There are lots of websites with advice for online learning designs – please look at some of these listed in Online Design Resourcesbelow.
You also should consider commonly employed rubrics for evaluating the design of online courses.  The most often used of these is the Quality Matters Rubric.  Quality Matters (QM) is a faculty-oriented, peerreview process designed to assure quality in onlineand blended courses. The QM review process iscentered on a rubric that was originally developedcollaboratively by online educators working withMarylandOnline, Inc., to provide a replicablepathway for inter-institutional quality assuranceand course improvements in online learning.  Institutions can join QM to have their course certified by peer reviewers, but many course designers use the rubric as a guide to course development.  The rubric includes standards that must be met in eight categories –course overview and introduction, learning objectives, assessment and measurement, instructional materials, learner interaction and engagement, course technology, learner support, and accessibility.  There are several standards in each category that are either met or not, and these are assigned numerical values – 1, 2, or 3.  All 3 point standards must be met before a class can be certified as meeting the QM standards.  The QM framework is quite objectivist, with over half of the 3 point standards being tied to formally stated objectives at the module level.  It can be, however, quite useful as a starting point for course design.  Check it out.  You might also be interested in the Chico State Rubricwhich is more subjective.  Both of these are given below.
Another way to think about the design of online learning is to consider the research literature and what it is that makes online learning unique.  Central to the concepts of both learning and computer mediation is the notion of interaction.  Interaction refers to reciprocal events involving at least two actors and/or objects and at least two actions in which the actors, objects, and events mutually influence each other (Wagner, 1994).  No matter what learning theories we hold — behaviorist, constructivist, cognitivist, or social — reciprocal events and mutual response in some form must be integral to our notions of how we learn.  Similarly, interaction is widely cited as the defining characteristic of computing media [Bolter, 1991; Landow, 1992; Lanham, 1993; Murray, 1997; Turkle, 1997).  What computers can do that other media can’t is change in response to user input and so interact with them.  Moreover, computer-based telecommunications connect people beyond the limitations of space and time to promote interactions among people who might not otherwise interact.  Because interaction seems to central to multiple conceptualizations of both learning and learning online, and because it highlights what is unique in online learning, it can be a useful for organizing issues related to design for online learning.
Indeed, Michael Moore (1989) identified three kinds of interactivity that affects online learning:  interaction with content, interaction with instructors, and interaction among peers.  Interaction with content refers both to learners’ interactions with the course materials and to their interaction with the concepts and ideas they present.  Interaction with instructors includes the myriad ways in which instructors teach, guide, correct, and support their students.  Interaction among peers refers to interactions among learners which also can take many forms — debate, collaboration, discussion, peer review, as well as informal and incidental learning among classmates.  Each of these modes of interaction support learning and each can be uniquely enacted in online learning environments.See the Interview with Richard Culatta for a succinct treatment on the importance of interaction inl learning online.
Not long after Moore (1989) announced his theory of interactions, Hillman, Willis, and Gunawardena(1994) noted that new and emergent technologies had, at least temporarily, created a fourth type of interaction, learner-interface interaction, which they defined as the interaction that takes place between a student and the technology used to mediate a particular distance education process.  Interactions with interfaces thus refers to the use learners must make of specific technologies, platforms, applications, and course templates to interact with course content, instructors and classmates. Almost twenty years later, interfaces no longer represent the kinds of barriers to interaction they once did, but it is becoming increasingly clear that interactions with interfaces significantly afford and/or constrain the quality and quantity of the other three interactions (Hewitt, 2003).
Of course, none of the other three modes of interaction function independently in practice either.  Interaction among students, for example, is supported by instructor facilitation and support, and, because it centers on content, can be seen as a variety of that type of interaction.  Thus, a useful way of thinking about the three forms of interaction is provided by Garrison, Anderson,and Archer’s Community of Inquiry (CoI)frameworkthat we examined in previous modules.  If one equates cognitive presence in this model with interaction with content, teaching presence with interaction with instructors, and social presence with interaction among students, it gives a good representation of how all three work together to support learning online (see below).

The above representation is a good way to think about what we know about online learning from the research literature and the implications such research findings might have for the design of online learning  (See also, Swan, 2003and Swan, 2004for a more complete review of this literature.)  The following tables give research findings in the left hand column and the implications these might have for online course design and implementation.  The charts are presented in terms of interactions with content, instructors, classmates, and interfaces.  I hope you will find them useful – take what you need and leave the rest.

Greater clarity and consistency in course design, organization, goals, and instructor expectations leads to increased learning    Review courses taught &/or being developed to insure clarity & consistency
Establish quality control guidelines that address issues of clarity & consistency
Address issues of course design & organization & instructional goals & expectations in faculty development
Online discussion/learning may be more supportive of experimentation, divergent thinking, exploration of multiple perspectives, complex understanding & reflection than F2F discussion/learning    Encourage experimentation, divergent thinking, multiple perspectives, complex understanding & reflection in online discussion through provocative, open-ended questions, modeling & support & encouragement for diverse points of view
Develop grading rubrics for discussion participation that reward desired cognitive behaviors
Develop initial course activities to encourage the development of swift trust
Online discussion/learning may be less supportive of convergent thinking, instructor directed inquiry & scientific thinking than F2F discussion    Use other course activities to support these such as written assignments, one-on-one tutorials, journaling, small group collaboration & self-testing
Develop grading rubrics for discussion & assignments that reward desired cognitive behaviors
Greater learning from online learning when desired performance outcomes are scaffolded    Use content & process scaffolds to support discourse behaviors
Use peer review of discussion postings to shape responses
Develop grading rubrics for discussion that reward desired cognitive behaviors
Attend to subject lines

Below are the findings concerning interactions with instructors and implications for practice.  Why this is important for design is that in online courses, the designed structure provides the boundaries within which instructors can operate.

