Developing Online or Hybrid Courses

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Types of Courses at Northeastern University Online

Northeastern University Online delivers two course formats:

• Online

• Hybrid

What are the differences?


An online course is an asynchronous, instructor-led course in which the students can complete the course work within a given week from anywhere at any time. The asynchronous format offers flexibility for students to work at their own pace in completing the weekly assignments by the assigned due date. Each lesson contains the same weekly workload that you would find in the face-to-face classroom. Typically, online courses are 6, 8, or 12 weeks long.


A hybrid course combines on-campus and online instruction. The majority of the contact hours are conducted face-to-face. The rest of the instruction is delivered online.

Establishing a common work routine

Regardless of whether it’s an online or hybrid course, establishing a common weekly work routine based on the intended outcomes of the course is important. Student learning is enhanced when outcomes are clearly identified and there is a clear and tangible path to completing them in the course materials.

Northeastern University Online uses a template-driven course shell to help you easily design and facilitate your online courses. The course template provides a consistent navigational and organizational structure within a Blackboard course site. This structure helps students anticipate the workflow for the course and allows instructors to focus their time and effort on content development and facilitation.

Figure 2 shows an example of the Northeastern University Online course shell in Blackboard.

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But what if you are teaching a hybrid course−how does the template work in those formats? A hybrid course includes both online sessions and face-to-face meetings. Use the template to map out your course and specify what activities happen online and face to face for each week of your course. Post course materials for all weeks, regardless of whether you meet online or in person. For example, if you deliver a lecture in class, it is best practice to post those lecture notes in your course for review and retention.



Figure 3 shows an example of how the course materials would be presented for the face-to-face portions of a hybrid course.

Note that clear instructions are given about the expectations for the week—students are expected to complete the readings ahead of time but will participate in the lecture and discussion when they meet face to face.

Maximize the flexibility of the hybrid format by using the online environment to continue topic exploration beyond the classroom. Use online communication and collaboration tools to extend class discussions and to provide formative feedback on assignments and projects. In this way, you create a cohesive and complete course experience.

Regardless of whether your course is being taught online or in a hybrid format, use the course templates for consistency and to quickly develop your course.

Key Recommendations for Online Course Development

Here are some key recommendations for designing and facilitating an effective online course.

  • Don’t make all course materials for the entire course available at once. Open up the first two weeks of your course at the start of the term and then open subsequent lessons one week in advance so students don’t move too far ahead.
  • Make sure you clearly and precisely specify due dates for assignments for each week in your course. There are a number of ways to do this. You can identify due dates in the course syllabus. Then you can repeat the dates in weekly lessons where the assignments are submitted. Also, you can send timely reminders to students about upcoming due dates in announcements and e-mails.
  • Use the course shell so that students know where to find the materials; don’t deviate from the course navigation template without a pedagogical reason.

Next: Standards & best practices for online courses