Online and Hybrid Course Development Process

The EDLI online/hybrid course development process relies on multiple people working as a team to ensure the creation of an authentic, engaging, high quality online or hybrid learning experience. The team is led by a subject matter expert to provide expertise on the content of the course, and an instructional designer to provide expertise on quality course design and development. Additional team members, such as a multimedia specialist or a specialist librarian, will be brought in as needed. 

This process will have three main phases: Design, Develop, and Review. During the Design phase the subject matter expert and instructional designer will work together to create an outline of the course including both course level and unit level objectives as well as grade items. During the Develop phase the subject matter expert and instructional designer, with the help of a multimedia specialist and the libraries when needed, will really flesh out the course content, keeping in mind accessibility and usability throughout. 

Once the course design and development is completed to everyone’s satisfaction it will be reviewed using the Quality Matters Higher Ed Course Design Rubric. Then during its first semester of deployment it will be periodically reviewed to ensure everything is working as it should, making adjustments as needed. When the first run is complete the subject matter expert, instructional designer, instructors, and department head will get together to determine an appropriate timetable for periodic reviews.

Design, Develop, Review

Design Team: 

  • Subject Matter Expert (SME) – Faculty that provide expertise in the content to be taught
  • Instructional Designer (ID) – Specially trained and provides expertise in course design
  • Multimedia Specialist (MS) – 
  • Libraries (L) 
  • Instructors (I) – Anyone teaching the course once design and development is complete. Could be adjunct faculty, section instructors, TAs, not necessarily the SME
  • Department Head (DH)


  1. Initial Meeting: setting up 12 week timeline for Design & Develop, discuss roles, the process, the audience, goals, current resources, technologies and content – SME, ID
  2. Outline course design / alignment / interactions – SME, ID
    1. Course Description and Course Level Objectives – SME
      1. Course Description: What will the course cover (beginning, middle, end)? How will you teach it?  What will your students be doing?
      2. Course Level Objectives: 3 to 6 broad (but measurable) statements of what your students should be able to do upon completion of the course as a whole.
      3. Review – ID
    2. Weekly Topics and Unit Level Objectives – SME
      1. Weekly Topics: What is the theme of this week’s lessons / objectives?
      2. Unit Level Objectives: 3 to 6 specific statements of what your students should be able to do upon completion of the weekly/module/unit lessons. These will relate back to your Course Level Objectives and measured using your activities and assessments.
      3. Review – ID
    3. Activities & Assessments draft – SME, ID
      1. How will you determine the students final grade?
      2. Will assessments be sequenced, varied, and suited to the level of the course?
      3. Plan for instruction
      4. Plan for interactions


  1. Develop / select instructional materials – SME, ID, MS, L
    1. Course template uploaded to course – ID
    2. What are the current resources and content? SME
    3. What can be reused in this course? SME, L
    4. What needs to be updated or created? SME, MS, L
    5. Is there a variety of instructional materials? ID
    6. Are the materials related to the achievement of the learning objectives?
    7. First lesson – created by SME & MS, reviewed and updated by ID and SME
    8. Remaining lessons – created by SME & MS, reviewed and updated by ID and SME
  2. Develop learning activities and assessments – SME, ID
    1. Are all three interactions taking place ensuring active learning? ID
    2. Are the unit level learning objectives being met / measured? SME, ID
    3. Specific and descriptive criteria for grading is provided. SME, ID
    4. Relationship between activities and materials is clear. ID
    5. First assessment – created by SME, reviewed and updated by ID and SME
    6. Remaining assessment – created by SME, reviewed and updated by ID and SME
  3. Create syllabus (using template), introductions (course, instructor, students), and update getting started module – SME, ID

Steps 3 & 4 will take place simultaneously and likely involve a lot of back and forth between SME and the other members of the design team. Main content will be created / provided by the SME with the ID providing templates and assistance using those resources as needed. Student workers can be brought in to help get content into templates as well if needed.


  1. Complete QM review before the course runs – ID
  2. Review how the course is doing throughout it’s first run – SME, ID, I
    1. What is working / worked? What isn’t / didn’t?
  3. Determine regular review period – SME, ID, I, DH
    1. Do we need to do another semester (or two) of continual reviews throughout the run? To continue refining the content. 
    2. How much/often does the content change and need updating?
    3. What would be an appropriate amount of time between reviews? 1 year? 2? 3?

Kept in mind and checked throughout the development process:

  • Accessibility
  • Readability
  • Ease of use

Sarah Wellman

Sarah is a Learning Design Specialist working with both the Eli Broad College of Business and the College of Arts & Letters. She has been working in higher education with a focus in online learning since 2010, holding positions previously at Macomb Community College and Bay Mills Community College where she currently teaches various computer, art history and native studies courses. Sarah brings a breadth of learning design experience to the EDLI team and specializes in course quality assurance, and development.