Professional Development Opportunities in Online Course Design

Mini Lessons on Online Course Design

The EOE Team is excited to launch a series of Eagle Online Excellence (EOE) micro-courses! The micro-courses are filled with engaging activities and content about online course design. The entire program will take approximately 1 ½ hours and can be completed on a computer or mobile device. This series is part of a newly-launched certificate program that serves as an optional pre-training prior to EOE course certification. It is designed for those who would like to learn more about online course design and how it connects with the EOE process.

The certificate program will be offered in two cohorts every Fall and Spring semester. Please sign up for either the February 15th or March 22nd cohort at this link

Literature Review

We have compiled a list of articles that connect the Eagle Online Excellence program and rubric with research in the fields of online course design and online learning. The review is organized by category of the EOE Evaluation Checklist and contains a short summary of each article for easy reference. 

Benefits of Using Quality Design Rubrics

At Southeast Missouri State University, 500 courses were reviewed with a quality standards rubric over the course of three years. Data was collected on student activity in fully online courses at the beginning and end of this process. There was a 26% increase in student engagement as measured through activity in the LMS. They also found a 2-7% increase in grades, depending on academic term, and a 1.25% increase in the GPA for students in all online courses. Click here to access the Baranovic article.
Florida International University conducted a research study to assess possible differences in student learning experiences between QM certified courses and those that had not received QM certification. They looked at data from the LMS courses of fully online courses for the Spring 2016 semester. They found that in QM certified courses, interacted with course content 16% more than in non-certified courses, as well as a 10% higher rate of course access over the course of the semester and a 12% longer time spent in the course in certified versus non-certified courses. Finally, the data also showed a 19% higher average rate of assignment submissions and 7% higher scores on course evaluations in certified versus non-certified courses. Click here to access FIU's report.
Faculty at North Carolina Central University underwent QM training courses as part of a learning community initiative to address D’s, F’s, and Withdrawal rates in online courses. Student performance was measured in one online biology course with six sections both before and after revisions inspired by the QM rubric. This study found an increase from 82.6% to 86.2% on final exam scores and an increase from 77.7% to 82.7% in overall GPA after course revisions to comply with the QM rubric. Click here to access the Hollowell, Brooks, & Anderson article.
This study investigates the impact of applying a quality rubric to online course design over the period of 5 years, affecting 2,600 students total. Faculty took part in a thorough professional development campaign and redesigned online courses based on national standards outlined in the Quality Matters rubric. An analysis of the impact of the newly redesigned online courses on student success demonstrated positive changes over time. Between 2007 and 2012, there were 24% fewer withdrawals, a 67% reduction in the number of students who earned a failing grade (F), and a 20% increase in the number of online learners who earned passing grades (A-D). Designing online courses based on the QM rubric helped this institution increase student success, enhance student engagement, and start them on the path to higher student completion rates. Click here to access the Harkness article.
This article written by QM itself looks at points of improvement for the current rubric. Utilizing feedback from faculty members the article then concludes additional recommendations that will help improve the impact of QM and they are as follows: Studying student perceptions of quality and satisfaction with the experience of an online course is important; however, it is time for QM-focused research to include methodologies that can cross-tabulate or at least segregate other known factors, such as the impact of teaching, learner readiness, or student support services. Narrowing the search for impact of a QM review to specific groups of standards would be productive. Expanding research by collaboration and inter-institutional sharing among colleagues in the QM community would promote the underlying principles of QM: collegiality, collaboration, and continuous improvement to promote student learning. Click here to access the Shattuck article.

Course Overview and Introduction

This article presents benefits of developing a well-designed course structure where components are “meaningful and interrelated”. A well-organized online course structure can aid students in self-direction and mitigate any unfamiliarity with the online learning environment or experience. It can also influence learning effectiveness by focusing student attention and interest, and promoting engagement. This article then outlines the pros and cons of different organizational strategies in online courses and follows that up with a list of 10 recommendations for designed your online course structure, based on research. Click here to access the Lee, Dickerson, & Winslow article.
This study investigated which online course design elements were most valued by 67 adult learners in hybrid learning environments. The adult learners selected which features they felt were most important to their learning experience in a hybrid course. The learners in this study favored course design structures that fostered communication and community, provided options, and allowed for self-direction. The most highly valued course design feature was the presence of course announcements and reminders from the instructor, followed closely by course information documents clearly posted. They also highly valued detailed instructions on completing assignments and clearly organized instructional content materials. Click here to access the Ausburn article.

