Big Ideas

Online Design Overview

I’m so glad you’re here!  This is just the spot to land if you’re interested in moving towards online or blended technologies in your classroom.  I’d like to share some guiding thoughts with you as you prepare to dream, design, implement, and evaluate any set of online classes or courses.


Creating an online presence: a process overview


As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, there are many modes to creativity.  The first is being able to dream or imagine something new.  Take time to imagine what you want to create.  Take time to analyze what the needs of your students are and what the demands of your course will be.  What is your ONE unifying goal that informs and motivates everything you do?  Don’t start trying to cobble together a set of online resources without a vision worth aiming for!


Once you have seen your vision, it is time to begin turning the dream into a reality.  But don’t do this all at once!  Take one more planning step before you jump into the nuts and bolts of lesson plans, worksheets, web 2.0 tools, videos, discussion posts, quizzes or anything else.  Think of this next step as sketching the course outline first.  Like an artist working on a painting, work on the proportions and the outline first.  I would suggest using a Goal-to-detail approach.  A three-column design (or UBD process) can be very helpful to crystalize exactly what you want students to learn, what they will do to learn it, and how you will know if you’ve been successful.  Also take time to ask yourself what the best tools and media would be to accomplish your goals.  Reading through Dr. Bate’s “Teaching in a Digital World” (2015) may give you some good insight into the strengths and weaknesses of different technologies.


If you’ve been disciplined enough to design your course, you’re now ready to develop the parts that will make up the whole.  Now is the time for diligent creativity.  This is where you’ll need to dig in, persist, and be willing to do the hard work of creating or identifying everything your students will need for the course.  In our creative metaphor, now it is time to paint!  It is slow and iterative, but you’ll find great satisfaction is seeing your dreams take on depth and reality.  You can look at the difference between the design and the details for a course I’ve designed if you’d like.


When all this is through, you’ll be ready to launch into implementation and evaluation.  It might be good to have some other students or faculty review the course for quality and possible gaps or oversights.  Of course, you’ll be taking careful note of any problems that arise as your course is used so you can continually improve and hone it.  Make sure you always have your unifying goal in mind each time you add or take away from your course.


Why online?


The process reviewed above, based on the ADDIE model (Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. 2005), is not really unique to online course design.  You might wonder why online or blended courses should be built at all!  If you’ve ever wondered about this, there are two very important points to consider.


First, face-to-face (F2F) courses should not simply be ported to an online format.  There are activities you can do in a classroom that you just can’t do online.  You can’t do physical activities together.  It is hard to capture the ‘feel’ of being in community together.  And, I beg you, please don’t record a set of 45-minute lectures, post them online, and call it an ‘online course’.


Similarly, just as there are F2F activities that cannot be done online, there are online learning activities that cannot be done in a classroom!  Having long-term, thoughtful discussion sessions are difficult to do in a classroom.  Getting individualized, instant feedback from an online learning tool is hard to duplicate in a teacher-centered classroom.  Having the student control the pace of the learning is also easier done online.  Take advantage of the unique possibilities of the online environment!


Perhaps you might like to peruse some other successful courses/utilities that can be found online.  At times, perusing or experiencing another set of tools will spark your own ideas.  If so, consider the following:

  • Schoology course (please contact me for access codes to my class)
  • Udemy: A to Z $15 courses.
  • a free set of computer programming lessons for students and teachers.
  • Code Academy: “Teaching the world how to code.” (also for free!)
  • Edx: “Free online courses from the world’s best universities”


Time to grow!


It would be my great pleasure to help you grow in this area.  If you are considering using a new tool or making new online content, please let me know!  I’d love to grow with you in the process!



Bates, T. (2015) Teaching in a Digital Age: Guidelines for Designing Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from


Fink, L.D. (2003). A Self-Directed Guide to Designing Courses for Significant Learning. Retrieved from Designing Significant Learning Experiences: Materials in Print website:


Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.


Morrison, Gary R. (2010) Designing Effective Instruction, 6th Edition. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Curtis White, M.S., M.C.E.
High School Faculty
Math, Science, Bible & Computers
Abundant Life Christian School
A Madison Christian School