online course design standards

Last Updated on August 8, 2022 by Team College Learners

The  Online Education Initiative (OEI) Course Design Rubric (Rubric)contains the online course design standards developed and adopted by this initiative. The Rubric is intended to establish standards relating to course design, interaction and collaboration, assessment, learner support, and accessibility in order to ensure the provision of a high quality learning environment that promotes student success and conforms to existing regulations.

In the development of these standards, the OEI team was fortunate to have access to significant work already undertaken in this area by @ONE, the CCC Distance Education Coordinator’s group, the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC), and the CCC Chancellor’s office (CCCCO) along with a variety of other local college and nationally established standards.

Use of the Rubric has already begun at the OEI pilot colleges and forms the basis for the course reviews for courses offered within the pilot. Numerous colleges have already reported local adoption of the OEI Course Design Rubric. In addition, in November of 2015, the Academic Senate for the California Community Colleges adopted a resolution urging local senates to establish course design standards for their colleges (Resolution 9.01 F15).  

The OEI, in partnership with @ONE, is offering workshops that assist faculty and staff from across the colleges in aligning online courses to the course design standards. Learn how to participate by visiting the @ONE website

The following rubric and standards are available for use by all under Creative Commons licensing. We welcome your feedback.Course Design RubricApplying the OEI
Course Design Rubric
@ONE Standards for
Quality Online Teaching

2nd Edition

Essentials of Online Course Design
A Standards-Based Guide

Kristen Sosulski

Copyright Year 2016Paperback

ISBN 9781138780163Published November 25, 2015 by Routledge252 Pages 105 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

In spite of the proliferation of online learning, creating online courses can still evoke a good deal of frustration, negativity, and wariness in those who need to create them. The second edition of Essentials of Online Course Design takes a fresh, thoughtfully designed, step-by-step approach to online course development. At its core is a set of standards that are based on best practices in the field of online learning and teaching. Pedagogical, organizational, and visual design principles are presented and modeled throughout the book, and users will quickly learn from the guide’s hands-on approach. The course design process begins with the elements of a classroom syllabus which, after a series of guided steps, easily evolve into an online course outline.

The guide’s key features include:

  • a practical approach informed by theory
  • clean interior design that offers straightforward guidance from page one
  • clear and jargon-free language
  • examples, screenshots, and illustrations to clarify and support the text
  • a checklist of online course design standards that readers can use to self-evaluate.
  • a Companion Website with examples, adaptable templates, interactive learning features, and online resources:

Essentials of Online Course Design serves as a best practice model for designing online courses. After reading this book, readers will find that preparing for online teaching is a satisfying and engaging experience. The core issue is simply good design: pedagogical, organizational, and visual.

For more of Marjorie Vai in her own words, listen to this 2011 interview from the On Teaching Online podcast:

Table of Contents

Foreword, from the first edition
Preface, from the first edition

Introduction to this Guide
Chapter 1: Orientation to Online Teaching and Learning
Chapter 2: Elements of an Online Course: A Tour
Chapter 3: Language and Writing Style
Chapter 4: Visual Design Basics
Chapter 5: Engaging the Online Learner
Chapter 6: Activities and Tools: Working Collaboratively and Independently
Chapter 7: Resources that Engage
Chapter 8: Assessment and Feedback
Chapter 9: Building the Course Foundation: Outcomes, Syllabus, and Course Outline
Chapter 10: Structuring the Course Content: The Online Presentation
Appendix A: Writing Learning Outcomes
Appendix B: Using the Standards Checklist



Marjorie Vai has been directly involved with online education and training for 25 years. Most recently she designed and developed the online graduate program in teaching English at The New School, USA.

Kristen Sosulski is Director of the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning and Clinical Associate Professor of Information Systems at New York University, Stern School of Business, USA.


Kristen Sosulski

Clinical Associate Professor of Information, Operations & Management Sciences, Leonard N. Stern School of Business at New York University
New York, New York, USA

Learn more about Kristen Sosulski »


“If I had to choose a single book to share with a faculty member about how to design and teach an online or blended course, or with an instructional designer partnering with that faculty member, that book would be Essentials of Online Course Design: A Standards-Based Guide, Second Edition. In this concise, clear, and well-written volume, Marjorie Vai and Kristen Sosulski provide a methodology for online and blended course design that is informed by learning theory and seasoned by practical experience. This is the standard reference guide that those of us involved in online and blended learning will be keeping close at hand.”

Joshua Kim, Ph.D., Director of Digital Learning Initiatives, Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning (DCAL), Dartmouth College, USA, and Blogger for Inside Higher Ed – Technology and Learning

Support Material

Companion Website

Please visit our companion website for additional support materials.