Instructional Design

Online courses make a complete break with traditional face-to-face ("f2f") teaching in a way that offers both new oppportunities for student learning and introduces important challenges to instructor preparation and pedagogy.

This section of the Office of Academic Technology web site will introduce some aspects of the online teaching experience from the standpoint of practical advice for the pursuit of pedagogical goals. In addition to the Introduction on this page, the online pedagogy section contains these other pages:

  • Best Practices: Explore some good ideas to keep in mind as you organize and run your online course.
  • Technology Tools: There are tools (usually more than one!) to fit every design need.
  • Video Production 101: Learn how to make your instructional videos look better and engage students in more "human" online communication.
  • FAQ: Because you're not the first instructor to move into online teaching.

Challenges and Opportunities

Developing an online course most often starts with the conversion of an existing f2f course. While the general content will be similar to the f2f version of the course, the online format requires carefully evaluating your learning outcomes and radically rethinking the organization and presentation of content. As such, it is better to think of the conversion process as really the creation of a brand new course. Moreover, the first time you create an online course you will also be learning new technologies and, while running the course, dealing with increased demands on your time (such as more email contact with more students). However, the information presented on these pages is designed to make the planning and execution of the course more efficient and more enjoyable.

On the flipside of those challenges are the opportunities enabled by online teaching. Aside from the fact that many instructors are convinced the things they learn by teaching online "trickle down" to improve their f2f classes, students enjoy greater flexibility in a virtual classroom. In particular, they experience a learning environment that models a different relationship with the instructor from the f2f setting. The typical top-down flow of information from instructor to student has less significance online because students combine lecture-like material with greatly expanded inter-student communication, outside Web resources, self-assessment, and other course materials.

Perhaps the most significant outcome of many online courses is evidenced in the deeper engagement in the course content by a higher percentage of students. You might derive great personal pleasure from the f2f contact in a traditional class, but are you really connecting with all the students equally all the time? What percentage of your f2f students actually participate in f2f discussion? Study after study has shown that the online courses let you significantly engage many more students per course through a learning environment where traditional f2f peer barriers are greatly lessened or removed completely. The result is more intense but also more energetic experience for both you and your students.

So, what do you mean by "online" course?

There are a range of instructional situations that feature or rely on technological mediation in some form to engage with course content. While different institutions have different definitions, and you will see a variety of terminology used, the following are what has been adopted by CSU Stanislaus to describe the most common ways technology and instruction intersect. (Source: University Policy for Online and Technology-Mediated Courses)

  • Online course – A course in which 100% of the course activities take place online, however students may still be required to purchase textbooks or other materials. Course activities take place either synchronously or asynchronously, and students in online courses are not required to attend a class session or office hours on campus.
  • Hybrid course – A course in which 30%-99% of the course activities take place online (either synchronously or asynchronously).
  • Technology-enhanced course – A course in which 1%-29% of the course activities take place online.  These courses typically use web-based technology to extend what is essentially a face-to-face course.  In these courses, the online component primarily consists of hosting learning materials (syllabus, reserve materials, assignments, etc.) that are usually accessed asynchronously.  Occasional synchronous activities can also take place online.


Next: Best Practices