DLINQ has developed the Middlebury Online Course Design rubric to articulate the core components of good online course design, as well as specific elements to attend to while creating your online course. Here you can explore each of the 6 different components – Structure and Organization, Design and Layout, Content and Activities, Interaction and Collaboration, Assessment and Feedback, and Tools and Tech. We provide an overview of the component, a checklist of important design elements to incorporate into your online course, and samples and/or resources that illustrate and provide additional information for each element.

Core Components of Good Online Course Design

Create a welcoming and well-organized course with clearly defined learning objectives aligned to activities and assessments. Whether you organize your course by module, week, topic, theme, or some other method, it’s important to set a consistent and clear structure to your online materials so that students know where to find what, what to expect on a weekly basis, and what is expected from them when.

Structure & Organization Checklist

  • Include Welcome and Getting Started content.
  • Provide an orientation or overview for the course overall, as well as in each module, including how to navigate course structure and essential items like the gradebook and what tasks are due.
  • Include a Course Information area that summarizes and explains critical elements of the syllabus for learners in a clear and navigable way. States whether the course is fully online, blended, or web- enhanced. Provides contact information for instructor, department, and program. SAMPLE
  • Provide a printable syllabus (PDF).
  • Include links to relevant campus policies on plagiarism, computer use, filing grievances, accommodating disabilities, etc. SAMPLE
  • Provide access to learner success resources (technical help, orientation, tutoring).  SAMPLE
  • Clearly define course objectives/outcomes. Objectives should be measurable, and aligned to learning activities and assessments.
  • Develop and share a clear, holistic communication plan for how you will communicate with the students in your courses.
  • Add a Diversity & Inclusion statement to your syllabus.
  • Include learning outcomes aimed at asking students to interrogate their own biases.

Establish a logical, consistent, and uncluttered layout that is easy to navigate. Check for ADA accessibility. Divide large blocks of info into manageable chunks with ample white space.

Design and Layout Checklist

Use asynchronous activities to deliver primary content, and synchronous activities for small groups, office hours, and informal connecting. Provide clear, concise activity instructions, and a mix of activity types that support critical thinking, creativity, real-world application, and learner engagement.

Content & Activities Checklist

Facilitate community-building, model open communication, and establish trust. Encourage learners to share resources, and provide opportunities for constructive collaboration. Be socially present online.

Interaction & Collaboration Checklist

Assessment and feedback are key parts of the learning cycle. Review the checklist and resources below for key ingredients to creating effective feedback and assessments online. These ingredients include: (1) Providing formative and summative feedback that is specific, timely, and purposeful. (2) Getting creative and blending opportunities for self-reflection with a mix of nonstandardized and standardized assessments. (3) Soliciting feedback from learners, and making adjustments as possible.

Assessment & Feedback Checklist

Scaffold technical skills required for participation, and ensure all tools meet accessibility standards. Allow students time to practice with tools before requiring an assessment that utilizes those tools. Be mindful of file sizes and possible learner internet restrictions. Pay attention to privacy.

Tools & Tech Checklist

  • Communicate tech requirements for accessing and participating in the course (Internet access/speed, mobile, publisher websites, secure content, pop-ups, browser issue, microphone, webcam). SAMPLE
  • Scaffold technical skills required for participation in course learning activities (orientation, practice, and application – where appropriate).
  • Include frequently used technology tools in the course menu. Remove any tools not being utilized from the course menu.
  • Provide privacy policy information for course technologies, including links to relevant privacy policies, suggestions for protecting your privacy, and options for opting in (or out) of using particular tools. SAMPLE
  • Ensure that all technology tools meet accessibility/ADA standards (Middlebury-provided tools meet standards; if using tools that are not supported by Middlebury, consult with DLINQ about their accessibility status.
  • Ensure students have access to all the required technology and use Open Educational Resources (OER) as often as possible.
  • Create awareness of bias in tech design, data, and algorithms.

Rubric FAQs

How can I use the rubric to help me incorporate good practices into my online and hybrid course design?

Self-assessment tool: You can use the rubric as a self-assessment tool to diagnose what aspects of your online course meet good practice guidelines, and help you to develop an action plan for aspects of your course that need improvement. Download a copy of the full rubric to complete your self-assessment.

Checklist: You can use the rubric as a checklist to guide development of a new online course or revision of an existing online course. Download a copy of the full rubric for use as a checklist.

Resource guide: As you work to create your online or hybrid course, you can use the samples and resources provided on this website to help address any knowledge gaps.

I’m new to teaching online. Where should I start?

If you’re new to teaching online, we suggest the following steps to get started:

  • Walk through the different components of the rubric below, in the order they are presented, to familiarize yourself with the elements and how they fit into a well-designed online course. The online course design infographic visualizes how the components are related.
  • Use the rubric to complete a self-assessment, to identify where you might need additional information or support. Download a copy of the full rubric to complete your self-assessment.

Help! I’m not sure what to do next.

The DLINQ Instructional Design team is available for 1:1 consultations to help you identify your next steps in your online and hybrid course design journey. Please email dlinq AT middlebury DOT edu, or fill out our contact form to request an appointment.


The rubric is based on the Online Learning Consortium Quality Scorecard OSCQR 3.1, CC-BY. It was originally developed by Open SUNY.  We edited the rubric to reflect qualities of a Middlebury education, and have made it available CC-BY.