from ‘Living with Kennedy’s Disease’ web site

I developed these nine steps in response to requests about how to ensure quality when starting an online course or program. Now there are lots of excellent e-learning quality assurance standards, organizations and research available online, and I’m not going to duplicate these. Instead, I’m going to suggest a series of practical steps towards implementing such standards.

I’m assuming that the previous analysis of why an online approach is required has already been done.

Here in brief are the nine steps (outlined incidentally in my recent presentation to the University of Sherbrooke). I will do one short post a day on each of these nine steps:

Nine steps to quality online learning:

  1. Step 1: Decide how you want to teach online
  2. Step 2: Decide on what kind of online course
  3. Step 3: Work in a Team
  4. Step 4: Build on existing resources
  5. Step 5: Master the technology
  6. Step 6: Set appropriate learning goals
  7. Step 7: Design course structure and learning activities
  8. Step 8: Communicate, communicate, communicate
  9. Step 9: Evaluate and innovate

One last point. The emphasis in these posts is on doing online teaching for the first time, or what I would call e-learning 1.0. For more advanced course design, for more experienced online instructors, see Designing online learning for the 21st Century. However, the nine steps may be equally useful for improving existing courses or programs if good design principles were not used first time around.



  1. Hi Tony. It might be that in “I’m assuming that the previous analysis of why an online approach is required has already been done.” you implicitly cover the point I am going to make. However, I consider that developing the business model is a step worthy of inclusion. By this I mean establishing the market segment, demand for your course, the value proposition to potential students, etc. (both sides of the costs and revenue balance sheet).

    Many ‘worth’ courses fail to be sustained because they don’t have a viable business model.

    • Excellent point, Stephen. I do completely agree that a market analysis should always be done either at an institutional level, if the organization is considering making a major move to online learning as a strategc goal, and at a program level, to make sure hatthre is a market for such a program and that it’s not already an over-supplied market (online MBAs?).

      However, I had tried to cover this in a set of four earlier posts (see Why you need an e-learning pan)

      Unfortunately, though, too often it is left to individual instructors to take the initiative, and this set of posts are directed at those who have already decided to go online.

    • As a kindergarten teacher, I do not run fully online courses, but this year I have decided to create an eportfolio with each child. One of my purposes in doing so is to communicate with parents in a way that gives them more dynamic feedback, rather than a static report card.

      As we move towards more personalized learning, and a focus on group social dynamics in early primary, I love Sugata Mitra’s suggestion that it is not an optimal learning experience to have one child placed in front of one computer. He reports that grouping children with one computer promotes discussion among students that is mutually supportive. To this end, I am hoping to develop a small online course for early primary french immersion students as the technologically facilitated portion of a blended classroom. As a management technique this serves the double purpose of providing me with time to spend with other small groups of students while remaining assured that another small group remains engaged. Do you know of any other online courses of this type that I could refer to as a starting point?

      • Hi, Jocelyn

        Sorry for the delay in replying. I have been somewhat overwhelmed by comments from VIU students.

        First, as I’ve remarked in other responses to VIU students, I’m not qualified really to comment on k-12 uses of technology.

        However, I think it’s great that you have got students to do an e-portfolio as a way to communicate better with parents. In fact, my wife did her Ph.D. thesis at UBC recently on parent-school communication, and found that most parents did not understand BC report cards and were desperate for better communication with teachers. Each child developing an e-portfolio of their work will be a huge step forward in communicating what you and the child is doing. I’ll be very interested to hear how this works with the parents.

        Good luck with your project

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