A closeup of a student looking through a loupe at some rock samples.

Build Your Course

Resources for designing, building and managing courses

Table of Contents

This is a list of all our content meant to support faculty in developing and enriching their courses. You can D-I-Y or apply to work your way through the design process with a cohort.

Faculty development opportunities at UAF include the iTeach Online Series and #facdev workshops. If you’re interested in enrolling or attending any of these, take a look at our All Faculty Services page.


There are many ways to approach crafting an engaging and rewarding online course. What works for someone else may not work for you. Here at UAF CTL, we try to operate from a set of shared values.

Most central to our philosophy is the idea that good online courses have little to do with technology and much more to do with carefully constructing any course you teach (online, face-to-face, or hybrid) according to solid pedagogical principles.

Open Education

Open Education is about more than MOOCS. Open Education is founded on the idea that a University is grounded in the Commons. Here you can read more about how online education allows for a closer approximation of the academic ideal of the Commons.

Quality Courses

Faculty expertise is still valuable and should be at the center of a course. Your unique perspectives, your feedback on understanding, and your interaction with students is of utmost importance. Reading assignments and quizzes simply aren’t enough.

Student Engagement

Keeping students engaged in the learning process can be a challenge. Learn new techniques and methods of involving students in creative activities that encourage them to learn and grow on their own.

Personal Learning Environments

Thinking about and mapping your Personal Learning Environment leads to better understanding your own strengths and places where you can expand the digital aspects of your PLE.

Information Fluency

Information Fluency is a central tenet of our philosophy.   When we encourage information fluency rather than digital literacy, we’re ensuring that our students can navigate more than just the internet.

Learning Assessment Cycle

Learning happens in a non-linear and ever evolving manner. Natural learning cycles, feedback strategies, and assessment plans should all be  considered when building a course.

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Part 2: DESIGN

Designing a course is a messy process. Before you can begin putting anything online, it helps to have all of your ducks in a row. This section aims to help you think about drafting a plan for your course.

Reverse-engineering the learning experience, starting with outcomes supported by activities and assessment based on measurable evidence of understanding, provides the foundation for the rest of the development process.

Faculty expertise is still valuable and should There are “big ideas” at the heart of every course that motivate, engage and resonate with teachers and learners alike. Learn how to identify and discover (or rediscover) those ideas and then use them as the basis for creating rich, engaging learning experiences.

There’s a strange world you passed through on your way to becoming an expert in your field. You’re already familiar with the Big Questions of your discipline…but how do you get your students to create measurable evidence of what they’ve learned and still lead them to the Big Questions? Is there a connection between these two seemingly disparate intellectual stages?

Learning taxonomies are helpful tools for creating, organizing and assessing learning objectives and activities to ensure they are of an appropriate type and complexity for a particular class.

An effective syllabus should be more than just required reading about course policies. It is both a contract with learners and an important representation of an instructor’s priorities that can be significantly more creative than you might think!

Online Safety, Security, and Privacy

Protecting students, while promoting effective participation and collaboration, demands knowledge of both legal requirements and countering the many myths that have arisen and  make them seem more complicated and arduous than they really are.

While tackling the content & concept side of your course may be the fun part, it’s just as important to have a good handle on the logistics of managing a classroom. Without that strong framework to build on and refer to, the content & concept will suffer.

What is a personal learning environment? What does it have to do with Information Fluency? Though the PLE may seem like and arbitrary exercise, it’s important for everyone to understand where and how learning happens in a giant messy web that eludes neat and tidy graphics.

There are as many definitions of critical thinking as there are teachers  pondering the idea…but all agree that supporting critical engagement is at the heart of the  educational endeavor. Part 2 of Information Fluency.

One of the most potentially productive, and bewildering, areas of teaching with technology is the vast array of tools, apps and services supporting participation, presentation and collaboration online and off. Part 3 of Information Fluency.

Time management at the micro- and macro-level is critical for online teaching and learning: each course requires planning to work within the limits of the term and to accommodate the ebb and flow of the activities and assessments–and grading!– that go into top-notch courses.

Part 3: BUILD

Designing a course is a messy process. Before you can begin putting anything online, it helps to have all of your ducks in a row. This section aims to help you think about  critical pieces of your course that should be in place.

Measurable Objectives

Well crafted measurable learning objectives are the core of your course design. Every other element of your course builds off of and supports them. The process of articulating your specific measurable learning objectives, and the the objectives themselves can be equally invaluable in the design of your quality course.

Course Architecture

The way a course is constructed and organized can effective student learning in a positive or negative way, regardless of how good the material and assessment might be. Navigation, consistency, the concept of “chunking” material into small bites, as well as clear instructions and directions and other considerations all go into building a solid course architecture.

Welcome Letters and Announcements

Frequent, clear communications with your students will contribute to their success. Welcome letters and announcements can be two important pieces of a successful communications strategy.

Embedding: Connecting the Pieces

One of the more exciting opportunities for teachers is the wide array of easy tools and technologies for creating audio, video, animations, media and collaborative documents. But then how do you deploy them most effectively for your learners?


The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is unnecessarily perceived as an obstacle for teachers, particularly online. It needn’t be.

First Contact

The first assignment is an opportunity to verify students’ ability to access your course, a chance to “set the tone” regarding expectations for response time on the part of both teacher and learner, and a possible trigger for early intervention to help struggling students succeed.

