Category: Course Development

SPS Guidelines for the Design of Online Courses

From CUNY Academic Commons


SPS Guidelines for the Design of Online Courses

Use this guide as you develop and assess your online course. This guide includes information about course structure, course activities, and assessment. Also available are resources for course design, including information about ADA compliance and resources for teaching and learning with technology. A downloadable PDF version can be accessed HERE.






Banner is attractive and colorful.

Banner includes the course number & name.

Course Menu/Navigation Bar

Categories are logical & easy to understand.

All buttons are active.

Examples of categories include: Course Introduction; Instructor; Assignments; External Links; other Blackboard defaults as needed (buttons can be renamed).


Welcome message; for development site, create a placeholder for later entry by each instructor).

Getting Started

Clear instructions for students at the beginning of the semester; tell them how and where to begin in the course.


Course Introduction & Course Documents

Syllabus includes: course name & number; prerequisites; official course description; learning objectives (6-10); textbook information; course schedule; grading scheme; course policies.

Course policy statements include: Academic Integrity; Netiquette; Participation; Accessibility for Students with Special Learning Needs; late assignments; extra credit.

Link or url provided for SPS Student Services (

Course Modules/Units

All materials for each module/unit are organized within a folder. (Weekly folders strongly recommended).

Each folder is labeled with a title & beginning/end dates.

Module/unit titles correspond to main topics & learning objectives in syllabus.

Organization & content of units/modules is consistent across course.

Each module/unit includes a brief overview and/or learning objectives (can be inside folder or on outside).

Each module/unit clearly states important assignments and due dates.

Staff Information

Includes contact information, short professional biography & photo.

External Links

External Links are logically organized; if a significant number of links provided, they should be organized into clearly labeled folders.

External Links are used to connect students to tutorials for specialized software, statistical packages, and other tools needed for assignments and projects


Consistent use of fonts & colors.

Color, graphics & icons are used to guide student users through content and/or highlight key concepts & relationships.

Course site is free of typographical, grammatical & other errors.


Course navigation mechanisms are logical and efficient; in general, no more than three “clicks” should be required to locate materials; where more are needed, consider creating an interactive syllabus.

All course materials are easy for students to locate.

With-in course links are used to connect resources needed for specific assignments.



Most assignments are complex, engaging and require that students add, integrate & synthesize knowledge.

Assignments are clearly aligned with and supportive of course learning objectives.

Assignments are introduced and provide clear directions for students.

Assignments are reasonable in terms of level of difficulty and time required in comparison to time allotted.

A variety of different types of assignments are used.

Assignments include both those to be completed by individual students & several that require group work.

Assignments promote learning of foundation skills (writing, quantitative reasoning, problem solving) as well as content mastery.

Mechanisms for asking questions the instructor questions about the assignment always are provided.


A section “Getting to Know You” is provided at the beginning of the semester in which students can introduce themselves to one another and to the instructor; the instructor adds their own introduction. (For development site, create placeholder.)

Assignments include frequent opportunities/requirements for interaction between students, including use of: blogs, wikis, threaded discussions, group/team projects.

Discussion questions and group projects are complex, require critical thinking and problem-solving, and offer the possibility of many different answers and/or approaches.

Clear statements of expectations and rules for engaging in discussions & group projects are provided, including guidelines for active listening and civility.

Where possible and logically appropriate, discussions & group projects are tied to authentic, realistic questions & tasks, including those that might be encountered in the professional workplace.


Course Objectives

All course learning objectives are measurable.

All assessment activities address achievement of learning objectives.

Types of Assessment

Assessment activities include regular opportunities for “low stakes” assessment, e.g., reflection exercises, self-assessment, progress reports, questions about concepts.

Assessment activities are varied in format and responsive to different types of learners and dimensions of performance.

Mastery of learning is assessed frequently, with timely & informative feedback from the instructor.

Opportunities are provided for students to give feedback on other students’ work, with clear guidelines provided.

All “high stakes” assessments are announced at the beginning of the course, with schedule & grade weighting specified.


The point value or grading plan for each assignment is clearly specified.

Weighting of assignments & tests is proportional to their importance in the context of course learning objectives.

Grading rubrics are available to students for all major assignments.

Grade Center

Grade Center is set up at the beginning of the semester & includes all major assignments and tests.

Assessment of Course by Students

Students are given opportunities to provide feedback to the instructor about the course, within the course itself.


Resources for Teaching/ Learning with Technology

California State University at Chico

Florida Gulf Coast University

ADA Compliance


Standards and Practices Course Assessment by Students

From CUNY Academic Commons


Standards and Practices Course Assessment by Students

 by Philip A. Pecorino, Queensborough Community College, School of Professional Studies

Course Assessment by students is the most effective source of information concerning how effective an instructional design and course management are. . I supply here what I use to obtain that information. Such feedback is invaluable in course assessment and revision. Rather than waiting until the end of the semester to obtain such feedback I use a mid term device as well as end term devices.

