Territorial acknowledgement

The authors of this course humbly acknowledge that we have co-created this learning material across the traditional lands of many Indigenous Peoples, including the Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, the Mississauga’s of the Credit, Neutral, and Ojibway/Chippewa peoples. Many Métis, Inuit, and First Nations from across Turtle Island also call these lands home today. We express gratitude to those that reside here and honour those Indigenous Peoples who have lived here in the past and continue to do so today.

We hope to bring you a learning experience that helps you situate your own profession with your learners and where you teach.

Course goal and learning outcomes

5/5 stars

The goal of this course is to enable you to apply principles of quality design to your online course, whether you’re creating a new online course, revising an existing online or remote course, or facilitating your first-ever online course. Your own goals in taking this course will determine the outcomes you take away, but successful completion of the entire course will enable you to

  • recognize and implement key features of quality in learner-centred online course design;
  • develop a set of learning outcomes for your online course that are explicit, measurable, and align with your content, activities, and assessments;
  • create a varied assessment scheme that scaffolds and supports the learning outcomes of the course and promotes academic integrity;
  • incorporate principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) into your course design for the benefit of all learners;
  • apply principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and accessibility into your course design to ensure a more equitable learning experience;
  • structure and present your online content in ways that facilitate student learning and foster a sense of community;
  • employ effective facilitation strategies when delivering your online course; and
  • create a plan for revising your course at the end of the course offering.

A note about the intended audience

A group of people

This course is designed for educators in postsecondary education (PSE). Tips and examples will be grounded in this context. However, many principles and examples translate readily to a K-12 or professional development context.

Course overview

This course consists of four modules. The modules are organized according to the typical stages of development of an online course. These modules can be completed sequentially or as stand-alone modules, allowing you to begin at whatever development stage/module aligns best with your goals. Each module includes strategies, design templates, practical examples, and applied activities that help you actively build/revise/facilitate your own online course as you progress through the content. If you are looking for guidance on completing course design, development, or delivery tasks for your own course, the right column in the visual below provides a list of the activities associated with each module. If you’d like to preview these activities, click on the “i” icon to navigate directly to the activity you’d like to complete for your course.

Your goals and pathway

We recognize that the learning goals and needs of our audience are diverse. Below, we offer some further ways to navigate this course to enable you to meet your goals most efficiently.

If your goal is to find examples to spur your own creativity

If you’re primarily interested in looking at examples that demonstrate strategies you can use to design, build, or deliver your online course, we’ve made these easy for you to locate. Simply click on the “Module examples, strategies, and templates” page, located in the Table of Contents (left navigation panel) for each of the four modules. The page provides direct links to the examples, strategies, and templates provided throughout the module.

Within each module, you will find examples of both

Quality Essentials

  • Essential content and examples are the backbone of each module, and will provide you with the essential ingredients of a quality online course.
  • Essential examples are labelled “Essential” and are accompanied by an “apple” icon.

Quality Advanced

  • More advanced content and examples are peppered throughout each module, for those seeking a deeper dive into particular topics.
  • Advanced examples are labelled “Advanced” and are accompanied by an “apple pie” icon.
Essential vs. Advanced: These distinctions do not imply a difference in quality. We have been very deliberate in our selection of imagery here: an apple pie isn’t inherently superior to an apple in terms of quality. Similarly, content, examples, and activities labelled Advanced in the course are not superior to those labelled Essential. Advanced items may be more complex, may require more time to implement, or may explore a particular principle in greater depth or breadth.

Example of how it works

How we did this in this module

We have designed the entire course to be an example of the strategies and principles we’ve highlighted throughout. We’ve been careful about practicing evidence-based approaches in each module with outcomes that align with each module’s content and activities, which strive to engage and meet the needs of our learners. Our goal in doing this is to give you a picture of what a high-quality online course can look like. We make these design choices explicit in the  “How we did this in this course/module” sections throughout the course.

If your goal is to learn how to address specific instructional challenges

If you’ve experienced challenges as an online instructor, or have had your learners express their challenges with online learning to you, the following activity directs you to module content and activities designed to help mitigate those challenges. If you are not intending to work through this entire resource, the interactive will help you home in on the most relevant sections for your needs.

Finding the content you need

These interactives list several common challenges facing online learners and instructors. Select all that apply to you and your learners, then click “Check” to receive feedback that will link you to some of the chapters of this resource that you may be most interested in.

