Online Course Design Checklist

The following checklist is based on Quality Matters standards and provides step-by-step instructions and resources to guide you in the development of your online course. Please reach out to or call 210-458-4520 if you have questions.


Outcomes: Course Blueprint, Syllabus, and Schedule
Copy your course into the Blackboard shell.

When you copy your course, think about which elements you will reuse. For example, you may want to copy over your Announcements, or write them from scratch. If you used discussion forums in your previous course iteration, make sure you include only the discussion forum with no starter posts. Additionally, in the new course, you can delete unneeded course menu items.

Prepare your course template blueprint.

The next step is to map your course and distribute content and assessment based on the course length. This process is quite easy and will help you prepare the rest of the content for your course.

Prepare a plan of action for developing the missing content.

The course blueprint allows you to identify what you need to build for your course. As you prepare your plan of action be sure to consider these tips:

  • Less is better with content: when building an online course, you may be tempted to add as much content as possible. A good online course has a balance of content and assessment. You may add optional resources for your students but have a plan to create balanced and consistent modules. Identify content that allows your students to learn essential skills and competences.
  • Less is better with technologyyou may think that the more technology you include in the course, the more opportunities students will have to learn. This is not the case.  Students can be overwhelmed by new tools. Choose one or two technological tools for your course to help your students get familiar with the online learning environment and focus on the content rather than the technology.
Based on the course blueprint, update your syllabus and schedule.

Your syllabus and schedule are the first means of communication with your students. Make sure you communicate the course expectations and the expected interactions. Also, you will need to indicate if there are prerequisites for your course, and what technology your students need to have to participate.  For example, do they need headphones? A webcam? Specific software for assignments? Let them know in advance so that they can prepare.

Be sure you include institutional policies in your syllabus. The syllabus template provides a content for each policy. You will also need to repeat this information in a dedicated section of your course.

Quality Matters standards: 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 1.7, 7.1, 7.2, 7.3, 7.4

Plan the assessment strategy and build a clear grading schema.

One of the most confusing things for online students is keeping up with the course and not missing assignments. You can help your students by providing a clear plan for assessment that considers different means of engagement, representation, action & expression. Additionally, think about how the plan impacts your time. Plan the right balance between automatically graded and manually graded activities. This strategy will help you better manage your course.

Quality Matters standards: 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4

Finalize your communication plan with Virtual Office Hours.

Let your students know how to get in contact with you and when they should expect a reply (usually within 24-48 hours). This information will help reduce anxiety and make students aware they should not wait until the very last minute to contact you for support. This, should, cut down on those midnight emails asking for immediate assistance. While asynchronous content delivery is recommended, we also encourage you to schedule virtual office hours for your students to reach out to you with questions.

Blackboard Collaborate Ultra and Zoom are the preferred tool for virtual office hours.

Quality Matters standard: 5.3


Outcomes: Welcome message, Orientation module, Module prototype, Learning Objectives
Create a welcome message.

Now that you have a clear vision of your course design, it is time to let your students know the course expectations. Create a welcome video to introduce yourself and to inform them about the course and what they will need to do to be successful. If you do not feel comfortable in front of a camera, you can narrate a Creative Cloud Express Video.

Quality Matters standard: 1.8

Draft a welcome announcement for your course.

In addition to creating a welcome video, you will also want to create a brief welcome announcement. By creating a welcome announcement, you can direct your students on how to get started with the course. This will also get them used to checking the announcements area inside of Blackboard.

Create an orientation module with an ice-breaker activity.

Create a discussion forum and invite your students to post their expectations for the course, share a picture of their workstation at home, or share a picture of their coworkers. This activity will help to smooth the transition to the online learning environment, build a sense of community, and help students feel less isolated.

Quality Matters standards: 1.1, 1.9

Work on your module prototype.

Building a module prototype will give you a template that you can use to build all your course modules. Include essential elements such as: course learning objectives/competencies, institutionally mandated program outcomes/objectives, and module/unit learning objectives.

When you write your course outcomes, follow the SMART rule: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-Focused, Time-Focused. For your learning objectives, use action verbs, and write them from a student perspective. Remember that an outcome is a general statement, while the learning objective is more specific and describes how the instruction will affect the learners. For example, the outcome for a health class could be: “Students will recognize and value the behaviors of a healthy lifestyle.” One of the learning objectives could be “Students will be able to produce a schedule that includes sufficient time for rest and recreation.” Make connections between competencies, learning outcomes, and learning objectives. Align them to the level of knowledge required to be successful in the course and include this information in your syllabus as well.

Quality Matters standards: 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5

Customize the navigation of your Blackboard course.

