Online course design for humans

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

My colleagues and I are in the midst of launching an online course development pilot at our institution. For the next year and a half we will be providing pedagogical and technical support for the development (or in some cases, re-development) of eleven, fully online courses across ten disciplines.

While reflecting on what might be most helpful to share with faculty participating in this pilot, I realized that many of the “go-to” tools, resources, and templates I’d encountered in my past practice as an Instructional Designer did not fully or effectively address the vital human elements that can make or break a learning experience, particularly one that is entirely online. Instead, I found that these considerations were often touched upon more incidentally or informally through conversation while collaborating with course developers. As such, depending on the working relationship, or myriad other constraints, it seemed it was not always possible to foreground these ideas when supporting the design of an online course.

With this in mind, I was fortunate to find a deep well of inspiration, ideas, and information in my travels in and around the open education community. Learning from those working in open ed naturally led me to some of the leading voices in critical digital pedagogy. Having listened to these voices, I decided to combine my learning and experiences to begin crafting a workbook called Online Course Design for Humans.

Happily I was working through the beginnings of this project around the time that I attended Digital Pedagogy Lab in Toronto. The keynotes by Jess Mitchell @jesshmitchell and Rajiv Jhangiani @thatpsychprof helped confirm for me that I might be on the right track. The encouragement, support, and feedback of my fellow creators in Sean Michael Morris @slamteacher‘s Writing Workshop at DPL also bolstered my nerve to move forward with my ideas.

Last week, I kicked off my work with a number of the course development pilot participants and together, we are making our way through the workbook. It is very much a work in progress, and I would welcome and appreciate any feedback, questions, criticisms, or ideas. If all or some of this piece are of help to you in your work, all the better! You can find me at or @MGtheID. Here it is – please take a look below or download here Online Course Design for Humans. For a tagged PDF version, feel free to drop me an email or DM via one of the channels above and I’ll happily send one along.


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