Unit 6 Putting It All Together

Overview and Objectives | Required Activities | Optional Activities | Commentary | Study Questions | References

Overview and Objectives

This is a hands-on unit that gets you to:
  • rehearse the steps to initiate a course conversion, new course, or course revision
  • work with a learning designer to create a course map
  • plan to work with a course team
  • start designing instruction for the course you are writing
  • start designing learner support
  • start designing assessment

This unit is also set up as a template with the parts found in a typical online undergraduate course. It is the result of two years of trial and error informed by educational research, but it is not meant to be rigid or prescriptive, just practical at this point. We have found some standard ways that work for tutors and students; by following them, they will know what to expect and where to find things from course to course. At the same time, AU online environments will be continuously evolving, and we invite you to help. Please include your observations, comments, and desiderata on the Course Discussion Forum under Communication on the home page.

Ideally, before the course author even starts to write, she or he will contact the learning designer or IMA assigned to the course at the time it is proposed to be developed to brainstorm about effective learning activities, learner support, and assessment.

Required Activities

Guiding questions. You may want to include some questions here to focus students’ attention on what you want them to get from any required reading, viewing, listening or other activities. These questions are like yellow highlighter showing students what information they are looking for as they read, view, or listen. They are different from study questions in that they act as advance organizers, preparing students for the initial learning experience, whereas the study questions are learner support that prepares them in a more specific way to complete assignments and exams. However, the two certainly can overlap and should always be complementary if both kinds of questions are used. As you know, some redundancy is helpful for new and/or difficult concepts. The trick is to encode it so it doesn’t seem repetitive.

Optional Activities

It’s a good idea to give choices that will enrich students' learning trajectory. Having appropriate choices has been shown to increase learner motivation and satisfaction, and it helps to develop learner independence.



Initiating the Course Development Process

Often the course professor (or course coordinator) is also the course author, but as these two roles can be distinct, they are presented as such. If you are a course professor who is also writing the course, you will fill both roles.

The course professor is responsible for

  • initiating the process, which includes completing a Phase 3 or Phase 7 report for academic centre approval (or guiding the course author through the Phase 3 or Phase 7 report).
  • contracting and supervising the course author.
  • ordering materials.
  • working with the Copyright Office to determine the need and filling out copyright forms.
  • communicating with the Library about ordering supplementary materials.
  • notifying tutors and Learning Services Tutorial at least 6 weeks before a course opens so that Moodle training can be arranged if needed.
  • encouraging tutors to use the Assignment drop boxes and Course Mail in the online course; the first is especially important for planned changes in grade recording practices at AU.
  • prioritizing the development of the course with the appropriate academic centre.
  • generally managing the course development process.

The Course Coordinator’s Guide has more information.

It is important to start working with the learning designer/instructional media analyst is before you begin to design your course. The course author, or subject-matter expert (SME), who has been contracted to write a course should be asked by the course coordinator to take part, first, in an initial working meeting with the learning designer/IMA and, later, in an early course team meeting, face to face or by teleconference.

The basic form and activities of the course are initially planned with the help of the learning designer/IMA. Ideally, this happens before the Phase 3 or Phase 7 documents are submitted for approval. You can work with the learning designer/IMA to create a course map. Then, at the first early course team meeting, logistics, time lines, and a broad development plan are discussed. This is a time to set goals and find out what to expect from other team members. Feel free to ask each team member about his or her role and ask for specific kinds of support. Be sure to get the names and contact information for your course team, and don’t hesitate to contact any of them with questions or concerns about the course you are developing.

Working with a Course Team

Most of your course team will be drawn from the AU Educational Media Department (EMD). A representative from the AU Library who has expertise in information literacy will be included in the first meeting and will work as closely as needed with the team throughout the process. Additional members from other departments may also join the team as needed.

The usual team members and their roles are described below.

The course professor/coordinator is attached to the academic centre that will offer the course. The coordinator initiates the development process, selects and works with the course author, makes sure all the parts are in place, and takes care of the paperwork. The professor is responsible for seeing the course through design and development and delivery and later, revisions.

The course author/SME authors the course instruction, assignments for credit, and examinations, as well as learner supports such as practice quizzes and glossaries. The SME may help choose the reading assignments, textbook, video and audio components, online elements, lab kits, or other course activities. (Some of the activities, especially purchased components, will have been selected by the course professor.) To produce online courses, neither the course author nor the course professor requires any technical or computer competencies beyond being able to write text in Word and use email. However, it is worthwhile for both the course author and the course professor to be familiar with the online learning environment of Moodle and its resources. During the development process, it is also useful to seek advice from a learning designer concerning instructional design principles and strategies for online learning that correspond to AU principles and practices.