1) The mid term assessments are Discussion Board Forums. These take place during the mid-semester break (7th week) that I call Mid Course Evaluation and Feedback. No credit or points are awarded for this. The mid term week or module has no new materials or assignments given.
2) The end term assessments are written assignments submitted directly to the instructor. Some points are awarded for submitting this assessment assignment.


Module 8 Mid Course Evaluations and Changes: Course Value
Have you learned anything so far? Is this course worth the effort? Is it providing you with what you did not have and are not getting from other sources (including classes)?
Module 8 Mid Course Evaluations and Changes: Course Structure
What do you think of the course structure? The modules? The time intervals? The written assignments? The discussion questions? The grading system?
Module 8 Mid Course Evaluations and Changes: Discussions
What do you think of the way in which the discussions take place? What do you think of your classmates’ comments and postings and questions? What could be done to improve the discussions?
Module 8 Mid Course Evaluations and Changes: Instructor
What do you think of the instructor’s participation in the discussion?
What do you think of the instructor’s response time to communication with the instructor in the Ask the Professor Discussion Board forum or Private email communications?
Module 8 Mid Course Evaluations and Changes:
Each of you are to submit a new thread with your own discussion topic related to this module evaluating this course so far as we have gone. You are to moderate the discussion. You are responsible to post and moderate. You are not responsible if others do not respond to your post. When posting make sure you make the SUBJECT line clear. Do not leave it blank. Do not put your name in the subject area.


Do each part of THREE (3) Parts
Part 1: What did you like best about this course?
Part 2: What specific things do you think could be improved in the structure or design of the course and learning activities?
Part 3: How would you improve the quality and participation in course discussions/interactions?
Part 4: What changes would you suggest be made to the pacing or sequence of the content and activities for this course? (e.g., were the due dates doable for you? Were the course materials sequenced well?)
Part 5: What changes would you suggest be made to the quantity of work required for this course?
Part 6: How could the course be improved in terms of my interaction, participation, and management of the course?
Part 7: What other suggestions, comments, or recommendations would you have for the instructor?
Part 8: What advice do you offer to students who would be just entering the class at the very start of the semester?
This course has six objectives on a scale of 0 to 5 with 5 as the highest level , how well do you think that you have achieved these objectives?
• a. Identify some of the basic content in the field of Philosophy:
• 1. vocabulary
• 2. concepts
• 3. theories
• b. Identify traditional and current Issues in Philosophy;
• c. Communicate your awareness of and understanding of philosophical issues.
• d. Demonstrate familiarity with the main areas of philosophic discourse and be able to state what major schools of thought there are that have contributed to the ongoing discussion of these issues
• e. Develop skills of critical analysis and dialectical thinking.
• f. Analyze and respond to the comments of other students regarding philosophical issues.
Score 0 to 5 a.____ b. ______ c._______ d.________ e.______ f.________

Select which of your submitted work represents your estimate of your best effort at dialectical reasoning and submit it again to me. Just copy and paste any of the written assignments that you have already done that you think is your BEST WORK that follows all the steps for dialectical thinking and presenting a position on an issue or question and defending it.
Steps for presenting an argument or a defense of a position using dialectical reasoning
State your Position on the issues or question and do so quite clearly. Be as exact as you can be. Be precise in your use of language.
Position defended using reasoning in support of the judgment (conclusion of the argument). You state the reasons why the position you take makes sense and has evidence and reasons to support it other than your feelings or personal preference or your opinion or what you were brought up to believe or what just about everyone you know thinks or believes. Philosophers have offered such reasons and evidence for the positions they have taken and you should consider them and if you agree you can and should so state them in support of your own position.
Consideration of alternative positions to and criticisms of your own position and the reasons for the rejection of those alternatives in favor of the judgment made for the reasons given in support of your position which employ reasoning and evidence.


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CUNY Designations for Online Courses

From CUNY Academic Commons


CUNY Designation Codes for Online Courses


MODE in CUNYfirst Definition

P      In-Person. No course content or assignments delivered online.
W     Web-Enhanced. No scheduled class meetings are replaced, but some of the course content and  assignments, as well as required or optional activities, are online.
PO   Partially online. Some of the class work is on-line.
H      Hybrid (Blended). Between 33% and 80% of scheduled class meetings are replaced with online activities or virtual meetings.
O      Online. More than 80% of scheduled class meetings are replaced with online activities or virtual meetings.
FO    Fully online. All of the class work is online.

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