Lesson 5 - Instructional Design and Teaching
Apply a simple instructional design model to course design for distance education.
Identify rubrics for evaluating the quality of online courses.
Relate learner characteristics to effective practices in online course design and teaching.
Prioritize best practices for online course design and teaching.
In this module, we will focus on instructional design and teaching. We will begin with course design,
the process in which a course is planned and developed. We’ll then move on to course teaching,
paying special attention to the distinctive qualities distance education teaching requires.
Course design for online learning has features both in common with and in contrast to face-to-face
instructional design. The overall process is the same. You begin by developing your course
objectives. From there, you develop your learning activities and assessments. As in any course,
there should be a tight linkage among objectives, activities, and assessments.
Your learning objectives will drive the activities you design for your students. Those, in turn, must
provide practice opportunities for what you will assess. You can use Bloom’s Taxonomy to help you
write learning objectives and design instructional activities.
Have you used a rubric before, either as a teacher or a student? A rubric is an assessment tool or
learning guide that identifies targets in a learning task and provides evaluation criteria for
progressive levels of mastery. It breaks a task down into components and provides criteria for
evaluating each component.
Quality Matters is a subscription-based organization that provides evaluation and quality assurance
services to subscriber institutions offering distance education courses. It forms review teams made
up of faculty from different institutions and oversees them in conducting evaluations of online
courses. Once a course has been approved, it receives an official Quality Matters endorsement.
The review process follows a rubric based on current research of best practices in online course
The Quality Matters review focuses entirely on course design. It doesn’t consider course teaching at
all. The outcome of the review is based solely on what can be learned about an online course by
reviewing the course Web site. Although the complete rubric, with instructions for use, is available
only to subscriber institutions, a one-page, categorized list of standards (Quality Matters Rubric
Standards, 2008) upon which the rubric is based can be accessed by anyone. Download the
standards and review them.
You can learn more about Quality Matters at their Web site.
The Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at California State University, Chico, has
developed its own Rubric for Online Instruction (2003) which is widely acknowledged as a
comprehensive, yet easy-to-use, online course design tool.
Teaching an online course is, of course, very different from teaching a face-to-face course. In a fully
online course, there is no physical classroom. Your Web site and the interactions that it enables is a
Download and view this slide presentation about effective practices for teaching an online course.
In an online, asynchronous course, the discussion board is a central communication channel. It can
be used as a forum for academic discussions, a clearinghouse for questions and answers about the
course, and a virtual student lounge for informal conversation.
When an online instructor uses it for academic discussion, there are four categories of responsibility
he/she must assume (Berge, 1995):
In an online course, the pedagogical responsibility is a given: the instructor plays a major role in
focusing the student on the material and providing and creating the conditions for optimal learning.
The social responsibilities of the online instructor are also important. Much more so than in a face-
to-face class, the online instructor must create a comfortable climate that will encourage students to
share their thoughts, ask questions, and reach out to classmates.
Managerial responsibilities include establishing guidelines for discussion posting, modeling effective
posting behavior, and keeping the discussion on track. It can also include structuring discussions by
assigning different roles to students. Often, for example, instructors assign facilitation responsibility
to students. In these situations, the students must create the guiding questions, provide additional
resources, and summarize main points.
Finally, the online instructor bears some responsibility for supporting the students’ technological
use. While the instructor is not expected to be the main point of contact for technical problems,
distance students who are not familiar with how to get help otherwise will often reach out to the
instructor with such problems.
The Australian Flexible Learning Framework has published a series of Quick Guides on a variety
of topics. Their guide to Effective Online Facilitation is brief but thorough.
To learn about different ways to use online discussion, check out this online resource I created.
Keeping in mind your target learners and applying what you learned in this lesson, create a list of
best practices for online course design and online course teaching. List five practices for design and
five for teaching. After making your initial posting and reading your classmates’ postings, work with
your classmates to identify five design practices and five teaching practices that you all agree
represent the opinions of everyone. Be prepared to defend your initial choices, consider others’
opinions, and make compromises based on your classmates’ input.
There is no wiki assignment for this week other than your weekly resource posting.
Berge, Z.L. (1995). Facilitating computer conferencing: Recommendations from the field.
Educational Technology, 35(1), 22-30. Retrieved January 6, 2009 from
Rubric for Online Instruction. (2003). Retrieved January 6, 2009 from the California State University,
Chico Web site at http://www.csuchico.edu/celt/roi/
Quality Matters Rubric Standards. (2008). Retrieved January 6, 2009 from the Quality Matters Web
site at http://qminstitute.org/home/Public%20Library/About%20QM/RubricStandards2008-2010.pdf