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Should Faculty Build Their Own Online Courses

Should Faculty Build Their Own Online Courses and How Can They Best Be Supported?


This is a republished insendi article.


Many higher education institutions are now facing a situation where the need to produce online courses at scale is putting pressure on conventional course design methodologies. Universities are also facing increased pressure to seek out additional revenue streams and may turn to online courses as a way of achieving this. As learning design resources are limited while the desire to have robust, high-quality courses available throughout this continued period of disruption remains, many are left wondering: should faculty be encouraged to build their own online courses?


Should Faculty Build Their Own Online Courses - online course activity ideas are written on small pieces of paper and clipped on a wall in rows


There are some advantages to this approach. Faculty who have built courses report a greater feeling of ownership and more connection to the design process. They are also likely to experiment and innovate more with their teaching approach. But drawbacks are also likely to persist. Learning designers often bring fresh design ideas and have deeper knowledge of different technologies and design solutions, so reducing their support could have a detrimental impact on the technological or pedagogical ambitions of online programs. One faculty member at BI Norwegian Business School recently noted: ‘It is easy to get frustrated when the navigation is complex. It is essential that any toolbox should be categorised with explanations, guidance, and tips.’ 

The key challenges are clear. Faculty time is precious and designing online courses requires consideration and careful planning. New technologies mean steep learning curves and it can be hard to achieve consistency across courses. 

Here is some useful guidance for supporting projects where faculty are responsible for building courses independently:


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Determine program design boundaries in advance.


  • Set and schedule the number of live classes or synchronous sessions.
  • Agree the overarching structure and segmentation of sessions or units of learning. 
  • Use pre-built templates to break up the learning, provide clear organisation and speed up the building process.
  • Outline broadly consistent assessment approaches.


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Provide high-impact training and support.


  • Practice what you preach and have plenty of examples of best practices to hand for faculty to gain inspiration.
  • Blend online training with some F2F or synchronous sessions. Train select groups at a time rather than using all-faculty invites to encourage a sense of community. 
  • Provide simplified design outlines for faculty to populate with their content. 
  • Have on-demand tools and resources available that faculty can dip into as they are designing and building. 
  • Have bookable 1:1 slots with learning designers to work through challenging design issues.


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Choose technologies which are easy for faculty to author, edit, and test.


  • Ensure faculty can use and personalise the learning they create (add interactions, edit text, plan media work). 
  • Limit the number of integrations and third-party tools, if possible.
  • Encourage faculty to note delivery actions as they go, including adding personalised feedback or responding to learner contributions.


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Maintain testing and quality assurance processes.


  • All online courses need fresh eyes. Once courses have been designed and preliminarily built, encourage dialogue and feedback between faculty and learning designers.
  • Provide a generic style guide and complete an editorial pass to improve accuracy and consistency.
  • Test the course with mock student accounts to ensure the built course is robust. 


As with all development approaches, there are payoffs and compromises. Supporting faculty as they expand their knowledge of online learning is critical, and finding ways to channel that new knowledge back into teaching teams will help foster inclusive and collaborative working practices.


We give SMEs the helping hand they need to create effective, engaging online courses.