Category: Course Site Assessment

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 Site Assessment

From CUNY Academic Commons



Standards and Practices:  Course Site Assessment


Bronx Community College

Hostos Community College-for hybrids

Medgar Evers College-Course Evaluation Rubric

Queensborough Community College

School of Professional Studies

Beyond CUNY

California State University at Chico –Rubric for Course Assessment

Florida Gulf Coast University- Rubric for Course Site Assessment

Course Assessment by Students

Rationale and Sample Devices

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