The quantity and quality of instructor interactions with students is linked to student learning    Provide frequent opportunities for both public and private interactions with students
Establish clear expectations for instructor-student interactions
Provide timely & supportive feedback
Include topic of instructor interaction in faculty development
Instructor roles are changed in online environments    Include the topic of changing roles in faculty development & provide examples of how other instructors have coped
Provide ongoing educational technology support for faculty
Develop forums for faculty discussion of changing roles – online & F2F
Teaching presence – design & organization, facilitating discourse & direct instruction – is linked to student learning & student perceptions of community    Provide opportunities to highlight the three elements of teaching presence in course activities
Provide ongoing support for instructors in each of these areas
Teaching presence supports the development of social & cognitive presence    Support the development of social presence by modeling the use of social presence indicators & encouraging student engagement
Support the development of cognitive presence by creating complex tasks& assessments, giving feedback that encourages deeper thought, & helping to move discussion through integration to resolution

This also applies to interactions among classmates and the instructor – unless opportunities for such interaction are provided, they cannot take place

Instructor social presence – design & organization, facilitating discourse & direct instruction – is linked to student learning & student perceptions of community    Provide frequent opportunities for a variety of interactions between instructors and students
Provide ongoing support for instructors in each of these areas
Verbal immediacy behaviors can lessen the psychological distance between communicators online; overall sense of social presence is linked to learning    Develop initial course activities to encourage the development of swift trust
Model & encourage the use of verbal immediacy behaviors in interactions with students
Encourage students to share experiences & beliefs in online discussion
Introduce social presence & verbal immediacy in faculty development
Student learning is related to the quantity & quality of postings in online discussions & to the value instructors place on them    Make participation in discussion a significant part of course grades
Develop grading rubrics for discussion participation
Require discussion participants to respond to their classmates postings &/or to respond to all responses to their own postings
Stress the unique nature & potential of online discussion in faculty development
Discussion threads die when participants don’t respond to them immediately    Make students responsible for sustaining discussion threads
Make students summarize discussion threads
Require students to incorporate materials from the discussions in their assignments
Vicarious interaction in online course discussion may be an important source of learning from them    Encourage & support vicarious interaction
Require discussion summaries that identify steps in the knowledge creation process
Use tracking mechanisms to reward reading as well as responding to messages

Findings concerning interaction with interfaces draw on a wide range of research including decades of research on learning from multimedia that is very well documented.

Interactions with interfaces are a real factor in learning; difficult or negative interactions with interfaces can depress learning.    Work with major platforms to improve interfaces to support learning
Develop consistent interfaces for all courses in a program
Provide orientations to program interfaces that help students develop useful mental models of them
Provide 24/7 support for students and faculty
Make human tutors available
Ongoing assessment of student performance linked to immediate feedback & individualized instruction supports learning    Automate testing & feedback when possible
Provide frequent opportunities for testing & feedback
Develop general learning modules with opportunities for active learning, assessment & feedback that can be shared among courses &/or accessed by students for remediation or enrichment
Better transfer of learning from narration and animation presented simultaneously, in conversational style, w/ irrelevant elements & on-screen text eliminated    Present words in spoken form
Use both words and pictures simultaneously
Avoid extraneous video & audio
Do not add redundant on-screen text
Better transfer of learning from narration and animation presented simultaneously, in conversational style, w/ irrelevant elements & on-screen text eliminated    Present words in spoken form
Use both words and pictures simultaneously
Avoid extraneous video & audio
Do not add redundant on-screen text
Better transfer of learning when components of concepts are addressed first, when organization is signaled, and when the pace of presentation is learner-controlled    Begin presentations with descriptions of components & organization
Allow learners to control the pace of presentations

Bolter, J. D. (1991).The Writing Space: The Computer, Hypertext and the History of Writing. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.
Hewitt, J.(2003). How habitual online practices affect the development of asynchronous discussion threads.  Journal of Educational Computing Research, 28, 1, 31-45.
Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T. & Archer, W. (2001). Critical thinking, cognitive presence, and computer conferencing in distance education. The American Journal of Distance Education, 15 (1).
Hillman, D. C., Willis, D. J. &Gunawardena, C. N. (1994). Learrner-interface interaction in distance education: An extension of contemporary models and strategies for practitioners. The American Journal of Distance Education, 8 (2), 30-42.
Landow, G. P. (1992). Hypertext: The Convergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Lanham, R. A. (1993).The Electronic Word: Democracy, Technology, and the Arts. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Moore, M.G. (1989). Three types of interaction.American Journal of Distance Education, 3 (2), 1-6.
Murray, J. H.(1997). Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. New York: The Free Press.
Turkle, S. (1997).Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Swan, K. (2003). Learning effectiveness: what the research tells us. In J. Bourne & J. C. Moore (Eds) Elements of Quality Online Education:, Practice and Direction. Needham, MA: Sloan Center for Online Education, 13-45.
Swan, K. (2004). Learning online: current research on issues of interface, teaching presence and learner characteristics.  In J. Bourne & J. C. Moore (Eds) Elements of Quality Online Education, Into the Mainstream. Needham, MA: Sloan Center for Online Education, 63-79.
Wagner, E. D.  (1994). In support of a fuctional definition of interaction. The American Journel of Distance Edcuation, 8 (2), 6-29.

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