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Design Fundamentals

Best practices for online course design are similar to those in the face-to-face classroom. Building upon the Principles of Online Learning (Chickering and Gamson, 1987), the goal for any instructor is to create opportunities that not only provide students with access to course materials, but also foster interactions with both the content and other students in ways that stimulate higher-order thinking processes.

Basic Principles for Course Design
  • Learning is an active process and takes place when students are engaged with the materials in a meaningful way.
  • Students have learning preference(s) – visual, auditory, kinesthetic – that impact how they process information. Online materials and activities should reflect a balance of different modalities to accommodate these styles.
  • Students bring their own experiences and background knowledge (schema) to the course. Course activities should provide ways to activate students’ schema about a topic and use that information to scaffold (build) upon their knowledge.
  • Students learn best when called upon to integrate course materials in a way that has real-world applications.

Bloom’s Taxonomy


Bloom’s Taxonomy is a classification of learning which is useful in understanding the different processes — cognitive, affective and psycho-motor — that students employ to learn. Even though all skill sets are important for online course development, the cognitive domain provides a useful rubric for the fundamentals of course design. Vanderbilt University’s articulation of Bloom’s Taxonomy


Designing For Mobile-Friendliness As more and more students access courses from their smartphones, tablets or other mobile devices, it is increasingly important to ensure your courses are mobile-friendly. Encouraging students to install the official Moodle mobile app is one way to improve their learning experience. Below are some suggestions for optimizing your course materials for students both using the app and accessing Moodle from mobile devices. Designing for Mobile-Friendliness Video, Length: 53 minutes and Designing for Mobile-Friendliness Instructional PDF, 14 Pages

In some classrooms, for example, students are called upon to simply memorize facts and data and recite them in some form such as objective (true-false, multiple-choice, fill-in) tests. Such ‘lower-order’ skills can have a place in some classrooms, but if used in conjunction with ‘higher-order’ skills they will provide greater opportunities for learning than if used in isolation. An example of this would be if a true-false ‘quiz’ is given at the beginning of a unit for students to assess their knowledge of a new topic and their results then used as a prompt for a goal-setting/reflection of what they would like to learn.