Online Course-in-a-Box

Table of Contents 
Thinking About Your Learners

One major difference in teaching an online course versus a face-to-face course is the audience. While students in a face-to-face course are generally of similar age and circumstance, those that take online courses tend to be much more varied. Before beginning the design process, take some time to think though who might be taking your course using the resources provided. 

Below are a list of questions to consider about the audience of your online course, as well as some tips on how to develop your online course, so it can work for your diverse audience. In the Resources section, there are two leaner analysis worksheets you can download to help guide you in thinking about your learners.

Questions to consider

  • Does your course meet a general education requirement, or is it required for majors? 
  • What are the prerequisites for your course?
  • How many students will be in your class?
  • How many students are off-campus vs. on-campus?
  • What is the age of the typical student in your course?
  • What year in school are your students?

Best Practices

Take these typical scenarios into consideration when you are planning your course's deadlines, live sessions, and office hours.
Above all, be flexible.

  • Consider the working professionals. Many students taking online courses are not full-time students. They have full-time jobs, families, and lives outside of school that can impact how long and when they can commit time to your course. 
  • Consider time zones. Often times, students taking an online course are doing so remotely. While they may be in state but out-of-town, it is possible that you'll have students from all over the country, or all over the world. 
  • Consider language barriers. Online courses enable students from all over the world to learn from you. Because of this, it's important to consider that there may be language barriers between you and your students. 


Use the information you have gathered about your students to narrow such things as topics to cover, assignments to use, and assessments to administer that will help your students get the most from your course. For instance, if your course depends on prerequisite knowledge of a set of formulas or definitions, make sure you inform students of this fact; perhaps through administering a pre-test, so both you and your students are aware of any gaps in their knowledge. The worksheets in the Resources section are meant to be used in conjunction with the planning documents provided in Outlining Your Course.