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Designing and refining hybrid and online courses

A good rubric can be useful in both the design and assessment phases of a course.

The rubric below reflects practices that have been shown to increase learner engagement and success in online learning environments. They can help you whether you are developing a hybrid course or a fully-asynchronous online course.

Consider using the rubric as a:

  • Design guide when developing a hybrid or online course
  • Self-reflection prompt after teaching a hybrid or online course
  • Tool for facilitating conversations about a colleague’s teaching

Regardless of how you use it, the rubric embodies the understanding that good teaching is iterative in nature. Building and teaching hybrid and online courses is a practice that develops over time and that benefits from reflection and refinement.

How this rubric is organized

The rubric consists of five principles with a number of related objectives. If you are using the rubric for self-reflection or evaluation, consider determining which of the following performance levels best describes your or your colleague’s work in each objective:

  1. In Progress – The objective hasn’t yet been met; there is room for growth.
  2. Established Practice – The basic requirements of the objective have been met.
  3. Exemplary – The objective has been met with particular excellence and skill.

Along with indicating a performance level, evaluators are encouraged to provide specific evidence of the instructor’s progress toward each objective, as well as comments on the instructor’s strengths and areas for improvement.

Hybrid/Online Course Development and Evaluation Rubric

The rubric below is composed of five principles, each of which point to a handful of objectives designed to help your course align with the principle. Note: If you are teaching a fully-online course, the U.S. Department of Education requires that your course include “regular and substantive interaction” between students and between the students and the instructor. The Regular and Substantive Interaction (RSI) webpage includes a more detailed definition of RSI and examples of how to design for RSI. The rubric below notes (in parentheses) the objectives that are particularly relevant to achieving RSI.

Five Principles

Critical course components work together to ensure that learners achieve the stated learning outcome

  1. Objective: The instructor articulates measurable course-level learner outcomes.
  2. Objective: Learning objectives for each week, unit, or module are measurable and consistent with the course-level outcomes.
  3. Objective: Required synchronous sessions, if they occur, are intentionally designed to advance specific module or unit objectives. Note: If an instructor requires learners to attend synchronous class sessions, those sessions must only occur during the times listed in the time schedule.
  4. Objective: The workload assigned to learners aligns to disciplinary norms and is appropriate to the level of the course.
  5. Objective: Course assessments align with course-level outcomes.

Course elements and organization assist learners in identifying course expectations and successfully navigating the course itself.

  1. Objective: The instructor welcomes learners to the course and makes clear how to get started. (RSI)
  2. Objective: The instructor provides access to a Syllabus and Course Schedule.
  3. Objective: The instructor employs a consistent organizational scheme throughout the course and orients learners to that scheme to facilitate access to course materials. (RSI)
  4. Objective: The instructor provides strategies and resources to help learners succeed as online learners. (RSI)

The instructor establishes and maintains a clear presence in the course and creates opportunities for dialogue and sharing between learners.

  1. Objective: The instructor establishes and models communication expectations for an inclusive, welcoming learning environment. (RSI)
  2. Objective: The course includes multiple avenues for learner-instructor interaction. (RSI)
  3. Objective: The course includes multiple opportunities for learner-learner interaction. (RSI)
  4. Objective: The instructor is a visible, engaged presence throughout the course. (RSI)
  5. Objective: The instructor creates course content using a variety of formats to promote learner engagement. (RSI)

Course content and activities reflect inclusive, accessible design principles and practices.

  1. Objective: The content in the course meets basic accessibility objectives.
  2. Objective: The instructor’s course design and pedagogy create an inclusive learning environment
  3. Objective: The instructor follows institutional guidelines for stating academic and institutional policies (e.g., religious accommodation, disability accommodation, information about relevant learner support resources and opportunities).
  4. Objective: The instructor models flexibility and, where appropriate, offers learners alternative ways to engage or meet expectations. (RSI)

Course assessments provide learners with multiple opportunities to achieve outcomes.

  1. Objective: The instructor provides learners with multiple and varied ways to demonstrate their knowledge or mastery of course concepts and skills.
  2. Objective: The instructor provides specific and descriptive criteria for the evaluation of learners’ performance. (RSI)
  3. Objective: The instructor helps learners understand the importance of academic integrity and the implications of academic misconduct.

Downloadable version of the rubric


Development of the rubric

This rubric was drafted by the UW Digital Learning Alliance as a resource to help instructors in the course development process and as a tool instructors can use to guide their evaluation of their own or a colleague’s hybrid or online teaching.

Have suggestions for ways to improve the relevance or usefulness of the rubric? Share your ideas through this feedback form.