E-Learning for Educators Course Design Standards

and Technical Specifications

Adapted from the EDC/EdTech Leaders Online Workshop Design Criteria




1.      Each course includes six sessions which flow in a logical sequence and are designed to guide participants to meet the instructional goals of the course. Each of the six sessions includes an overview, reading, activity, discussion prompt (which are all described below) and additional material as needed. The content of the six sessions in aggregate provides approximately 24-30 contact or credit hours.

2.      Each course will include a standard ETLO orientation session, in addition to the core six sessions, which focus on instructional content.

3.      Each course includes a course overview, course goals, course requirements/assessment strategy and a final course product and each are described below.

4.      Each course includes a collection of Resources to support learning goals.

5.      Each course includes a Staff Information page with biographic information about the content development team.

6.      Each course includes pre and post Evaluation Surveys which contain standard ETLO demographic and other questions, as well as at least 4 pre and post content and pedagogical questions aligned to specific course content.



1.      The course overview is described in 1 – 3 paragraphs and addresses

·        audience

·        scope of course content

·        key activities, resources, websites, and readings that frame the course

·        desired outcome or products, including final product or other activities that are central to the course content and requirements

2.      Course goals/objectives are described in approximately 3 – 8 bullet points which

·        establish what participants will know or be able to do at the end of the course

·        clearly state the purpose and intent of the course

·        include both content and pedagogical objectives 

·        are aligned with national standards for the content area and grade level(s)

·        address important and worthwhile concepts or skills 

·        are realistic and achievable

3.  Course requirements and assessment strategy are consistent with course goals, representative of the scope of the course, are clearly stated and address

·        timeframe for participation (4-5 hours/session)

·        online discussion expectations (2-3 substantive postings/session)

·        face-to-face and/or synchronous chat expectations

·        activity expectations

·        survey and/or exam expectations

·        final product requirements

·        expectations for any interim products in addition to the final product




1.      Each session provides a well-designed unit of content that has internal consistency (from session to session) among design elements.

2.      Each session includes: goals, readings, activities and a focused discussion prompt.

3.      Session goals briefly describe the content of the session including learning goals, objectives and an overview of session activities.

4.      Readings provide opportunities for participants to gain additional knowledge related to meeting course and session goals.

·        Each session includes 1-2 readings. The total page length for a session is approximately 10 – 20 pages.

·        Readings are introduced with commentary that guides participants' understanding

·        Whenever possible, readings are authored by development team and prepared in a consistent and attractive format

·        If readings are web-based materials, they:

                                                                           i.      include titles, sources and URLs

                                                                         ii.      comply with copyright regulations, laws and guidelines

                                                                        iii.      are produced by reliable, reputable sources

                                                                       iv.      are free from advertisements or other distracting content

·        If readings are authored by others and used with permission, permission to use is granted in perpetuity and/or an unlimited license is available.

·        Writing style is popular and accessible to a broad range of readers.

5.      Session activities and multimedia resources provide opportunities for participants to gain new learning and understanding of important concepts related to course or session goals through practicing new skills, implementing new concepts in the classroom, exploring interactive or multimedia materials, viewing video and/or completing other types of online or off-line investigations.  Each session contains one or two activities depending on the time required to complete each one. Session activities:

·        are introduced with clear directions

·        match course participation and time expectations

·        engage participants in interactive and/or hands-on learning that is closely aligned with course learning objectives

·        provide opportunities for application, analysis, synthesis and/or evaluation

·        include a variety of formats as appropriate to session goals including:

                                                                           i.      Video

                                                                         ii.      Applets

                                                                        iii.      Software explorations

                                                                       iv.      Web-based explorations

                                                                         v.      Offline activities and/or investigations with students, teachers, administrators or other offline resources. If the activity requires working with students, alternative instructions are provided for those participants taking the course in the summer or who are not otherwise classroom based.

