Checklist for Online Courses

  • Posted on September 22, 2014   360 Authoring Team

    Have you been thinking about authoring an elearning course (Life as a 360 Author), but are having a hard time getting a sense of how much content to create to end up with about an hour of seat time?

    The following provides broad high-level guidance for authors, subject matter experts, and instructional designers when planning an online course. Note that these are guidelines only. Design for actual courses should reflect learner needs with respect to course objectives.



    5,000-7,500 WORDS   |   45-50 MINUTES INSTRUCTION   |   10-15 MINUTES ASSESSMENT

    5-10 learning objectives, and per learning objective:

    • 500-750 words (¾ – 1½ typed pages) 4-6 minutes of spoken audio

      2-4 presentation slides + 1-3 context-rich interactive exercises or examples

    • 3 assessment questions




    checkbox     Learning objectives are measurable/demonstrable via an assessment in an online course.

    checkbox     Learning objectives reflect real world requirements, taking into account regulatory, industry, and instructor objectives.

    checkbox     To the extent possible, learning objectives represent practical, meaningful tasks from the learner’s perspective.

    checkbox     Near the beginning of each lesson, learning objectives are presented conversationally in terms of benefits to the learner, or “WIIFMs” (what’s in it for me).

    checkbox     During the WIIFM presentation, learning objectives may be combined and condensed for the learner, but all learning objectives for the lesson are covered in the WIIFMs.



    checkbox     Course content is broken into easily consumed, logically organized chunks: Modules (≈ 2-4 hours in length), Lessons (≈ 45-60 minutes in length), Topics (≈ 15-20 minutes in length), Slides (≈ 20 seconds – 8 minutes in length)

    checkbox     The name of each module, lesson, topic, and slide is unique and clearly indicates the content covered.

    checkbox     “Special issues” that might be appropriate for some audiences and not for others are pulled out as separate topics, lessons, or modules, as appropriate.



    checkbox     Content is accurate.

    checkbox     Content is complete and appropriate, given the target audience, learning objectives, and stated regulatory requirements.

    checkbox     Thought progression is logical and organized.

    checkbox     Writing level is appropriate for the audience. For a general audience, readability should be 8th grade or less on the Flesch-Kincaid scale.

    checkbox     Use of jargon is relatively limited and appropriate for the audience.

    checkbox     Writing sounds natural when read aloud.

    checkbox     Writing is error-free, in terms of spelling and grammar.

    checkbox     Content has not been plagiarized.



    checkbox     Every presentation slide has a visual.

    checkbox     Visuals strongly support comprehension and retention of the material being taught, making good use of diagrams, tables, photos, and video, as well as call-outs of key points, tips, or hints.

    checkbox     If the visual is not instructional, it reinforces a mood or theme and complements the instructional message of the slide.

    checkbox     Visuals are of good quality and have a consistent look and feel.

    checkbox     Author has the legal right to use the visuals within the course.



    checkbox     Case studies and real world examples are included for every major skill or key application point.

    checkbox     Case studies and real world examples illustrate important causal chains of events.

    checkbox     Commentary related to the study or example provides feedback not only on what happened and why, but recommended approaches for similar situations.

    checkbox     Unless the case is completely in the public domain, all names used in the case study or example have been changed.

    checkbox     If the case study or real world example is presented as an activity, the student is given the opportunity to explore multiple approaches and receive coaching feedback on each.



    checkbox     There is at least 1 activity or interactive exercise per learning objective. All exercises tie back to learning objectives.

    checkbox     Exercises create an active learning experience. The learner views no more than 500 words of presented content before being asked to meaningfully interact in some way.

    checkbox     Every exercise meets at least 1 of the following criteria: Clarifies learner understanding (corrects common errors), deepens learner understanding (extends presentation), demonstrates real-world application (allows learner to apply material to a scenario).

    checkbox     Every exercise provides meaningful feedback. Feedback provides indication as to the correctness of the learner’s response (“Good!” “Careful…” etc.). If correct, feedback briefly reinforces the concept and its importance. If incorrect, or not the best choice, feedback provides an explanation, taking advantage of the teaching moment.



    checkbox     All assessment questions tie back to specific learning objectives.

    checkbox     At least 3 questions per learning objective have been developed. Within these question sets, wording and scenarios differ to the point of not being immediately recognizable to the learner, but the underlying target knowledge or skill being assessed is the same.

    checkbox     An appropriate overall mix of questions has been developed. Assessment questions target the situations learners are likely to encounter 80% of the time in the real world and to which they will need to be able to respond appropriately. In most cases, no more than 25% of the assessment questions target rote responses such as definitions, identification, labeling, listing or categorization. The remaining questions involve real-world situations or scenarios in which the learner is asked to apply what has been learned.

    checkbox     Questions are valid. Content is correct, unambiguous, without logic errors, and adequately assesses mastery of the learning objective it targets.

    checkbox     Questions are well-formed. Question setup does not give away the answer. If answer choices are provided, choices are reasonably plausible and reflect common learner errors and misconceptions.

    checkbox     Question feedback provides meaningful guidance.


    Happy course creation!

    – Laura and the 360 Authoring team.

    Get paid by creating an online course

    Leave a Response