Discussions
    • Assignments
    • Assessment
  • Be sure to align each module with your course syllabus - goals and objectives, required text, assignments, schedule of activities, grading policies, etc.
  • Provide a module overview page - a consistent interface for each module.
  • Instruct students on how to proceed through the modules so that they do not need to guess what is expected of them and have more time for content and learning activities.

Models of module design:

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