Part I: Planning Your Course

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Careful planning will help you make decisions about the course elements that are crucial for maximizing students’ learning in a remote or online environment. Part I provides tips and resources to guide your decision making for each of these elements based on evidence-based practices.

For those wanting to learn more, a list of additional resources are provided so you can take a deeper dive into the ideas presented. Also, at the end of each section, you find a link to the relevant Quality Matters standard recognized internationally for delivering quality online learning experiences.

The Goal: Examine your course requirements and specific teaching and learning context to identify situational factors or constraints that will help you make decisions about three major elements of your course: 1) goals/learning outcomes; 2) assessment and feedback; and 3) teaching and learning activities.


Course Requirements

Teaching and Learning Context

  • Review ‘Get Started with Teaching Remotely’.
  • Think about who your students are and what challenges they may face while participating in your course.
  • Consider technology your students may have access to at home – contact CITL to discuss.
  • Consider your instructional approach (how you like to teach).
  • Reflect on your past teaching and identify the concepts that your students may have had trouble grasping. Think about how you motivated student participation and engaged them in the learning experience.
  • Become familiar with or refresh your knowledge of Brightspace by attending webinars offered by CITL and review Frequently Asked Questions and Student Resources.

The Goal: Articulate the essential knowledge (concepts, ideas, principles, relationships), skills, and attitudes/values you want students to remember and be able to apply at the end of the course and after.



  • In addition to four to six core content discipline-specific learning outcomes, consider including outcomes related to the digital and higher-order thinking skills you want students to acquire (e.g., analyze, synthesize, problem solve, collaborate). Also, students should be able to reflect and make connections among information learned in your course to other courses or disciplines, and the world in which they live).
  • Don’t try to do too much.

Communicating Learning Outcomes

The Goal: Choose assessments that enable students to continuously monitor and evaluate their own learning progress and ultimately achieve the course learning outcomes.





The Goal: Select activities, content, and resources that will help students to successfully complete the assessment you have chosen and interact with each other.



  • Identify the successful activities you use in-class and think about how they can be delivered online.
  • When appropriate, limit activities that simply focus on rote learning or memorization.
  • Scaffold learning activities to move students from mastering content to learning how to apply the content, reflect, and make connections. Watch this video of a five stage model.
  • Have students find and evaluate information themselves by providing criteria and guidelines.
  • Include activities to help students summarize key points.
  • Embed formative classroom assessment techniques throughout course for students to monitor their progress.
  • Incorporate group projects and online collaborative learning activities.
  • Engage students with online discussions to apply content and reflect on what they are learning.
  • Give some consideration to activities that can be done synchronously (real-time) versus asynchronously.
  • Use synchronous activities when there is opportunity for students to interact and collaborate (e.g. presenting troublesome topics or hosting review sessions that may require Q&A and bringing in a guest speaker). Contact CITL for consultation.
  • Design activities to meet all students’ needs.
  • Get students’ feedback on course content and facilitation.

Supporting Content/Resources

  • Consider the best way to make content available to students (e.g. provide course notes in text format, audio, and video).
  • Review any existing resources (e.g. instructor notes, PowerPoints slides, and readings) for currency and make plans for revisions and additions to facilitate and support each of the learning activities. Contact CITL for a consultation with an instructional designer.
  • Where possible, link to relevant web content or Open Access resources (e.g. OER Commons Collections or CC Search and Linney – MUN’s Learning Object Repository) rather than create all the content yourself.
  • If required, create a video narration of your own slides, record yourself demonstrating a task, or work with CITL to create a video. See media examples on CITL website.
  • Link to an audio clip, record your own (e.g. using Microsoft voice recorder or audacity) or create a podcast.
  • Consider using resources currently available through Memorial Libraries by incorporating the Course Resources (Reserve) tool in your course site.
  • While many resources you find online are available for use under current Fair Dealing guidelines, it is important to verify copyright restrictions and apply proper attribution when using the work of others. Copyright support is available at the library if you are unsure about licensing or have questions about fair dealing.


The Goal: Verify the goals/outcomes, assessment and feedback, teaching/learning activities, and resources you have chosen support each other and are reflective of the course requirements and your teaching and learning context – situational factors (see Figure 1). Course alignment helps ensure what is taught and practiced in the course will help students complete the course successfully.

