Online Course-in-a-Box

Table of Contents 
Delivering Content Online

Content delivery is one the most challenging – as well as one of the most important – aspects of developing an online course. Content is the heart of any course, so how content is presented to students strongly impacts student success and satisfaction. The best way to deliver content varies from course to course, but there are several best practices that can be used to ensure your students are learning the content they need to succeed, regardless of the platform you choose to deliver that content. Many of the best practices in online content delivery are the same as face-to-face content delivery.

Best Practices

  • Organize your lectures logically. Being clear and logical in how you present course material will help your students understand the point of each lecture, as well as make the content easy to follow and recall.2,4,5
  • Make your content engaging. In both face-to-face and online environments, it is crucial to engage students with the course. Making your course interesting not only motivates student work, it also promotes student success. Do this by intertwining interesting anecdotes, videos, and examples into your lectures.1,2,5
  • Deliver your content consistently. Once you’ve decided how you’ll be delivering your course content, keep it that way! By delivering your course in a consistent format, you're helping your students navigate the course successfully and keep track of their responsibilities.1,3
  • Be concise. When creating your lectures, include only what students absolutely need to know to be successful in the course, and avoid spending too much time on minor details. The less content dumped on students at a given time, the more likely they are to learn what you want them to learn.1,2
  • Stay focused. On a similar note to being concise, it is crucial to stay focused as you develop your lecture. Discussing one major topic per lecture and focusing on providing a thorough explanation of that topic prevents content overload and helps students focus on the most important points.1,2
  • Be brief. Brevity is a virtue in the online classroom, as students' attention spans are much shorter online than in a face-to-face environment. Breaking long lectures down into approximately seven-minute segments (also called chunking) increases the likelihood that students will pay attention to you and retain crucial information.2,6
  • Present your content visually whenever possible. Whenever possible, present your course content visually as opposed to textually. Students are more likely to stay engaged in an online course that avoids blocks of text and primarily uses visuals to describe content.2

  1. Dykman, C. A., & Davis, C. K. (2008). Part one-The shift toward online education. Journal of Information Systems Education, 19(1), 11.
  2. Moore, E. A. (2013). Adapting PowerPoint lectures for online delivery: Best practices. Faculty Focus.
  3. Ragan, L. C. (2011). 10 principles of effective online learning: Best practices in distance education. Faculty Focus.
  4. Simonson, M., & Schlosser, C. (Eds.). (2009). Quarterly review of distance education (Vol. 7). IAP.
  5. Hanover Research Council. (2009). Best practices in online teaching strategies.
  6. Illinois Online Network (ION). Instructional strategies for online courses.