Learning Outcomes

The advantages of strong learning outcomes fall under four main categories: course and module design, quality assurance, students, and transparency. Strong learning outcomes help instructors visualize how components of the curriculum and syllabus fit together. They help ensure consistency of delivery across courses and programs by increasing the comparability of standards and qualifications, displaying credibility to outside viewers of the course, and acting as points of reference for establishing programmatic standards. Strong learning outcomes also help students by providing a comprehensive set of actions that outline exactly what they will be able to achieve after successful completion of the course. This type of clarity acts as a roadmap to students as they choose a course, module or program. Lastly, strong learning outcomes can improve the transparency of course achievements, which helps students communicate their learning and skills with future institutions or employers. Click here to access the Adams article.
This article presents a summary of research into learning outcomes and curriculum design in higher education. The “guide” portion of this article presents a user-friendly methodology for writing course learning outcomes and designing course elements based on those learning outcomes. Topics covered include defining outcomes, writing outcomes, linking outcomes with assessment, and the pros and cons of using learning outcomes. Click here to access the Kennedy, Highland, & Ryan article.

Content and Activities

This exploratory study examined the perceptions of 20 minority graduate students from diverse cultural backgrounds toward online collaborative learning activities. The analysis of the data identified six themes from their perceptions: (a) knowledge building and construction, (b) preference to work in small-group over whole-group activities, (c) opportunities to share and lead discussion in cross-cultural online environment, (d) collaborative activities help meet their learning and communication styles, (e) challenges of dealing with cultural differences, and (f) lack of multicultural inclusion in the curriculum/course content. The findings of the study suggest that instructors who are tasked to teach online courses should take into account the benefits, preferences, and challenges of students from diverse cultural backgrounds as they participate in online collaborative learning activities. Click here to access the Kumi-Yeboah, Yuan, & Dogbey article.
As online course offerings continue to evolve, researchers have examined many strategies for improving the online learning experience for both the instructor and the student. Asynchronous, online discussions are one of the most common components of online courses. This meta analysis provides information about the best practices for facilitating successful online discussions. Results imply that instructors should be willing to create a flexible model for the incorporation of different types of discussion questions, rather than relying on pre-printed discussion questions listed in the textbook. Several approaches can be used to address procrastination including offering motivational techniques, scaffolding establishing deadlines, providing prompt feedback, and centering discussion questions on interesting topics or large projects. Research also suggests that instructors can foster the skill of reflection by developing higher level focus questions, guiding students in reflective practice at the beginning of the course, and utilizing a variety of discussion formats to illicit not only reflection but critical thinking and thoughtful interaction as well. Click here to access the Woods & Bliss article.
This article summarizes two studies that were done looking at what professor and student views on the remote learning experience due to COVID-19 in Spring 2020. Findings suggest that student satisfaction with remote learning was higher when their courses incorporated more best practices. Over 1,000 undergraduate students and 4,000 instructors from 1,500 colleges nationwide completed the survey. Data shows that student satisfaction steadily increased with the number of best practices an instructor implemented in their online course. When asked to cite which aspects of their remote experience negatively impacted their learning, students were most likely to cite a lack of interactivity and opportunities to collaborate, demonstrating that interactivity and collaboration are crucial in the design of an online course. Click here to access the Lederman article.
This article presents the results of a Spring 2020 student survey, where students explained what components of a course made it successful in a remote learning format. Student responses focused heavily on the organization of their LMS course site as a crucial component in their remote learning success. Even when students were asked to comment on faculty teaching strategies for remote learning, students brought up the organization of the LMS. Overall, students asked for a simple and well-organized LMS course site. Click here to access the Leopp article.

Assessments and Grading

This article describes how to create a strong teaching system, where all aspects of teaching and assessment are aligned to support higher-order learning processes. The article describes a system of Constructive Alignment, where assessment is fully aligned with the aims of teaching and begins with a strong foundation of learning outcomes. This article outlines ways to choose assessment types and teaching strategies that align with your outcomes, for all levels of difficulty. Click here to access the Biggs article.


110 students were surveyed to measure their perceptions of support in their online courses. The focus was on guidance that is provided to students within an online course within three areas: instructional, peer, and technical. Perceived support was significantly related to students’ overall satisfaction in the online course. The authors conclude that supporting student learning through guidance of support services in an online course optimizes student learning experiences. They recommend that instructors provide both a list of what support services are offered, as well as an easy way to contact each service. Click here to access the Lee, Srinvasan, Trail, Lewis, & Lopez article.
Online learning is now a common practice in higher education. Because of the continued online enrollment growth, higher educational institutions must prepare faculty throughout their teaching career for learning theory, technical expertise, and pedagogical shifts for teaching in the online environment. This study presents best practices for professional development for faculty teaching online. The raw data yielded 41 best practices for professional development considerations, 16 organizational/institutional best practices, and 11 online classroom contextual best practices. For the professional development best practices, 33 were from the original survey and 8 were suggested by the expert panel. This study identified best practices for providing professional development for online faculty members through a teaching and learning center. This research does not provide evidence based standards; each best practice should be further explored to determine impact and effectiveness. Click here to access the Coswatte & Shelton article.


Watch the EOE Introductory Webinar, presented by the EOE Team on May 14, 2020 to learn more about the EOE initiative, the evaluation checklist, and the review process.