The default Blackboard shell has been designed with students in mind, and with sections that will help both you and your students get familiar with the online environment. The default Blackboard shell provides general information, but you will need to add support information for publisher content and resources. Additionally, you may also create a folder for your modules.

Quality Matter standards: 7.1, 7.2, 7.3, 7.4, 8.6


Outcomes: Assignments, Grade Center Organization
Review and incorporate the Universal Design for Learning Practices.

While creating your assignments, be sure to incorporate Universal Design for Learning. Address different learning styles and create inclusive content that will help your students be successful in your course. Consider that your students may perform differently if they must submit a test or work on a group project. Their learning style will have an impact on how they learn. A good strategy is to balance between formative and summative assignments and automatically graded or manually graded assignments. This will help your students to demonstrate their knowledge through different means, and you will not be overwhelmed with grading.

Quality Matters standards: 3.5, 8.4

Think about accessibility. Make auditory content visible, and visible content auditory.

When you created your syllabus and schedule, you may have used a template and did not have to worry about accessibility. Now that you are working on your assessment strategy, you must be sure all your students will have access to content. Follow the Digital Learning Accessibility Guidelines to create accessible content.

Quality Matters standards: 8.1, 8.2, 8.3, 8.5

Create opportunities for student engagement and student to student interaction.

Let your students know that they will need to interact with each other during your course. This will help them develop the communication and collaboration soft skills that they will need in the workforce. To get started, use discussion forums or blogs in Blackboard to increase student engagement. Additionally, the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, and Creative Cloud Express, can be used for portfolios, final projects and provide a space for collaborative work.

Quality Matters standards: 5.2, 5.4

Create sequential assignments in the course and the Grade Center.

One of the major issues that students have with online courses is that they cannot find where their assignments and grades are located. If you have set availability dates, make sure you inform your students about them to avoid frustration. A good practice is to add a Blackboard announcement to inform your students when the test or assignment will be available. In the Grade Center be sure to organize your grading columns so they are sequential order.  This will make it easier for students to understand how they are doing in your course.

Quality Matters standard: 8.1


Outcomes: Multimodal content with readings, videos, and self-assessment activities for student-student, and student-content interaction
Create your module content.

Now that you have identified the learning objectives and assignments for each module, start working on the content. You may be tempted to add as much material as possible to cover the selected topics. Be sure to think about the workload for each module and what will be expected of the student. You may want to leave additional resources as optional opportunities for personalized learning. Remember to follow essential Quality Matters standards: the instructional materials you select needs to contribute to the achievement of the stated learning objectives or competencies, the relationship between the use of instructional materials in the course and completing learning activities is clearly explained.

Quality Matters standards: 4.1, 4.2, 4.5

Apply UDL guidelines to your content.

Follow the same rules for accessibility and inclusiveness aligned to the Universal Design for Learning principles discussed in week 3. Provide your students with opportunities to actively engage with the content through self-assessment activities and use the available tools to enhance engagement.

Quality Matters standard: 5.2

Add a Resource List.

Create a resource list or content area, with the instructional materials used in the course. Be sure to include information on the textbook and ensure all rights/permissions are current.

Quality Matters standards: 4.3, 4.4, 4.5


Outcomes: Student Engagement and Support Plan
Create a walkthrough and mock assignments.

Now that your course design is finalized, and you have identified the tools, content, and assignments you will use, it is time to walk your students through your new creation. A Student Guide to Online Learning course is available to all UTSA students, but you may want to add more information specific to your course. Additionally, you may want to create a simple test and assignment to be sure that students understand how to use the tools in Blackboard. 

Quality Matters standards: 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4

Create your MyQM Account and perform a course Self-Review.

Access the Quality Matters website and sign-in with your UTSA email address.

If you would like to begin a Self-Review of your course:

  • Review the Self-Review instructions page
  • Locate the CRMS button at the top of the page and select it
  • It will land on the Welcome to the CRMS page
  • Select  Start a Self-Review
  • Enter the Rubric information (The Quality Matters Higher Education Rubric, Sixth Edition).
  • Enter a Review Title (i.e., Course ID)
  • Save the Self-Review

Once you have completed these steps, you will be able to access the Rubric and the Specific Review Standards (SRS) for the Eight General Standards.

Note: To move from one SRS to the next, you must select either the Met or Not Met buttons, and enter information into both the Evidence and Suggestions for Improvement sections.

Check your course with the Student Preview.

Congratulations! Your course is ready. Check your course with the Student Preview to identify content that might no longer be available, for example, links to external resources such as a YouTube video.

You are ready to teach your course!

Take a deep breath, pat yourself on the back and pick out something nice for yourself from the store. If you are still feeling lost or if you get stuck, do not hesitate to reach out to Academic Innovation for further assistance!


 Visit the Office of Digital Learning website for a list of all Quality Matters standards.