Instructor Presence

You make your course unique, but how do your students get to know you in your online course? Luckily there are a variety of engaging ways you can increase your presence, share your expertise, and facilitate your online learning community.

Good Instructions

Good instructions significantly contribute to student success. How to craft good instructions and where to place them can be more challenging than one might think.

Time Management

Your success and the success of your students depends on effective time management. While this seems obvious, there are a few strategies and techniques for managing the time demands of online teaching which may not be immediately apparent.

Helpful Templates & Tutorials

Starting the course design process from scratch can be difficult and overwhelming. Luckily there are some handy and helpful templates for various aspects which can save you time and help you organize your ideas.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is both a movement and a simple license you can use to promote sharing and re-use of your curriculum and creations while maintaining your intellectual property rights and ownership.

Teachers and learners have an extensive array of rights to legally use copyrighted materials…if they choose to exercise them and if they see through the self-serving obfuscation promoted by media interests. Learning how to determine if something is copyrighted and how to use such material fairly doesn’t demand a law degree.


As a federally-funded institution, UAF has a responsibility to consider accessibility in both its physical and digital public spaces.Learn more about the legal requirements and theories that govern our approach to accessibility.

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Part 4: INVENT

Building your course with the basics is important, but delivering a course that is of the highest caliber, with the most engaging activities and interesting content is something that takes a bit of invention. This section contains ideas to point you in that direction.

Using audio and podcasting technology, you can increase your instructor presence and provide an alternative mode of delivery for your insights and perspectives. Audio and podcasting also offer engaging opportunities for your students to creatively present and demonstrate their own understandings.

Are you looking for a better workflow for giving feedback on your students’ written work?Are you looking for effective ways to track and  streamline group work? Collaborative documents are powerful tools offering great potential for your course.

Screencasting tools allow you to record your desktop images and actions and combine them with your voice and even video to easily create powerful instructional videos. Additionally, consider having your students present their own understandings by using screencasting.

Video is among the most powerful of the many modern tools at your disposal. You can use video to improve your instructor presence, deliver content, or provide feedback to your students. Importantly, your students can also use video to demonstrate the rich understandings you hope they obtain.

There is a powerful array of modern tools for collection and curation of videos, images, and references of all kinds. You can put these tools to work for your class fostering communications and sharing of resources. These same tools also offer powerful opportunities for students to demonstrate their understanding.

How can you best get your students to practice at being the professionals they’re learning to become? Try putting them in the role of those very professionals for an engaging and valuable learning experience.

Are you looking for ways to increase student performance and engagement? Are you looking for ways to enhance student motivation? Game mechanics take on these challenges with a variety of powerful strategies.

Successfully fostering a rich discussion dynamic can be one of the most challenging and rewarding tasks in course design and delivery. Here are some tips and tricks that will help you avoid some potential pitfalls and make the most of the capacity of your chosen platform.

Like many powerful tools, synchronous communication has tremendous potential to strengthen or weaken your course. How can you take advantage of this great potential, or should you, without undermining the design of your learning experience?

We all want our students to effectively demonstrate the understandings we hope they obtain. How and where can we ask them to share their presentations through engaging and innovative places or modes?


Once your course is underway, you’ll need to not only assess your students’ work, but also assess your course and make mid-course corrections as well as plan for long-term revisions. Here, you’ll find advice on how to manage this stage of long-range course development.

Failure, Feedback, and Revision

Failure, feedback, and revision are central to how we naturally learn. How can you incorporate this fundamental natural process into your course design?


Like any well constructed work, your course is more robust when its main structural elements (objectives, assessments, and activities) are in proper alignment.


We design for our students to obtain new understandings but what and how do we measure to determine if students are learning? Do we allow our students revision cycles and repeated attempts to demonstrate understanding or do we capture snapshots of their performance? The design of your assessments is a core element in your learning experience design.

Assessment Mechanics

Many times we use assessment mechanics based on our own experiences without questioning why or whether or not our learning objectives might be better served with an alternative. Understanding the full range of choices at your disposal can be instrumental to your intentions leading to superior outcomes.

Proctored Exams

Are you considering proctored exams in your course? UAF CTL can facilitate proctoring of print and online exams. In both scenarios, it is critical that instructors provide 1) instructions, 2) dates, and either 3)copies of print quizzes and exams or 4) passwords for online exams. Learn more about proctoring services.

Mobile Design Testing

More and more students are accessing your learning materials via a mobile device (phone or tablet). Will your course accommodate this quickly growing route of access? How can you make sure your course provides as many opportunities for access as possible?

Helpful Templates for UAF Faculty

Starting the course design process from scratch can be difficult and overwhelming. Luckily there are some handy and helpful templates for various aspects which can save you time and help you organize your ideas.

Showcase Open Courses

Looking for some examples of great online courses? Look no further! This showcase of open online courses includes a variety of exemplary designs and structures.

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There are a number of pedagogy-oriented topics that are specific to our institution here at UAF and a few advanced topics that we’re testing to see how they fit into our overall approach to course design.

Using Blackboard gradebook? There’s lots to know about this useful tool.

Mastering the “assignment” feature is key to a successful course if your course is delivered using Blackboard.

Like assignments, and the gradebook, utilizing quizzes in a sound way can improve your Blackboard Course.

Quality Matters is an international program designed to provide quality assurance in online education. QM provides multiple opportunities for participation including everything from self review of course design using the QM Rubric to formal external course quality peer-review, and includes professional development classes and certifications. QM is one of many resources which can help you craft your quality learning experience.