Effective Online Course Design (online)


This eight-week, online course is designed to help you plan and design your own online course.

  • The course is practical, focussing on your own context and drawing upon the Department for Continuing Education’s experience of designing high quality online course delivery.
  • It is suited to teachers, academics, staff developers, designers of online learning materials and support staff new to, or considering a career in, learning technology.
  • Some previous experience of teaching and supporting learning would be beneficial, but is not essential.
  • The programme is tutor-led for six weeks, providing you with expert advice, support and guidance as you plan an online course.

Topics covered include:

  • Design models and approaches for planning your course
  • The range of technologies available to you for hosting your course
  • Designing for your online students
  • Designing engaging online activities
  • Online assessment
  • Evaluating your online course
  • Your own ongoing professional development

The study time of the course will be 35-56 hours to study the core content (5-8 hours per week for each of weeks 1-7) plus any additional time students spend reflecting on the course in week 7.

Learning by doing is a key concept of this course. You will:

  • have lots of opportunities to try out new skills and techniques and share your experience with other professionals from a range of contexts
  • give and receive feedback on work, so there is an emphasis on collaboration and learning together online
  • work on your own online course outline, planning engaging student activities and considering key issues such as appropriate assessment of your online students

Is this course right for you? Watch the video for more information.

Programme details

  • Week 1 Unit 0: Getting Started (self directed)
  • Week 2 Unit 1: Preliminary work (tutor led)
  • Week 3 Unit 2: Next steps in the design process (tutor led)
  • Week 4 Unit 3: Designing engaging online activities (tutor led)
  • Week 5 Unit 3: Designing engaging online activities  cont'd…(tutor led)
  • Week 6 Unit 4: Assessment and feedback (tutor led)
  • Week 7 Unit 5: Refining your course: Consolidation and reflection (tutor led)
  • Week 8 Unit 5: Refining your course: Consolidation and reflection cont’d… (self directed)

The units above are available until 9 July 2023 and the course remains open and the materials are available to you until 13 August 2023.

Course delivery and numbers

This course is delivered entirely online and no attendance at Oxford University is required.

There is usually a maximum of 18 participants on this course.

IT Support

At the start of the course you will receive a personal password so you can access all the course materials and discussion forums and contact your tutor. An IT helpdesk is available online through the TALL (Technology-Assisted Lifelong Learning) unit at the University of Oxford.


Participants who satisfy the course requirements will receive an electronic certificate of completion. 

This will show your name, the course title and the dates of the course you attended.

In order to complete this course you will need to:

  1. Actively take part in the group activities and make at least one substantive posting to the majority of the discussion topics initiated by your tutor.
  2. Provide constructive feedback on your peers’ work when asked to do so.
  3. Complete the two tutor-marked assignments.
  4. Participate & share your work in at least one Unit 3 Microsoft Teams tutorial.
  5. Participate in a minimum of two of the other online tutorials delivered during the course.

A record of this information will be retained by the University of Oxford, should further confirmation of your completion of this course be required (for example, by your employer, or prospective employer).

All the Department's Online Short Courses are developed by our Technology-Assisted Lifelong Learning (TALL) unit. To learn more, please see the TALL website.

There is no requirement for in-person attendance at the University of Oxford at any stage of the course.


Description Costs
Standard course fee £935.00


All courses are VAT exempt.

Register immediately online 

Click the “book now” button on this webpage. Payment by credit or debit card is required.


Shaun Wilden

Shaun is an education technologist who teaches and trains both face-to-face and online courses.

In the Department for Continuing Education he teaches digital literacy as well as short courses in mobile learning and teaching online. His latest book, Mobile Learning, was published by Oxford University Press.

He is the academic director for online courses for the International House World Organisation overseeing their suite of asynchronous teacher development courses and is a consultant to a number of educational organisations to assist them in their synchronous and asynchronous course provision.

His current area of interest and research is learner expectations in peer to peer social presence within asynchronous courses.

Course aims

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course you will have gained:

Knowledge of:

  • Approaches available to help plan an online course
  • Online course navigation principles          

Understanding of:   

  • Your students’ needs
  • The planning process that includes addressing learning outcomes and aligning these with activities and assessment
  • Usability issues, including writing clear guidance and consistent navigation          

Skills to:        

  • Plan an effective online course
  • Design engaging, interactive online activities
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of an online course

Assessment methods

There will be no formal assessment for this course, but there are two tutor marked assignments. Each assignment is practical, focussing on your own context. Each assignment requires you to start planning your own online course. You will receive constructive tutor feedback on each assignment.

Assignments are due half way into Unit 3 and at the end of Unit 5.

Level and demands

Computing Skills

In order to participate in this course you must have basic IT skills and be confident using a computer for purposes such as word processing, preparing presentations, using video conferencing software (e.g Teams or Zoom), e-mail and searching the Internet.

This course involves using the synchronous online conferencing using Microsoft Teams*. Such software is more technically demanding on the IT infrastructure than many other e-learning tools, so you should be prepared to spend some time at the start of the course getting your PC set up to use this software. For example, you might need to install a browser plug-in; install new hardware, such as a webcam; or adjust the settings on your PC. An IT Helpdesk is available to provide advice if you encounter any technical difficulties.

Please also note that as part of this course you will be required to prepare some slides and give a short online presentation.

Those with limited IT skills may find that some extra time is required for setup at the beginning of the course (IT support is provided free of charge as part of the course).

*This software is free to download.

Computer specifications

This course is delivered online; to participate you will need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended Minimum computer specification.

Computer specification queries

If you have queries about your computer facilities, please contact the TALL (Technology-Assisted Lifelong Learning) programme by email: tallithelp@conted.ox.ac.uk or telephone +44 (0)1865 280990.

If you intend to access the course on a public computer, such as in a public library or internet café, we recommend that you contact TALL before applying.

Course platform - Moodle

We use a learning management system called Moodle to host the course including:

  • The introduction and learning outcomes: Each unit starts with a summary of the topics to be covered and includes a list of learning outcomes for the unit.
  • The topics and content with a range of activities (some individual and some group) to explore the topic in more detail and start planning your own online course.
  • The course study: The course discussion forums are open 24 hours per day during the course so you can access these and the course materials anytime. Much of your learning will be done via discussion boards where you will share your work for feedback. You and the other participants will support each other to provide constructive feedback.
  • Summary and reflections: Each unit includes a summary providing an overview of the key points and includes a 'reflections' discussion forum to encourage you to reflect on your experiences and what you have learnt so far.
  • Further reading: Most units conclude with a list of further reading for those who have time for additional study.

Synchronous tutorials

We use Microsoft Teams for synchronous tutorials, which enables the simultaneous delivery of voice, video and presentation documents.

The only fixed times during the course are these online synchronous tutorials using Microsoft Teams.

Note: these tutorials are at a time which tries to accommodate all the various time zones of the students on the course. The tutor will try to vary the times throughout the course but you may have late or early sessions depending on your time zone.

Later in the course you will have the opportunity to set up and run your own tutorials with other students on the course using this software and this can be done at a time to suit you.