TIPS for an Effective Course Design

five tips

Each term, we have the opportunity to visit between 75-100 courses to see how well our courses are meeting the goals of our Effective Design Initiative.   Here is a list of the most common issues addressed in our reviews.  Follow these five tips and you will be well on your way to an effective course design.



Can you imagine walking into teach a face-to-face course and not ever telling anyone who you were or anything about your credentials to teach the course? Even if you did not introduce yourself, face-to-face students would still have the advantage of seeing you and having some idea who you were.



Even if your course does not lend itself to discussion, you can still provide forums for students to introduce themselves and interact.

(See Engaging Students through Interactivity)



Suppose that you were a student in a face to face class. Your instructor walks in and hands you a sheet of assignments for the week and then dismisses you from class: no lecture, no discussion, no supplementary materials, just a list of assignments.What kind of an impression would that leave?

Here are some ideas for the kinds of instructional content you can include:

Good Better Best
A text based lecture An audio lecture A video lecture
A Powerpoint* presentation Powerpoint with audio A voice and visual lecture PLUS interactive content  

*to make Powerpoints more accessible, post them as pdfs or upload to slideshare or brainshark

A few tools for developing interactive content are:





Every click that takes students out of Blackboard is a chance for them to disengage from the course. Students can

  • lose their place in the course and not be sure which items have been completed
  • get distracted by another program and forget to complete assignments
  • get frustrated having to continuously open documents to find out what to do next

Work to create an effective workflow in your course by grouping materials based on completion date or topic. (See Example )



Textbook publishers make many wonderful resources available to you. We do not discourage you from using those in your class, however, make sure that your course is hosted in Blackboard and links out the publisher content. Remember that we ( or SACS) cannot review what we cannot see.

View this example, see the Effective Design Initiative rubric (available in VC Toolbox) or email if you need help designing a course in Blackboard that makes use of a publisher course site. Since Blackboard is the approved online course management system for the university, it needs to reflect what is happening in your course.


We have invited many of you to create course tour videos to introduce others to your effectively designed course. We look forward to sharing those in the coming months.


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