Fully Online

Male lecturer speaking into a microphone

What is online teaching?

Online teaching typically refers to courses that are delivered completely online, meaning there are no physical or on-campus class sessions. Online courses can be designed for a handful of enrolled students or can be made open and accessible to a wide variety of participants, such as with a MOOC.    

Why teach an online course?

  • You want to take your teaching beyond the physical classroom.

  • You want students to benefit from the online environment by having unlimited access to resources and the ability to collaborate and connect with each other at any time of day.

Developing an online course

Developing an online course is not a matter of taking materials from your traditional course and putting them online. You will need to plan your approach carefully by pairing existing course materials to complementary content presentation styles (slideshows, videos, text, etc…) and developing a feasible production and release schedule.  

Planning and Design

Start the planning and designing process by asking yourself what you want students to learn, just as you would for a face-to-face or on-campus course. Using a backwards design approach to course planning can help you align discrete parts of the course including goals, assessment, and activities.  

Even though planning an online course may start in a similar way as an on-campus or face-to face course there are critical difference.  Foremost, how will the technology influence the way you teach?  If you tend to use an interactive lecture format you will need to find ways to engage students in an online environment: chat channels, discussion forums, blog postings, and online office hours are a few ways to connect with students. Next you will need to consider how the technology will impact student learning.  Do your students need to have specific technical knowledge? How will they interact in the online environment? What will you do to make your online classroom inclusive for all students?  

You will also need to address technical issues. How will you manage the course?  How will you best leverage the features of your online learning platform.  

It is important to plan all of your components for on online course before the first day of class. Start early and seek collaboration and support from your colleagues, when possible.  The Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning has instructional design consultants who can help.  We can help you at any stage of online course development, from brainstorming, implementation, assessment, and reflection.  


The first step in implementing an online course is to meet with an Instructional Designer. At the consultation you will discuss:

  1. Course Audience: Who will be the participants (students) in this course/project?  What is the variation in their background knowledge, skills, etc., and to what extent will the course accommodate these differences?
  2. Learning Goals: What do you expect your students to learn?  As a result of your course/project, what specifically will your students know and be able to do?
  3. Learning Objects and Activities: What are the different types of content in your course/project, and how will students engage with that content and with each other?  What types of assessments are planned?

Maintenance over time

Maintenance over time will depend on your platform, the type of course you are teaching, and potential students.  Again, an Instructional Designer will be able to help you make a long-term plan.  

Tools for online courses

How to communicate with students

  • Announcements

  • Email

  • Forum

  • Google+ Hangouts on Air

  • Social Media (Google+ Online Communities, Facebook, LinkedIn Groups, Twitter)

  • Chat

  • Wiki

Learning Activities


Case Studies

Surgery 210 - Managing Emergencies: What Every Doctor Needs to Know

Stanford Emergency Medicine: What Every Doctor Needs to Know

S.V. Mahadevan, Matthew Strehlow, Rebecca D. Walker
Surgery 210

Scaling MOOC

A MOOC for Growing an Organization

Huggy Rao, Robert Sutton

Photograph of the DTAL team sitting on a sofa with a sketch of a person.  Caption reads: You are part of the team!

Innovative Methodology Encourages Learning by Doing

Leticia Britos Cavagnaro
Design Thinking Action Lab

International Women's Health and Human Rights Course Photo

Worldwide MOOC for a Worldwide Issue

Anne Firth Murray
HumBio 129/FemGen 129

Interactive Forums Create Online Community

Daniel McFarland
Organizational Analysis