Step-by-Step Online Course Creation Guide

This guide covers basic steps for creating an online course at NC State. The resources will help you incorporate some best practices and instructional design to make your course more efficient and effective for you and your students.  DELTA offers many resources to improve the design of your online course beyond the basic steps described here, and you are encouraged to explore our other resources.  You may be interested in exploring the short self-paced trainings in the WolfSNAPS: Online Course Design series (search for WolfSNAPS in REPORTER, DELTA workshops, and the Course Quality Program for additional information.

  1. Set up a Moodle Course
  2. Prepare Asynchronous Content
  3. Set up Synchronous Sessions
  4. Assess Student Learning
  5. Access Additional Resources
  • If you need help beyond what these resources provide, DELTA, the Office for Faculty Excellence, NC State Libraries, and college/departmental instructional technology staff are available to help you!
  • Email or call the LearnTech help desk at 919.513.7094 for help with questions about instructional technologies such as WolfWare, Moodle, Zoom, etc.
  • You can also request an instructional consultation if you need in-depth, one-on-one assistance with instructional design, teaching strategies, accessibility, course redesign or incorporating new learning tools into your course.

Step 1: Set up a Moodle Course

Moodle is the learning management system (LMS) used at NC State to manage online course content and activities. Moodle allows enrolled students central access to your online course documents, linked resources, learning activities and assignments.

  1. Create a Moodle course for your class by following instructions in this help article or video. Begin by logging into WolfWare, NCState’s online education toolkit.
  2. Learn or review the basics of using Moodle on your own flexible schedule by registering for the Teaching with Moodle [Self-Paced] course.
  3. Create an online syllabus and upload or link it in Moodle. We suggest using this NC State syllabus template that covers several essential requirements for an effective online course syllabus.
  4. Incorporate best practices for online course design and facilitation.
    • Use labels, headings, and indentation to help you organize content in each module. Make sure to use a consistent module structure. Avoid large blocks of text.
    • Make important information easy to find by putting it in the top section.
    • Include instructor contact information on the course homepage.
  5. Set up your Moodle Gradebook. Read Overview of the Moodle Gradebook to get started

Step 2: Prepare Asynchronous Content

If you’re using asynchronous teaching (posting learning materials and activities that students access individually within a flexible time frame), there are many simple ways to make it more effective and engaging. In Moodle you can add resources and activities to engage students in different ways. Here is a sample of instructional materials and learning activities you can use in your online course.

Instructional Materials

  1. Upload or link to readings.
    • Use a variety of sources (e.g., chapters, journal articles, websites, blogs, news articles).
    • You can have NC State Libraries staff create and add digital materials through course reserves.
    • Consider using open educational resources.
  2. Create or link to videos.
    • Record short lecture segments via Zoom or Panopto and share them with your students (we don’t recommend posting a lecture-length video).
    • Add interactions to boost engagement.
      • Student attention starts to fade after about 6 minutes, so include interactive content (e.g., multiple-choice questions, open-ended questions, polling, additional content to read) periodically to check understanding or encourage deeper thinking. There are several ways (including PlayPosit, Panopto, or H5P) to add these interactions to video content that you’ve recorded or uploaded from a source like YouTube or Vimeo.
    • Include captions for all videos. Video captioning is simple with a captioning grant from NC State OIT Accessibility.
  3. Use existing online resources. There are a number of online repositories of existing educational resources. NC State University Libraries can help you find Open Educational Resources (OER) for your course. Other sources of OER include:

Learning Activities

  1. Discussion forums. Discussion forums can build a sense of class community, allow students to learn from each other by reading and responding to each other’s work, develop thinking and writing skills, and give you an opportunity to respond to student work, address misconceptions, and summarize student input. Read Overview of the Moodle Forum Activity to get started.
    • Use questions that stimulate debate instead of those that call for a correct answer. For example, you might ask students to argue a position or propose a theory based on information they have learned in your course.
    • Ask questions that require higher-level thinking and interactions.
      • Have students apply, analyze, or evaluate the content they’ve learned (the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy) as opposed to simply remembering facts.
      • Call for students’ personal opinions or experience as they relate to the course material.
      • Have students interact with each other (e.g., have students post an idea and then later post the pros and cons of another student’s idea).
      • Require students to synthesize information from different sources or course modules.
    • Moderate the discussion. You don’t need to respond to every post, but chiming in to summarize, redirect, or extend the discussion builds your connection to your students and creates a stronger discussion.
    • Give students guidelines about what makes a good forum post. Include anything important to you, e.g., strength of argument, length, grammar, tone/civility, or use a discussion forum rubric.
    • Use the Q and A Forum type, which requires students to post a response before they can see other students’ responses. This requires originality from students and leads to higher quality discussions.
    • Manage forum subscriptions. If a student is subscribed to a forum, they will see all posts and responses. You can change the settings so that this happens automatically, or so so students can opt in or out.
  2. Low-stakes quizzes. Using a brief assessment that has minimal impact on student grades provides an opportunity for formative assessment, self-check for understanding of content, and an opportunity for students to interact with the content.

