Pre-Design is the first step in building an online course, and one that will guide the design and development process. This phase entails gathering all of the necessary information to ensure that the course will meet the needs of the learners and engage them throughout the learning journey. Articulating clear learning goals for the course is one of the most important components of this phase because it sets the tone for the content and learning materials you will produce, as well as the assessments you will design.

Why is this different online?

During the pre-design phase of online course development, you will make careful considerations about who your learners are and how to best introduce and engage them with course material. While this process also occurs in the pre-design of face-to-face courses, you can make more spontaneous adjustments and redirects during learning activities that take place in a physical space. Because facilitation methods are different online, with many of the learning activities being asynchronous, it is important to anticipate and integrate opportunities for check-ins and redirects into your online curriculum.

What information should be collected up front?

Asking the right questions and then seeking answers is a recommended place to begin.

Who are my learners?

… you need to make sure you can produce content for their level and the correct voice.

What do they currently know?

…so you can avoid repetition and focus on growing what they have learned.

What do they need to know before starting the course?

…you can provide prerequisite materials to learners and they can plan accordingly before the course begins.

Who are the subject matter experts?

…you should refer learners to other field experts to encourage further exploration.

Do you have existing material that can be used in the course?

…curating content you already have means not having to start everything from scratch.

What other content is available that supports meeting learning outcomes?

…being able to identify other resources that support your key topics adds greater depth to the course.

What content must be revised for an online format or created from scratch?

…taking inventory of the varying stages of content will inform the design phase and give you a better sense of how much work it will require to prepare the content for online use.

After pinpointing answers to the above, you will be ready to ask yourself:

  • Is my course ready?
  • Am I ready?
  • How much time is needed to teach the content?