Build Your Course

Course design experts recommend that instructors start by identifying the outcomes (goals / objectives) they hope their course will help students achieve, then build in content, activities and assessments (tests, projects) that align with the outcomes. CTL and our partners at ITS have tools to help:

Join our CTL Canvas Faculty community course to access these tools with additional support from videos and discussion boards. 

You can use the CTL Course Planner to help you convert an existing course for online teaching, or to sketch out a new class.  The spreadsheet will help you estimate how much time you will spend on direct instruction, and students will spend on homework.  It can also help you make sure you've covered all your Student Learning Outcomes  was well as your other goals for the course.

Here are a few things to remember as you design assignments, assessments of student learning(tests, quizzes, projects, papers), and direct instruction:

  • Using frequent, short, low-stakes assessments (quizzes, small assignments) helps keep students engaged and on track in online courses
  •  Break up long class sessions with break out groups, mini-lectures, and other activities.  Why? Because long lectures are hard to listen to online, and equally hard for you to record.
  • Include some synchronous activities to help keep students on track and engaged. But, plan some alternative assignments for students who can't attend synchronous activities.
  • Include some asynchronous activities because students learning from home need flexibility.

Here are a few things to remember about the amount of time your course should take: 

  • Online courses require a greater variety of activities, and more small assignments to keep students engaged, participating, and on track.  But online courses should require about the same amount of student work as an in-person class.
  • Keep your own workload in mind, too.  Recording lectures and grading assignments takes time.  
  • Provide 50 minutes of direct faculty instruction for each unit (so, 150 minutes of direct faculty instruction for most courses). Direct faculty instruction includes live or recorded lectures, discussions, tutorials, individual meetings with students, laboratory work, internships, practicals, studio work, and other academic work.
  • Your students will be working outside of class for about 2 hours/unit each week (6 hours for most courses)

Why use this form?  It may help ensure that you accomplish your goals for your course and that everything in your course has a purpose.  This is intentional course design.  Research shows that intentional design contributes to student success.

You don't have to change your textbooks, assigned readings and other materials to teach in a virtual classroom. But if you are looking for new materials, 

  • Ask a Librarian with expertise in your subject for help finding online materials and collections to assign to students or use in class.
  • Order textbooks and other materials as early as you can.
    • The SDSU Bookstore will be offering curb-side pickup so students can buy textbooks and supplies
    • Ordering early helps students with some kinds of visual and learning challenges get specialized texts recorded as audiobooks before the semester begins.

Using Canvas (or Blackboard) is probably the single most important thing you can do to make your online class go smoothly.  After all, you need some way to get course materials and instructions to your students, collect their work, and give them grades and feedback. 

Before you start adapting your course, set up the basic structure of your Canvas (or Blackboard) course so you have places to put your materials as you develop them.  

  • Canvas is structured around Modules -- which is just Canvas's name for a logical chunk of course content or a block of time.
  • SDSU is switching from Blackboard to Canvas after Spring 2021. 
    • If you haven't used Blackboard much, you might as well shift to Canvas now.  It took me a little time to wrap my head around Canvas's structure, but adding and organizing content in Canvas is  much easier than in Blackboard. 
    • If you have fully-developed Blackboard courses, it's okay to put off switching to Canvas for a little while.
  • Want to learn Canvas? Look at the  Canvas Quick-Start Guide or sign up for ITS's self-paced Canvas training course.