Rose Colored Glasses

Random Thoughts on Instructional Design

Guide to Planning Online Courses – Part 4 of 11

the author

Define the Syllabus


  • Course Title and Number
  • Instructor’s name
  • Contact information for the Instructor – email address, phone number, office hours, and office location

Contact Information Sample

You can always gauge my reality/unreality by giving me a call on the phone if you have any questions or want to talk. You can call (215) 999-9999, ext. 9999. I only answer my office phone Monday through Friday between the hours of 9am and 5pm. If you receive my voice mail please leave your full name, course number and a detailed message. I will return all phone calls within 24 hours on business days and the following work day if a message is left on a holiday or weekend.

You may also email me at ( . Please make sure that your full name and course number are noted in the body of your email. I respond to all emails within 24 hours of receipt. From time-to-time our email server is taken down for backup and upgrades, if for some reason your email is bounced back please call me with your questions.

  • Hours per week, when the class meets, where it meets
  • Credits
  • Course Description — can use the catalog description

Course Description Sample

This course is set up to examine different trends and issues in Instructional Technology each week. You will have readings which explore the topic of the week, web links that provide examples or resources, and in some instances reinforcement exercises. I have listed "Items to think about" for each week which are to serve as guides for learning. I don’t expect that you will send me the answers each week, but you should know the answers. Class weeks will officially begin on Tuesdays. Each week, one of you will serve as the facilitator for discussions, or to guide the class through the activity for the week. In this role, you will be expected to start the discussion on the Monday at the start of the week, and wrap things up on the Sunday. Activities and discussions are a big part of making this work, and in the course section — "How you will be evaluated — you will see that discussion room activity accounts for nearly 40% of your grade. Various activities account for the rest, culminating in a final project that demonstrates mastery. Collaboration on the final project is not only allowed, it is encouraged. Feel free to pull in one of your classmates on the project.

Since discussion in an asynchronous environment takes place over time, I expect that you will be checking in — and participating — several times during the week. This is extremely important if we are going to reach a "critical mass" needed for a discussion to continue to thrive.

Please carefully read through the course documents. If you have any questions, contact me or ask them in the discussion room.

  • Course outcomes and how these outcomes fit with the larger educational program’s outcomes
  • Course Learning Objectives

Course Learning Objectives Sample

  • Demonstrate the ability to integrate the Internet, electronic databases and multimedia instruction, through the development of a technology based lesson.
  • Synthesize the roles that various media play in education through readings, lectures, research and discussions in and outside of the classroom.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the systems approach to problem solving and the analysis and evaluation of technological solutions to instructional problems through class discussions and assigned projects.
  • Explain how to bring together multimedia tools and practice for use in education through the development and assessment of multimedia learning tools, leading class discussions and describing to fellow group members how the concepts studied can be integrated into the classroom.
  • Applicable student population
  • Texts and required readings
  • How students will earn their grades
    • Grading policies
    • What does an A, B, C, D equal in points or percentage earned
    • Suggestions on how to succeed in the course etc.


Learning Environment

Each class meeting will have a variety of learning activities, such as, short lectures, demonstrations, group discussions, cooperative learning exercises, on-line activities and student presentations. Since the course focuses on active participation, you should come to class prepared to discuss the readings and projects assigned.

Course Requirements

Assignments Weight
Class Discussion 15%
Educational Software Reviews 20%
Software Demonstration & Fact Sheet 10%
Multimedia Lesson 55%
Grading Scale
94-100 A
90-93 B+
84-89 B
78-83 C+
< 78 F


  • Course outline, schedule for each class


Revised 8/11/05

Week 1





Introductions & Connections


  • Read chapter 1
  • Start thinking about ideas for the multimedia lesson

Week 2





Let’s Talk About Tools


  • Read chapter 3

Week 3





Planning: How & why


  • Read chapter 4
  • Project Plan due
  • Test dates and due dates for assignments
  • Assignments

