Many programs at Colorado State University offer both traditional classroom and online courses and more and more traditional courses are using online components to supplement course delivery. TILT supports instructors who are working to develop courses in both of these learning environments.

Geared toward active participation, TILT's course development process favors an interactive learning environment over traditional lectures for both traditional classroom and online environments.

Here you will find a basic step-by-step process that can be applied to the design and development of both traditional and distance courses.

Course Vision, Goals, and Outcomes


As you begin developing or improving a course—and before committing to any assignments and activities—think about the course in the context of overall curriculum and the program goals.

Ask yourself what you want to accomplish in the course as well as what learning goals and outcomes you would like your students to meet; then brainstorm your vision, goals and outcomes.

Course Goals and Learning Outcomes

Course Goals are the goals of instruction: they identify the knowledge, skills, and attitudes a student should have upon completing this course. Specific to each course in the program, they support both the Program and Institutional goals.

Learning Outcomes include new knowledge, skill, and attitudes that result from accomplishing the Course Goals.

Questions to ask yourself include:

  • What are the key concepts that taken together best describe your vision for the course?
  • If they are different, what are the learning goals that would map to those key concepts?
  • What do you want students to know and to be able to do upon completing the course?
  • What topics must be addressed to help students reach the learning goals?
  • How many student contact hours are required in this course?


  • Identify five to seven goals and/or measurable outcomes.
  • Identify at least one knowledge-based, one skills-based, and one attitude-based outcome.
  • Create outcomes that are measurable and that map directly to each course goal.
  • Write outcomes using the best verb for each learning category:
    See Verb Examples
  • You may want to include some version of your course vision, goals and learning outcomes in your course syllabus.

Course Topics, Assignments, and Activities

Once you have established the vision, goals, and learning outcomes for your course, you will be able to break the course into topics that map to the learning outcomes. If students study these topic areas, they will be able to accomplish the outcomes you have identified.

Course Topics

The first step here is to list all of the topics you will cover in the course, and divide them into units. Make sure you set aside enough time to cover each topic. You may decide to include this list in your course syllabus.

  • What is the breakdown (subtopics) of the course topics you've identified that must be covered in order to accomplish the course's learning goals?
  • What are the activities that would best help students master each topic?
  • What reading, writing, and research assignments would best support students' mastery of each topic?
  • What are all the possible resources that could be provided to enhance students' exploration of each topic?
  • Of all the possible resources, which are the best to accomplish the learning goals in the available timeframe?
  • In addition to the resources you select, what additional information do you need to give students to get them engaged in the topics and to inspire their thinking and interest in the topic?
  • What questions do you want to ask students to engage their thinking about the topic and what questions do you want them to ask themselves?

Course Activities and Assignments

Some of your activities and assignments will prepare students to demonstrate their knowledge (building block assignments) and some will be "key assignments". The Key Assignments are those that demonstrate student mastery of the course's learning outcomes. As you identify key assignments, you will also need to develop assessment tools or rubrics for those assignments that can accurately evaluate student learning.

Activities and assignments may include, but are not limited to:

  • Written reports
  • Oral presentations
  • Multi-media presentations
  • Critical analysis
  • Scenarios and/or simulations
  • Case studies
  • Field trips
  • Portfolio work
  • Interviews and other research assignments
  • Product development
  • Role plays
  • Self-assessment inventories
  • Exams

Activities and Assignments can be interactive, project-based, team-based, and/or exam based. Some activities and assignments will have a research component. If the assignment requires research, make sure that the amount of research required is appropriate to the course level and subject, and that students can take advantage of library resources, databases, and/or Web sites.

Finally, create assignments that discourage plagiarism. For example, have students write a reflection at the end of the assignment discussing their work process and what they learned from the work and the topic. Have them identify why they choose their topic.


For each activity or assignment, include:

  • Introductory Statement - Let students know not only the "what" of the assignment, but the "why" - how it relates to your learning goals, what you want them to gain from the assignment.
  • Overview - a detailed description of the assignment
  • Deliverables - indicate exactly what the student must do to complete the activity or assignment, including any products that must be turned in.
  • Grading - develop a rubric for each key assignment and the percentage of the student's grade that corresponds to each component of the assignment.
  • Resources - list all resources that will help the student complete the assignment.

For each exam-based key assignment:

  • Organize questions into those that are knowledge-based, skills-based, and attitude based.
  • Knowledge-based questions include multiple choice, short answer, true/false, and match.
  • Skills-based questions include short and long answers and essays.
  • Attitude-based questions include short and long answers and essays.

Content Presentation


Use a variety of presentation methods to present your course content, including lecture, discussions, guest speakers, and demonstrations. Integrating multimedia and other technology can greatly enhance your presentation of course content.

Traditional and E-Lectures

Lecture is the presentation of short, digestible chunks of new and or supplemental information that contextualizes and expands upon all of the resources students will use to meet the teacher's learning outcomes, or those of the curriculum or program.

You can draw students into a discussion during or after a lecture by posing questions that inspire discussion, dialogue and critical thinking. Lecture is also very important to establish a conclusion at the end of each topic or module. At the conclusion, you can provide next steps for further thinking, further learning, and or a segue into the next topic or module.