Figure 1: Components of Integrated Course Design. Adapted from Model 1 from L. Dee Fink, “A Self-Directed Guide to Designing Courses for Significant Learning, ©2005, p. 2. Via Dee Fink & Associates.


Effective Course Design

  • List each of your learning outcomes.
  • For each outcome, list the content (assessment, activity, and resource) students will complete and how feedback will be provided for you and the students to determine if they achieved the intended learning outcomes.
  • Check that verbs in your learning outcomes, assessments, and teaching and learning activities match. For example:
    • If the learning outcome is for students to be able to analyze information and an exam with questions requiring students to remember content-related facts is the assessment, then the outcomes and assessment are not aligned. There is no opportunity for students to practice analyzing information.

The Goal: Establish a consistent course structure and complete the schedule for the entire semester that can be used to guide student learning and your instruction.


Course Structure

  • Scaffold major topics/themes, so build on one another in a way that allow students to integrate what they learned in a previous week with new topics/information in the upcoming week (e.g. from simple to complex or known to unknown).
  • Decide how many weeks or class sessions are required to cover each major topic/theme that comprise your course content for the semester.
  • For each major topic, introduce the concepts/information to be covered, define learning outcomes, explain purpose of readings, and include the activities and assignments students are expected to complete. This will help students plan and manage their time.

Course Schedule

  • Sequence the activities and assessments you selected around the major topics/themes into a weekly course schedule.
  • Ensure ample time is allocated between each activity and/or assessment for students to apply concepts, for you to provide feedback, and for students to analyze feedback to improve learning.
  • Suggest completing the activities and assignments yourself to ensure they can be completed in time frame allocated and using the instructions and resources provided.

The Goal: Communicate your course design and expectations in the syllabus, along with your communication strategies to establish a supportive learning environment.


Course Expectations

  • Review syllabus requirements under University Regulations stated under General Academic Regulations (Undergraduate) in Memorial’s Calendar.
  • Review Guidelines for Course Syllabi at Memorial.
  • Check with your academic unit to see if a syllabus template is available.
  • Ensure overview of course includes the course structure and describes how content will be delivered (instructor printable notes, slide presentations, links to websites, audio clips, instructor-created video,videos on YouTube, real-time scheduled web conferencing sessions).
  • Explain why the course content is relevant and show the connection between the learning outcomes and assignments/activities. Use a concept map, for example.
  • Communicate the course workload to help students plan and manage their time (e.g. include formal study time and self-study time).
  • Place information about supports and accommodations at the top of the syllabus so students can easily see what is available to help them succeed.
  • Include a schedule for the entire semester and note any due dates.
  • Coordinate grading allocations (e.g. weight) so appropriate to each component based on the determined level of importance.
  • Clearly describe instructions and resources required for each assessment component. Include any rubrics to help students see your expectations for submissions. This too may also decrease the number of inquiries from students.
  • Provide clear participation and/or evaluation guidelines for any asynchronous discussions and synchronous activities/interactions in your course.

Communication Strategies

  • Similar to how you would speak in a typical lecture, write in a more conversational style to engage students.
  • Include netiquette rules to promote respectful communication, interaction and collaboration.
  • Clearly articulate how students can contact you and when they can expect a response. For example, how often will you be checking and responding to email.
  • List your office hours and the tools students can use to reach you.
  • Outline when students can expect grades and feedback.
  • Provide resources for students to become familiar with the tools used.
  • Encourage the use of audio and video to help students connect with you and each other.

The Goal: Select appropriate times throughout the course to solicit feedback and determine additional supports to help students succeed.


Student Feedback

  • Include opportunities for feedback from students part way through the course or even after each major section to assess how they are doing and how the course is progressing.
  • Ask students to evaluate the learning activities and resources (including technology) used.
  • Use Brightspace Survey Tool to solicit feedback.
  • Encourage students to complete CEQs.

CITL, Phillips, P.; St. Croix, L.; Wicks, C.; & Beaton, N. (2020). Adapted from original Course Set Up Kit Guide by St. Croix, L. & Wicks, C. (2014).

Resource created by Pam P., Lisa St.C, Cathy W., & Nancy B.