Assignment Sample

Educational Software Review
Individually or in small groups you will review an educational software package of choice. A viable software selection will meet the following criteria:

  • Can be used to augment or replace lessons/modules offered in a traditional classroom
  • Meet at least one state teaching standard
  • Provides a sample product or limited use full product that can be accessed online or downloaded for testing and demonstration purposes

As a portion of the review process a formal report should be developed which addresses all of the questions noted in the “Software Review Fact Sheet”. Each question on the assessment sheet should be addresses thoroughly and where appropriate supporting evidence provided. There is no minimum or maximum length of the software assessment, the artifact will be graded on completeness and depth of thought. The document is due the session you will be making your presentation, and should be submitted in electronic form.

A copy of the “Software Review Fact Sheet” can be found under the Assignment icon on the course site.

Reviews will take place weeks 4, 6, 10, and 13.

  • Policies on lateness, attendance, etc. – make a firm stand on what you define as absenteeism and the accountability you will put on your students to adhere to that policy. If you are conducting your course as a successive progression from one unit of study to the next and you expect whole class participation, then you need to determine how you will deal with student family emergencies or work situations. Also determine your policies on technology emergencies: student computers will crash; Internet connections will fail.
    • Are there alternative methods for the student to notify you of these kinds of technical emergences?
    • Do you expect work to be turned in on a timely basis, no matter what the technological issues?
  • Plagiarism and cheating policies

USP Plagiarism Policy

Academic integrity is at the center of the educational experience at USP. Students are therefore expected to uphold the highest standards of academic integrity and not engage in nor tolerate academic dishonesty.

Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, fabrication, cheating or plagiarism.  Any violation of academic integrity will be investigated and, where warranted, the student will receive appropriate sanctions through the University’s Student Conduct Process. Please familiarize yourself with the current USP Student Handbook. In particular, adherence to the Student Conduct Policy and Academic Integrity Policy will help to ensure that your learning and living experiences are founded on integrity.

  • Individualization, ADA accommodations

USP ADA Policy

Student Disability Support Services (SDSS) USP supports the educational endeavors of all students, including students with disabilities.  The American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a disability as a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. If you believe you have a disability that may impact your ability to fulfill your course or degree requirements, and you would like more information on applying for an accommodation, please contact the Assistant Dean of Students who serves as the SDSS Coordinator at 215-596-8950.

  • Some communication of your enthusiasm for the course, for the content
  • Any possibilities for students to individualize the course to meet their needs
  • Other considerations
    • You will need to consider some new policies and procedures and possibly some changes to old ones because of the unique challenges and problems with online environments.
    • How will you deal with a student who simply does not “show up” for class (post threads, or reply to emails for a week or two or three) and then returns with all of his assignments completed for the weeks missed?
    • How will you deal with students who experience technical problems beyond their control, such as computers crashing, servers malfunctioning, “lost” pagers?
    • How do you deal with the student who never posts work on time, who never gets in touch with his/her group in time for collaborative work? And who does not respond to any of your inquiries?
    • What will you do about the disgruntled student who sends you, particular students, or your entire class offensive email? Or the student who unwittingly sends objectionable email because he or she does not have the necessary skills to communicate well through text writing?
  • Provide information on what the students can expect from you. You should decide ahead of time what responsibility you will take in the course and provide it to your students in detail. For example,
    • How often will you respond to email? On what days? At what times?
    • Will you respond to every threaded discussion response by every student?
    • Are you the "IT" person for the course, or are there alternative help resources for the students?
    • Will you have online office hours? If so, how long will you office hours last and what days and times will they be held?

    Resources & Tools

    • Syllabus tutorial – developed by Center for Teaching and Learning Services at the University of Minnesota. "One of the true strengths of this tutorial is the number and high quality of the examples we showcase."

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    This entry was posted on March 21, 2006 by in Distance Education.

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