Online Course-in-a-Box

Table of Contents 
Outlining Your Course


Outlining your online course means dividing the content into digestible chunks/modules, which helps students navigate the course through a consistent structure. The modules can be organized by content topics, units/lessons, or a time frame (daily, weekly, bi-weekly, etc.). Usually a module includes overviews, readings, lectures, discussions, and other relevant activities.

Best Practices

  • Create a course plan. Devise a roadmap for creating, maintaining, and sustaining a successful course. A course plan focuses on needs assessment, guidance, building community, communication, humanizing, and evaluating.1
  • Use storyboards to organize course content. Storyboards help both instructors and students see the interconnectedness of knowledge in an online course, especially when multimedia content is included. Instructors should organize the information and match the media tool to the content in a pedagogically appropriate way first and then follow the storyboarding process.3
  • Provide an explicit weekly schedule for students. This includes readings, lecture notes, activities, discussion posts, and so on, which students need to complete each day of each week. Most often, this is organized in an instructional activities table (with columns for the activity/assessment, time estimate to complete, deadlines, and point values). The schedule of evenly paced workload/assignments helps students manage their time online. In addition, listing the hours per week you expect your students to work on the course is recommended. Regarding any media or extra resources in your course, it is also recommended that clear labels/titles are given to all videos, images, and Word docs/PDFs.4


  1. DuCharme-Hansen, B. A., & Dupin-Bryant, P. A. (2005). Distance education plans: Course planning for online adult learners. TechTrends, 49(2), 31-39.
  2. Marchionda, D. (n.d.). How to manage your online week.
  3. Varvel, V. E., & Lindeman, M. (2005). Online courses as learning scripts: Using storyboards in online course design. In Proceedings of the 20th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning.
  4. West Chester University. Best practice for developing content modules and module pages.