Course Design Resources


Below is a curated list of resources that I have used throughout my course design career. I included my favorite models of instructional design as well as resources covering key concepts for a successful design process. Also included are my helpful design tips.

All concepts are applicable for designing online and in-person courses for: higher education, K–12 education, and employee onboarding, development and skills training.

Instructional Design Models

There are many models of instructional design and I’ve written about numerous strategies and models in my blog posts. Below are a few favorites with relevant links.

  • I began my instructional design career using the Dick and Carey model. It is highly-regarded by curriculum professionals for its comprehensiveness and consistently leads to excellent outcomes. It is appropriate for higher education undergraduate courses, skills training, and soft skill development in any setting. The downsides are that it can be time-consuming and inflexible. You can learn more here, at Penn State’s website. The website also features an Instructional Design Handbook by Pressbooks.
  • I also like the Kemp Design Model, which is more flexible, and still provides structured learning outcomes. It is a solid model for higher education, K–12 learning, and skills training.
  • The site,, is a good website that includes almost all instructional design models with concise overviews and links to more resources.

Design Tip: Select one model at the beginning of the design process and follow through with each phase of the model sequentially. Combining models can create design chaos and extend the design timeline. Use a tool to plan and manage your projects, e.g. Google doc spreadsheet, Slack, etc. 

Design Strategies to Engage Learners

I am a big fan of the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework. CoI principles increase student engagement that leads to, in my experience, better learning outcomes. The framework considers students’ needs for: (i) social interaction; (ii) cognitive challenge and rigor; and (iii) teacher interaction and feedback. The three work in tandem to create an effective educational experience. You can learn more about the framework at the Community of Inquiry website

Design tip: Incorporate the CoI principles during the development phase, when creating applications (activities, assignments etc.) for learners to apply the concepts, knowledge or skills being taught. 

Tools to Evaluate Course Design

I always recommend evaluating the effectiveness of course design during as well as after the design process. I have used Chico State’s rubric extensively—always with excellent results. It incorporates principles from Quality Matters (QM): guidelines for creating quality online courses.

The QM framework was developed by a group of educators wanting to create quality student-focused learning. Click here to learn more about Quality Matters’ process. 

Chico State’s rubric has a user-friendly format with six categories including course development, student interaction opportunities, learner resources and more. Click here to download Chico State’s PDF rubric.

Design tips: It is most helpful to consult the rubric at the beginning of the course development process as well as at the conclusion. And, check out my post ‘How ‘Good’ is Your Online Course? Five Steps to Assess Course Quality’.

More Resources

  • Big Dog & Little Dog’s Performance Juxtaposition site, is a robust site (one of my favorites) hosted by Don Clark, an experienced educator and performance consultant. It includes information as well as links that are specific to instructional design, learning, performance, teaching and more.
  • Penn State, a pioneer in online learning, hosts this site by College of Earth and Mineral Sciences that features a hefty list of links to sites, free books and resources for instructional design, online teaching, evaluating and more.

4 thoughts on “Course Design Resources

  1. Pingback: Course design models blended learning – 21st century skills

  2. Pingback: PBL for dummies – Thinking about online collaboration and learning

  3. Luis Francisco Contreras

    What a great cornucopia of resources you have here. I serendipitously happened to stumble upon your blog. I am encouraged that there are more people passionate about online learning and course design. I am at the start of a new project where I am designing a personal, self-directed educational experience to replace and improve what I would have gotten had I gone to university, so the resources found on your blog will surely prove of extreme value to me.

    Especially as far as instructional design goes, to say that I am just a neophyte would be generous, I am really just learning as I go. Apart from the resources listed here, what other resources do you recommend for self-directed online learning (especially at the university level)???

    If you are interested in seeing an overview of my Open Source Learning Project, I will leave you a link to my blog. In many aspects I believe we are on the same path and there is likely an opportunity to network and share resources with each other! Greetings from Mexico!!



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