Essentials of Online Course Design: A Standards-Based Guide, 2nd Edition (Paperback) book cover

Essentials of Online Course Design

A Standards-Based Guide, 2nd Edition

By Marjorie Vai, Kristen Sosulski


232 pages | 105 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2015-10-23
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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:


"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

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



About the Authors

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.

About the Series

Essentials of Online Learning

Essentials of Online Learning series

This highly practical, easily-applied series of professional guides provides:

  • Standards: a clearly outlined set of standards are at the core of each individual book
  • Step-by-step learning: the development process progressively builds upon itself as you move through each book, making even complex concepts easy to understand regardless of your technological background or content-area expertise
  • Emphasis on design: the series emphasizes strong visual, pedagogical, and organizational design
  • Numerous examples: screenshots, video clips, and other "real-world" examples are utilized heavily throughout the books and companion websites
  • Voices of practitioners: the experiences of professionals working "in the field" are provided in their own words
  • Companion websites: each book in the series will have its own companion website which will link to the continuously updated series hub site

Online education still evokes a good deal of frustration, negativity, and wariness in teachers and learners.  However, the online learning experience can be at least as satisfying and engaging as the face-to-face learning experience if designed properly. Essentials of Online Learning provides readers with the knowledge and skills necessary to be a great online teacher.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
EDUCATION / Computers & Technology
EDUCATION / Distance Education & Learning