Creating Great Online Courses with 4 Key Characteristics

Last updated on: January 29, 2021

clock icon 2 minute read
clock icon 2 minute read

The development of an exceptional online collegiate learning experience, in which students and faculty are effectively engaged and challenged, is not incidental. It is the result of vision, experience, collaboration, and understanding the student journey. In order to achieve this type of high quality learning environment, four key characteristics must be present:

Create a Distinctive Environment for Students and Faculty

Your institution and program offerings define your school’s unique learning experience. Online programs must reflect the distinctive characteristics of the faculty, student community, and the university for students to feel as though they belong to it. Your online program should capture the essence of what it is like to be a student at your school. This means while physical branding plays a part, it is vital is that your faculty’s personalities, and the rigorous course content your school is known for, becomes palatable online. It is imperative that students feel like the same factors that make your university’s classroom learning successful go into the distance learning experience as well.

Be Outcome-Focused and Set Student Expectations

Online students have the expectation that the level of education and skills they receive in your online program are equivalent to those of your on campus program. Online programs and courses that are designed without first establishing a clear set of learning objectives risk lessening their effectiveness and overall value if students don’t graduate with the skills needed to achieve their goals. Ensure your program has merit by outlining desired learning outcomes for each course, then determine how they can be taught most effectively online.

Engage Students with Interactive Learning Environments and Technology

Student engagement is key to successful online learning. Authentic project work that centers on compelling content, community and peer engagement, instructor presence, synchronous meeting capabilities, advanced video production, and social learning opportunities bridges new concepts to real-world applications. Some field studies transport students virtually to experience real-world situations and others employ gamification to interactively problem solve using course concepts. Universities can utilize the latest learning design tools and technology to engage and interact with your students at an increased level.

Create a Supportive Team of Academic Professionals

The challenges associated with translating and implementing a classroom course to an online environment are typically not in your faculty’s purview. To be effective in the online space, faculty need to be supported by a full team of online program professionals, including instructional designers who work with them hand-in-hand to introduce them to and train them in the best technologies to translate their on ground course content to an online format. By creating an effective support team, one that helps integrate technology and lesson plans, the faculty is free to focus more of their efforts toward academic endevours and deliver a better course to more satisfied students.

To ensure your online learning initiative succeeds, build it to be distinctive and engaging. In addition, it’s critical to support your faculty with learning designers and ensure the initiative is based upon strong learning outcomes.  Visit our Resources pages for more ideas around building an outstanding online course.

  • Let's Talk

    Complete the form below and we will be in contact soon to discuss your needs. If you have a question about textbooks, please email

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

By submitting your information, you agree to the processing of your personal data as per Wiley's privacy policy.