Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

A Checklist for Designing Effective Online/Hybrid Courses

As you work on developing your remote or hybrid course, either by translating from a traditional course or for iterative re-design, consider the items on the checklist below. Each item draws on learning science research and/or best practices.

Here's how to use the checklist:

  1. With your syllabus and/or course design materials in hand, review each item in the checklist and ask yourself how well your course matches the item. Indicate with a Y/N whether or not it meets the criteria, and make any notes on how you might want to refine.
  2. When finished, identify 1 or 2 target areas for refinement.
  3. Be sure to follow the links related to your targets and explore these concrete strategies to adopt/adapt for your context.

  4. Email for support, if you would like to consult about one or more aspects of your design implementation.



Learning objectives

(See “Articulate your learning objectives”)

The essential learning objectives can be achieved in a remote or hybrid learning context (e.g., considering physical equipment, skills, and interactions that may be required). 

Learning objectives are measurable, i.e., they describe what students should be able to do/demonstrate. Assessments can be designed to gauge students’ degree of mastery of the learning objectives. 

Learning objectives are communicated explicitly and in appropriate language for students (remember your students don’t have your expert knowledge). 

Summative Assessments

(See “Formative vs. Summative” and What do well-aligned assessments look like?”)

Summative assessments reveal whether students have achieved the learning objectives and, where possible, involve real- world tasks that involve transfer of learning.

Students receive sufficient practice and feedback to perform the assessment task. 

The grading scheme is communicated to students up front (e.g., sharing rubrics for projects and essays) and is appropriate for the assessment (e.g., grading rigor, # of points) 

Summative assessments are designed so they can be completed/administered online in a way that considers academic integrity and students in different time zones.

Formative Assessments (assignments for practice & feedback)

(See “Formative vs. Summative”)

Low stakes formative assessments are spaced throughout the instruction, providing multiple opportunities for students to practice and get feedback throughout the course.

I have considered different assignment types (e.g., concept maps, write a few sentences on the main point of lecture). Selected types are feasible for remote and hybrid instruction, ideally involve real-world tasks, and will reveal students’ progress (to me and to them).

I incorporated grading/feedback strategies (e.g., peer review, automated feedback, class-level feedback on common issues) that decrease load on the instructional team. 

Targeted feedback for each assessment task is provided in a timely way so that students can use the feedback on subsequent assignments. 

Instructional Activities and Materials

NOTE: Consider these 4 checklist items for both synchronous and asynchronous activities.

General strategies for designing asynchronous learning

Face-to-face/synchronous classroom instruction incorporates active learning (where students work with the material and each other rather than just passively receive information).

Asynchronous instruction incorporates active learning strategies (e.g., if video is used, it is accompanied by a related learning activity, such as students watching a short video and then responding to a discussion prompt). 

I regularly provide explicit information to students regarding where they are in the course (e.g., a big picture of the course) and what they need to do next (e.g., a daily agenda). 

Complexity is managed through breaking each lesson into manageable parts.

Inclusivity and humanizing the remote learning experience

Links to strategies:
Inclusive teaching strategies (website)

I have strategies for checking in with students – ways they can provide input and express (directly, anonymously) how they are doing.

I have established norms for the fully remote or hybrid teaching and learning context that are inclusive of all students (e.g., ground rules and expectations for synchronous sessions).

I have strategies and policies for being flexible and equitable (e.g., flexible start times on exams, asynchronous activities for students in different time zones).

I have made appropriate accommodations for students who have letters of accommodation from the Office of Disability Resources. My online course content is digitally accessible.

Technology toolkit

I used the pre-identified toolkit (Canvas, Zoom, Canvas plugins, e.g., Gradescope, Piazza).

Canvas is the portal to my course. 

I’ve done a cost-benefit analysis to consider that students may be overwhelmed with using too many tools; and that the tool(s) being used are a good fit to the instructional activities.