If your goal is to acquire a credential in designing and developing high-quality online courses

If you’re interested in completing this course in its entirety, and would like to acquire a credential for it, this may be an option for you, depending on your institution. We have created a version of this course that can be plugged into an institutional Learning Management System (LMS), allowing an institution to offer a facilitated offering with a certificate of completion. This LMS version is available through the eCampusOntario Open Library. Contact your institution’s teaching and learning centre to see whether this is possible at your institution.

If you’re interested in exploring the relevant research literature

We have included “Why this matters” sections throughout the course, which provide brief summaries of what the research literature says about the principles we introduce in each module. For those who want to take deeper dives into the research literature, we’ve referenced some of the key literature in the “Resources for further study” and “Bibliography” sections in each module.

Navigating this course

There are three ways to navigate through the content of this course:

  1. Click the Contents bar in the navigation panel to navigate between sections.
  2. Use the Module Overview page for quick links to the sections within a module.
  3. Use the Previous/Next links in the footer at the very bottom of the screen to go back and forth through the content

Accessibility statement

We developed this course with a commitment to accessibility and usability for all learners.

The accessibility of this course was assessed by the Centre for Extended Learning, University of Waterloo. This review was based on the WCAG 2.0 Guidelines at success criteria Level AA. The course authors have addressed all known accessibility issues to the best of their abilities.

The following known accessibility issues persist and may cause difficulties for some persons with disabilities:

  1. Links provided in accordions do not have an icon to indicate that they open in a new tab.
  2. Previous and Next page buttons are difficult to find and the use of orange text over a dark purple background is not optimal.

These issues were not resolved because they are both limitations of Pressbooks.

About the course authors and development team

We are a team of instructional designers and educational developers who have brought our combined years of experience in online learning to the design and development of this course. Although we come from a variety of personal and professional backgrounds, we recognize that we do not (and cannot) encompass every experience. As a result, we have sought to incorporate equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) principles into all the concepts and approaches we highlight throughout the course in order to acknowledge the diversity of our students, instructors, and educational support staff in the online learning environment (see the next section for more on EDI principles).

The authors and development team

  • Wanda Beyer (Co-author), Queen’s University | LinkedIn
  • Marcia Chaudet (Co-author), Conestoga College | LinkedIn
  • Antonina Joukova (Instructional Media Developer), University of Waterloo | LinkedIn
  • Alexandra Logue (Co-author), University of Toronto | LinkedIn
  • Erin Macnab (Co-author), University of Toronto | LinkedIn
  • Tahira Mursleen (Instructional Media Developer), University of Waterloo | LinkedIn
  • Meg Nietsch (Project Manager), University of Waterloo | LinkedIn
  • Daniel Opperwall (Co-author), University of Waterloo | LinkedIn
  • Robert Parker (Co-author), Conestoga College | LinkedIn
  • Laura Shannon (Instructional Designer), Queen’s University | LinkedIn
  • Jenny Stodola (EDI Specialist and Co-author), Queen’s University | LinkedIn
  • Kristin Wilson (Co-author), University of Waterloo | LinkedIn
  • Pia Zeni (Project Lead and Co-author), University of Waterloo | LinkedIn


This project is made possible with funding by the Government of Ontario and through eCampusOntario’s support of the Virtual Learning Strategy. To learn more about the Virtual Learning Strategy visit: https://vls.ecampusontario.ca/.

ecampus ontario (left) and Government of Ontario (right)

Copying, modifying, and reusing this resource

This resource is licensed under a creative commons licence that allows for copying, reuse, and modification of this resource (CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 International), as long as the reuse is:

  • attributed to this original work (BY),
  • is noncommercial (NC), and
  • is shared alike (SA) retaining this same CC license.

This holds for all materials in the course, except where otherwise stated. There are some exceptions to this license where the authors of this resource are not the copyright holders — some visuals/images and some instructor examples. These exemptions cannot be copied without permission from the copyright holder. These are clearly labelled throughout the course with the copyright symbol © and a short copyright citation appearing under the visual or example and a full reference listed on the copyright holder on the Copyright & Media Attributions page. This page contains a complete list of all these exceptions in the course.


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High Quality Online Courses by University of Waterloo; Queen's University; University of Toronto; and Conestoga College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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