Step 3: Set up Synchronous Sessions

If you would like to interact with students online in real time, Zoom allows you to set up synchronous class meetings.

  1. How to use Zoom
  2. Tips for using Zoom
  3. Best Practices
    • Get prepared
      • Communicate to students that they need to have downloaded Zoom
      • Practice using Zoom and any other tools you and your students will use during the session
      • Consider joining the call early and staying after the conclusion to answer questions
      • Manage your on-screen environment. Consider lighting, background, images, and noises
      • Develop rules and expectations before synchronous learning begins
      • Always have a backup plan (e.g., if you accidentally disconnect, what will you do?)
    • Set expectations with students
      • Give students an opportunity to practice and ask questions about the technology
      • Tell students what will happen during your synchronous session and how they should participate
      • Allow time for questions from students, such as holding an introductory Q&A
      • Ask students to leave their web cameras on if they are comfortable doing so. Some students may prefer to leave them off, but seeing faces helps increase sense of connection
    • Engage students
      • Replace lecture-heavy presentations with active participation
      • Aim to include an opportunity for student input every 5-10 minutes to check for understanding and engagement. Top Hat has a number of features that add interactivity to synchronous sessions
      • Encourage question asking
      • Consider using Zoom breakout rooms for small group discussions
      • Regularly emphasize the importance of participation as a vital part of learning
      • Consider separating students into small groups for collaboration and peer learning
    • Reach all students
      • Note all planned synchronous sessions in the syllabus so that students can plan ahead
      • Always record the session for students not able to attend live and post the recordings in your course promptly. (Avoid reusing recordings from previous classes as this could be a FERPA violation.)
      • Create screenshots and instructional guides on how to access features
      • Remember students living with disabilities. If you need guidance, contact NC State Disability Resources

Need More Help?

Step 4: Assess Student Learning

You may want to replace some or all proctored exams in your online course with alternative assessments. DELTA’s alternative assessment resources  describe many ways to assess how well your students have met the learning objectives. Additional ideas, adapted from Berkeley Center for Teaching and Learning, are listed below Be sure to provide grading rubrics for non-exam options so it is clear to students how their grade will be determined. Rubrics also help to make grading more consistent and efficient.

  1. Open book tests. Consider using a time limit, limiting the number of questions per page, and setting response options to randomize.
    • Recommended tool: Moodle Quiz
  2. More frequent, lower stakes assessments such as One-Minute Papers/Muddiest Point or quizzes.
    • Recommended tools: Moodle Assignment or Moodle Quiz.
  3. Paper on a topic integral to the class. Give the assignment early, have students submit portions or a draft throughout the semester. Discussion forums can be a great way to have students provide peer feedback on drafts to reduce your workload for larger enrollment courses. Have students submit notes and drafts along with the paper to encourage academic integrity.
    • Recommended tool: Moodle Assignment
  4. Summary/Briefing. Have students prepare a one- or two-page summary of a reading, instructional unit or course. Provide prompts that fit your content (e.g., background, current state, potential future directions with pros and cons). This helps students synthesize materials and practice being concise.
    • Recommended tool: Moodle Assignment
  5. Reflection. For class participation or group projects, ask students to create reflective statements that detail their contributions and what they learned from the activity.
    • Recommended tool: Moodle Assignment
  6. Professional presentation (recorded or live). Students can play the role of a subject matter expert presenting material, a consultant presenting to a board, etc. You could ask them to take a side on a debate question and present their case.
    • Recommended tools: Panopto or PlayPosit for recorded presentations and peer and instructor comments; Zoom could also be used for live presentation and discussion in smaller classes
  7. Annotated anthology or bibliography. Students select works they have read during the semester, perhaps selecting a theme, and write a summary of or introduction to each. Another option that works well for writing courses is an annotated portfolio, in which students compile their best or representative work from the semester and write an introduction to the portfolio and to each piece.
    • Recommended tool: Moodle Assignment
  8. Poster sessions with peer critique. For example, students could choose a topic (perhaps from a list you provide, develop a hypothesis, and support or refute their hypothesis with library research). They can present their research by posting a video. Peer critique can be posted to the video.
    • Recommended tool: Moodle Discussion Forum
  9. Fact Sheet. Students search relevant databases and create a fact sheet designed to be shared with a specific audience (e.g., the general public, the scientific community, high school students). Students must locate and evaluate relevant material and present it in a concise manner appropriate to their audience.
    • Recommended tool: Moodle Assignment
  10. Student-proposed project. With guidance from you on timelines and requirements, students suggest a course project they would like to complete to show their achievement of the learning objectives.
    • Recommended tool: Moodle Assignment

Need More Help?

For assistance with assessment options, feel free to contact DELTA Testing Services.

Step 5: Access Additional Resources