The Manager of Course Development is responsible for ensuring that all the team members (other than the course professor and the SME) are assigned to courses, and that their priorities are clarified and workloads monitored in order to meet the priorities set by academic centres. This involves coordination of efforts, tracking progress, troubleshooting, and information sharing; the manager of course development maintains a central repository for information about each course in development.

The learning designer/instructional media analyst (IMA) collaborates with the course professor or SME to design the learning environment and activities in the course. This ensures that the course is pedagogically sound and designed around proven online distance education and instructional design principles. They advise on effective language for properly written, clear learning objectives that will reflect students’ learning process and outcomes. They advise on the alignment of topics, learning activities, and evaluation with the course learning objectives. They also help select and design (and produce or acquire) appropriate learning activities as well as advise on effective learning strategies that lead students to the expected learning outcomes. In addition, designers help ensure that course workload corresponds to the credits awarded.

The editor reviews the course materials for style, accuracy, comprehension, readability, and effectiveness. The editor ensures that the language used in course materials and in the study guide invite active student participation. The editor confirms that all course materials are interconnected to enable students to follow course instructions; advises on issues of plagiarism, slander, libel, bias, proper citation rules; and notifies the course team when the final author review (FAR) is ready.

The visual designer collaborates with the team on visual elements of the course to ensure that the design elements further student learning. The designer designs the overall look of materials (print and online) produced for the course, designs typography and creates diagrams, illustrations, and maps, and may assist with or produce online learning activities.

The copyright officer advises on the availability of copyrighted materials intended for use, suggests alternatives if necessary, and estimates the cost and any time delays involved in obtaining third-party permissions. The Copyright Office obtains all permissions for third-party materials in AU courses.

The librarian advises the team on suitable library materials to support the course, helps and advises on information literacy design, and helps designate which materials will be stocked by the library and which should be included as online or off-line materials.

Other people, such as programmers and multimedia technicians, are brought in when their skills are needed. A digital media technologist (DMT) will, among other things, format and prepare the material for either online delivery or print publication.

Using a Course Map


The course map is a planning and communication tool that your learning designer will help you to create. It’s especially helpful for course authors who haven’t written courses for online delivery. It helps the team to talk about all the necessary parts of the course and how to make them greater than their sum. Look at this example of a course map for the first unit of an actual AU course. Download the blank course map and either work with it as a Word file that you can save to your computer, or print it and write on it by hand. Do as little or as much as you want before you meet with the learning designer. You may want to email the other course team members a copy so that it becomes a useful point of reference for the first stages on online course design for the entire course team.

Course Information

Use the > Word prototype for the Course Information section of your course.

Designing Instruction

Compiling the content that makes up the knowledge core of the course is important and essential, but equally important is figuring out how students will become engaged with and develop the skills to appropriately use that content. Instruction includes learning objectives, commentary, and learning activities. See Unit 3 for more on designing instruction. Use the >Word prototype for a typical course unit.

Designing Learner Support

Learner support should be provided to both meet remedial needs coming into the course and to ensure that a prepared student has the resources to successfully complete course activities and assessments. See Unit 4, and talk to your learning designer and librarian for more on designing learner support.

Designing Assessment

Well-designed assessment both consolidates the skills and knowledge acquired in the learning trajectory and provides a fair evaluation of the student’ s level of mastery of the course materials. See Unit 5 for more on designing assessment. Use the > Word prototype for a typical assignment.

Example Courses

This link will take you to the EMD Showcase with examples of courses and learning objects and this link will take you to Visual Communication for Moodle Courses. Keep in mind that this course author’s guide represents the most recent iteration of AU's favoured basic design for self-paced undergraduate courses. You are encouraged to follow it to give AU learners a consistent experience and take advantage of the professional instructional design it represents. At the same time, we are working in a rapidly evolving environment—your suggestions are always welcome and considered for use in your course and in future iterations of this guide. If it's feasible, EMD will do it, so it’s always good to ask.

Study Questions

Study questions are often included here in a typical AU course. The study questions are meant to be answered after the course activities are completed.

  • They should help to prepare the student to successfully complete related assignments.
  • They should be fair indicators of what will appear on any quizzes for credit or invigilated examination, if there is one.


Any references cited in or used to develop this unit would be listed here using the same citation format as students are required to use for written assignments. The reference list doubles as a supplementary reading list of sources that can be used for research assignments.


Last modified: Wednesday, 10 October 2012, 1:18 PM MDT