Skip to Content

Online Course Development

The following is a high-level summary of the tasks involved in creating and teaching an online course. For more information, please refer to "How We Can Help" at the bottom of this page. 

Online Course Defined

An online course is one in which more than 50 percent of its content is delivered online. It typically consists of:

  • Documents: for example, syllabi, assignments, project instructions, rubrics, offline tests, etc.
  • Service-based features: for example, online assessments, discussion forums, grade book, synchronous communication. Services include Canvas and other third-party software.
  • Asset-based materials: for example, graphics, animations, video, Web pages, interactive activities, etc.

What are the steps in building an online course?

First: Plan Your Course on Paper

Start early — at least six months in advance. Set interim deadlines for yourself for completion of each task. Developing an online course is labor intensive and can be difficult to do concurrently with teaching the course.

  1. Create a content outline, chunking the content into lessons. View an example.
  2. Write learning objectives for each lesson. Learning objectives provide specifications for assessment and guide the development of instructional strategies. They communicate to students the standards and expectations of the course. Visit our Learning Objectives page for important writing considerations.
  3. Become familiar with Canvas and third-party tools and how they can be used to support learning and assessment. Visit Technology Options to read about what's available.
  4. Develop a planning matrix. The planning matrix provides an overview of all the activities in the course.
    • Enter the titles and objectives for each lesson. View an example.
    • Determine how you will provide online content. To read about options available for online courses visit our Content Options page.
    • Determine assignments and assessments by which students will demonstrate mastery of each objective. Consider online quizzes and exams as well as discussion prompts, essays and papers, student presentations or media, etc. Add the online content, assignments, and assessments to the matrix and indicate after each objective how students will demonstrate mastery of that objective. View an example.
  5. Review the planning matrix to determine if there is a mix of activities that engage students and if the workload is manageable. Visit our Planning Matrix page to read about important considerations when reviewing an online course.

Second: Produce or Obtain the Course Content

Developing online content is the most time-consuming aspect of designing an online course. Plan to carve out plenty of time to do this.

  • Develop online lessons and assignments. Visit our Lessons and Assignments page to read about important considerations for developing online. 
  • Produce media (e.g., production video, graphics, Captivate). Staff in the Faculty Project Lab ( or 512-245-7375) can assist you.
  • Acquire course content that you will not produce yourself. Visit our Educational Contents page to read about available public resources.
  • Address copyright issues before you post third-party materials. Visit our Copyrights Issues page to read important considerations.
  • Construct a detailed syllabus. Include a list of tasks with due dates. View an example.

Third: Build Canvas Components

After you have planned the course and developed all the course materials, you are ready to build the course in Canvas. You can also visit the Canvas Support page for more information.

Fourth: Pilot the Course

  • Facilitate the course. Building a well-structured online course is only part of the equation for successful online teaching; facilitating is the other part of the equation. Facilitation includes creating a social presence and providing regular, timely feedback. For tips refer to Course Management and Communication.
  • Survey students at mid-semester and at the end of the semester to collect feedback about the course. View a list of possible survey questions.
  • Analyze the feedback from the survey(s) and revise the course accordingly. As you continue to tweak your course, you will have fewer questions from students and your workload will decrease.
  • Complete the Texas State Best Practices Checklist.

How We Can Help


Schedule a time to meet with an instructional designer to talk about your course.