An e-Lecture is delivered as a mix of text, graphics, and other multi-media. Text can take the form of scenarios, stories, examples, current events, Socratic method, etc.

Resource Suggestions


  • Identify and or create any PowerPoint file(s) that supports the teaching of this topic.
  • You can incorporate both audio and Flash in PowerPoint presentations.
  • PowerPoint presentations can be converted to smaller web accessible format using software such as Captivate, Camtasia, etc., and uploaded to learning management systems such as Canvas.


  • Identify and or create multimedia that supports the teaching of the topic.
  • Try to provide at least one multimedia supported content presentation per module/week/topic.
  • Multimedia files may be available in a variety of types including CDs, templates from other activities, software, Web sites, etc.


  • Identify and or create any static graphic(s) that supports the teaching of the topic.
  • Copyright laws apply. Do not provide graphics that violate copyright law.
  • Graphic files may be available on an instructor resource CD, Web sites, graphic libraries, department library, etc.

Engagement Activities and Tools


Many of the activities listed are designed for a variety of classroom environments including face to face, online and hybrid.

The information on each page was compiled through a number of presentations (short courses, PDI, concept meetings), conferences, webinars, textbooks, journals and web research.

Evaluation and Rubrics

How will you assess what students have learned in each topic area? How will you know when students have the information they need to move on to the next topic? How will you assess the integration of knowledge gained from each topic in the course?

All of the components of the course you have developed along the way can be used to help you develop effective assessments and rubrics. Your vision for the course, course goals, and learning outcomes all inform the design of your assessments, and your assignments and activities provide students a way to demonstrate their mastery of the course topics.

When developing a rubric for an assignment, identify a set of criteria that must be met for each assignment. You may come up with a checklist, a set of questions, or some other method of determining how well each criteria has been met. You will also develop a scale that indicates excellent, satisfactory, and poor performance based on your rubric.

Depending on the type of assignment you have, you may need to develop more than one rubric for evaluation. You will almost always have a rubric for evaluating content, but you may also have additional rubrics for evaluating presentations, writing, and/or team participation elements of your assignment.

Take a look at our Course Design Templates and Tools for some sample rubrics.

Course Syllabus and Policies

How Do You Introduce Your Course?

What are the policies that students need to observe to succeed in your class?

What do you expect from them and what can they expect from you?

A complete syllabus opens with the basic course information:

  • course name
  • course and section numbers
  • meeting location(s) and time
  • instructor contact information

Typically, you will want to include following components:

  • Course Description: Provide the description from the department, college, or university catalog and or your vision of the course.
  • Course Text(s)
    • Include the entire citation for the course text in the following order: title, edition, author, year, publisher, ISBN.
    • Course Goals and Learning Outcomes
    • List all suitable ancillary student materials, such as Web sites, CD ROMs, or study guides that accompany textbooks.
  • Course Topics and/or Subtopics - Topics, Assignments, and due dates can be provided in a syllabus or in a separate schedule document.
  • Key Assignments and Due Dates - indicate any library research required
  • Additional Recommended Resources - List any other resources that will be used, and include complete citation information where appropriate. Indicate that these are suggested resources, but that they are not required.
  • Class Policies
  • Class Etiquette - this is particularly important for an online class
  • Grading Policies
  • Plagiarism and Cheating Policies and Consequences and any other applicable University Policies

Section 508 Compliance

Providing a Learning Environment for All

TILT encourages all content development be in compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. 794d.

Title 508 Compliance — Americans with Disabilities Act

§1194.22 Web-based intranet and internet information and applications

  • (a) A text equivalent for every non-text element shall be provided (e.g., via "alt", "longdesc", or in element content).
  • (b) Equivalent alternatives for any multimedia presentation shall be synchronized with the presentation.
  • (c) Web pages shall be designed so that all information conveyed with color is also available without color, for example from context or markup.
  • (d) Documents shall be organized so they are readable without requiring an associated style sheet.
  • (e) Redundant text links shall be provided for each active region of a server-side image map.
  • (f) Client-side image maps shall be provided instead of server-side image maps except where the regions cannot be defined with an available geometric shape.
  • (g) Row and column headers shall be identified for data tables.
  • (h) Markup shall be used to associate data cells and header cells for data tables that have two or more logical levels of row or column headers.
  • (i) Frames shall be titled with text that facilitates frame identification and navigation.
  • (j) Pages shall be designed to avoid causing the screen to flicker with a frequency greater than 2 Hz and lower than 55 Hz.
  • (k) A text-only page, with equivalent information or functionality, shall be provided to make a web site comply with the provisions of this part, when compliance cannot be accomplished in any other way. The content of the text-only page shall be updated whenever the primary page changes.
  • (l) When pages utilize scripting languages to display content, or to create interface elements, the information provided by the script shall be identified with functional text that can be read by assistive technology.
  • (m) When a web page requires that an applet, plug-in or other application be present on the client system to interpret page content, the page must provide a link to a plug-in or applet that complies with §1194.21(a) through (l).
  • (n) When electronic forms are designed to be completed on-line, the form shall allow people using assistive technology to access the information, field elements, and functionality required for completion and submission of the form, including all directions and cues.
  • (o) A method shall be provided that permits users to skip repetitive navigation links.
  • (p) When a timed response is required, the user shall be alerted and given sufficient time to indicate more time is required.