·        are challenging and worthwhile

·        are presented in formats that are accessible to all learners

·        relate to the session’s goals and readings and provide insights into student thought where appropriate

·        build toward a final course product

·        provide opportunities to apply course lessons in the development of their own curriculum plans or classroom teaching strategies

·        include opportunities for ongoing assessment where appropriate

6.      Discussion prompts are generally limited to one provocative question per session enabling participants to have a common point of reference for meaningful dialogue. Discussion questions:

·        relate to course and session goals

·        are open-ended and provide opportunities for divergent thinking

·        prompt reflection about participants’ own learning as well as their students’ where appropriate

·        offer opportunities to reflect on session readings, resources and/or activities and their relationship to participants’ daily work

·        offer opportunities for community-building and for feedback from the facilitator and other participants

·        include a variety of question formats such as case studies, scenarios, and debate


Each course includes a culminating product. For teacher participants, it may typically be a lesson plan, an online or offline activity or resource list for immediate classroom use. For administrators, it may be a school or district based project for immediate use in day to day work. The product may be developed incrementally during the core course sessions or may be the focus activity of one or several sessions. Where possible, a final product template is included as a downloadable document.


Each course includes a collection of the resources referenced in each session with bibliographic information, URLs, and the session reference as well as additional resources that may not be referenced in the core course sessions.


Design elements such as color, graphics or icons

·        are appropriately used to guide the reader through the content and/or to highlight key course learning goals

·        are professional in appearance

·         include alt-text descriptions

·        comply with copyright regulations, laws and guidelines if they are not original designs


7)      VIDEO
Video is used as appropriate and necessary to meet course learning goals and may include classroom lessons which highlight teaching strategies and/or student misconceptions etc; interviews with teachers, administrators or other experts; or other video content which can effectively enhance learning goals. Video is short (approximately 5 minutes or less) and accessible over a variety of bandwidths. Content of video and audio is available in an alternate format, including transcripts. When original videos are planned, the developer provides guidance for the video team, including a short description of the expected end product with a list of goals for the piece, identification of the specific teaching strategy(ies) employed by the teacher and the kinds of student interactions to identify. 


8)      APPLETS
Applets are used to highlight and enhance important course or session learning goals through the use of animation, interactives, etc. Applets are designed for teacher exploration and for use with students in the classroom. Applets are designed using Flash, Java or other professional-level applet development tools. An alternate description of the activity is provided.



9)      SOFTWARE
Use of commercial software within the course is discouraged except for generic introduction of a genre of appropriate technology for the content area particularly if a free download of an example is available from a well-known publisher or free source.


Online content including readings, resources or other web-based materials used in the course

·           includes titles, sources and URLs

·           complies with copyright regulations, laws and guidelines

·           is produced by reliable, reputable sources

·           is free from advertisements or other distracting content

·           is presented in formats that are accessible to users


Each course includes a pre and post course survey that includes demographic and other questions, and at least 4 pre and post content and pedagogical questions that specifically address course content. These surveys are for evaluation purposes and are separate from the assessment strategy that is within the course content.


Courses are aligned to national content and technology standards with links to these standards available. 



·        Course Syllabus:  Each course includes a syllabus outlining workshop objectives, requirements, and content that can be used to obtain local graduate credit.

·        Facilitator Notes may be provided as a document to provide additional guidance for facilitators



·        Navigation Structure includes:

o       Assignments page with links to orientation session and 6 content sessions

o       Goals and Overview

o       Resources

o       Staff information

o       Discussion

o       Additional communication tools

o       Assessments and/or Surveys

o       Local Materials area for local customization, standards, etc

·        Each workshop will have an attractive banner for the workshop home page which includes the workshop title, an appropriate graphic and alt-text describing the banner.

·        Content will be developed as html/asp pages

·        Content will be importable into a variety of LMSs which meet accepted technical guidelines for digital content.



·        Each workshop will include specific content and pedagogical objectives aligned to the national grade level and subject area standards. Alignment to state standards will also be addressed. Where appropriate, the workshop will specifically address uses of technology to support content and pedagogical objectives.

·        Each workshop is designed for a facilitated, learning community approach


16) WRITING STYLE is clear and “teacher-friendly”. Writing styles such as for “scholarly” journal articles are discouraged.


17) ACCESSIBILITY specifications are included throughout this document with the general goal of making the content accessible to as wide an audience as possible.