Seven Essential Elements for Creating an Online Course

Building a classroom remotely can be a challenge for educators who don’t know where to start and what to prioritize for their course. This blog post explores the most important considerations educators should take for teaching remotely.

  1. Begin at the end! Identifying the course outcomes is an essential starting place. Knowing where you are going will help you find the best path on how to arrive.   
  • Review the course outcomes before you develop your online course. 
  • Develop the specific modules/lessons that will allow the students to obtain the necessary skills/information to meet the course outcomes.   
  • Communicate the course expectations to the students.

2. Operationalize the specific outcomes for each learning experience. As you prepare each learning experience, ask yourself “what is/are the goals for this assignment?”.  Having measurable goals will allow you to determine if (or if not) the student has met the outcome. 

  • Develop three to five specific objectives for each learning experience. 
  • Identify the specific outcome for each learning experience in clear, measurable terms. 
  • Articulate the “take away” for the student for each learning experience and share with the student. 

3. Determine how the students will be evaluated, and how each outcome will be determined. With clearly defined objectives/outcomes, the next step is to determine how these outcomes will be measured.   

  • Use actionable verbs to allow for determination of the student’s understanding of the content. 
  • Determine the best teaching methodology for delivering the content. 
  • Explain your expectations, provide a rubric, and allow an opportunity for students to ask questions.  
  • Prepare a FAQ (frequently asked questions) document. Assume that if one student has a question, there are probably more students with similar questions. 

4. Plan the learning methodology. Once the goals have been defined and prioritized, the next step is determining how to create the experience to keep the students engaged. For example, if the topic is oxygenationuse Bloom’s Taxonomy to ensure a variety of assignments. 

  • Assign textbook readings to remember and understand the principles of oxygenation.  
  • Engage the students using case studies, virtual simulation and/or a group activity to apply and analyze alterations in oxygenation.  
  • Utilize quizzes and practice questions to help the students evaluate the effectiveness of therapeutic interventions.  
  • Assist students to create an action plan, care plan or teaching for a patient requiring oxygen therapy.  

5. Create a diverse learning environment. Using a variety of learning techniques and activities will reach every learner and learning style.   

  • Utilize both synchronous and asynchronous lectures and activities. 
  • Explore multimedia and social media for a variety of learning opportunities. 
  • Employ discussion boards and encourage students to read other students’ post and make thoughtful comments. 

6. Create opportunities for student engagement. Attempt to make the student a non-passive learner; it is essential to draw them into the learning environment by using a variety of active learning strategies. 

  • Introduce yourself and invite the students into the learning environment. 
  • Promote small group activities and small group chats to encourage peer-to-peer learning. 
  • Remind all participants in the online community that civility is essential. 
  • Encourage learning opportunities where students can work collaboratively on projects. 

 7. Ensure open lines of communication. Communication is vital to success. Having clear, consistent messaging provides students with an understanding of the course, faculty and student expectations.

  • Orient students to course structure and preferred methods of communication as a first step in the course. 
  • Provide frequent updates and timely notifications of any course changes. 
  • Respond to emails within 24 – 48 hours, be specific if emails will not be answered at specific times (weekends and/or holidays). 
  • Consider offering the opportunity for video or phone conferencing during specified office hours. 


De Gagne, J., Yamane, S. Y., & Conklin, J. L. (2016) Evidence-based strategies to create a culture of cybercivility in health professions education. Nurse Education Today, 2016-10-01, Volume 45, Pages 138-141 

Martin, F., Ritzhaput, A., Kumar, S., & Budhrami, K. (2019). Award-winning faculty online teaching practices:   Course design assessment and evaluation, and facilitations.  The Internet of Higher Education, 42, 34-43.   

Price, J., Whitlatch, J., Maier, C., Burdi, M., & Peacock, J. (2016).  Improving online teaching by using established best classroom teaching practices.  The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 47(5), 222-227. 

Sportsman, S. (2020). Online learning: Creating a caring environment that encourages critical thinking. March 2020 

Sportsman, S. (2020). Student strategies to get the most out of an online class. March 2020