Getting Your Feet Wet: Introduction to Course Design Workshop

by Jessica Mansbach

In October 2016, the Distance Learning Team launched its first iteration of a fully online Course Design Workshop. This workshop is designed to help instructors become familiar with our course design process and to allow them to step into the shoes of an online student. In addition, being in the workshop allows instructors to practice using Canvas and to see what a well-structured SPS course looks like. If instructors have not designed an SPS course or are revising a course, they should take this workshop before they begin course development. Here is a sneak peek of what to expect during the workshop.  

Module 1: How do you create an online learning environment?

By the end of this module, instructors should be able to describe some ways to create an online learning environment. To spark instructors’ thinking about online learning, they discuss how they engage their students. Discussing this question with their peers prior to reviewing the readings and videos helps instructors think about strategies they already use to capture students’ interest.

Readings include Student Engagement Strategies: How To Help Students Succeed In The Online Environment and 9 strategies to spark adult students’ intrinsic motivation, short articles from Faculty Focus that provide some insight on how to generate students’ excitement about what they are learning and show students you are paying attention to the work they are doing in the class.  

After thinking about how to engage students, instructors are tasked with creating a short video that presents some of the “big ideas” of the course they are designing and the key questions the course tries to answer. By doing this assignment,  instructors think deeply about how to make course content relevant and intriguing. One of the “takeaways” of this assignment is for instructors to have some material to draw from to write course learning objectives.

Module 2: Why do we use Quality Matters?

By the end of this module, instructors should be able to explain how using the Quality Matters standards helps to create a well structured course. To trigger instructors’ thinking about course structure, they discuss elements of a meaningful learning experience. Discussing this question with their peers before they listen to the videos and do the readings helps instructors think about steps they already take to design a well structured course.

Readings include Explanations of each of the Quality Matters Standards and Four Crucial Factors In High Quality Distance Learning Courses, short articles that discuss the Quality Matters Standards and outline other considerations for designing a well structured course.

After becoming familiar with the Quality Matters standards, instructors compare and contrast two mini sample courses. One uses Quality Matters standards and the other does not. By doing this assignment, instructors will experience firsthand the ways in which using Quality Matters standards makes courses easier for students to navigate and easier for them to succeed in.

Module 3: As I design the course, what should  I keep in mind about accessibility, copyright, and style?

By the end of this module, instructors should be able to recognize the importance of accessibility, copyright, and writing style throughout the course development process. Readings for this module are from the accessibility section of the Distance Learning website. Throughout the module, the instructors take short quizzes that allow them to assess their knowledge of key concepts about accessibility and copyright.

What common questions arose during the workshop?

Below are some resources you can use to get some additional information about answers to common questions instructors raised in discussion during the workshop.

How do you provide feedback to students on their performance?

How do you design rubrics?

How do you engage students in discussions?

Participating in this workshop gives instructors an opportunity to step into the shoes of online students. The Distance Learning Team hopes that assuming the student perspective prepares instructors to design courses that engage students and courses that incorporate Quality Matters Standards.

If you have any comments or questions about the Course Design Workshop, please contact the facilitators Jessica Mansbach ( and Jacob Guerra-Martinez (jacob.