Teaching Online: Lesson Planning and Instructional Design
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image of man and women at a desk in classroom with a projector

When we go into a classroom, face to face or online, it is best to go in with a specific plan...however, this is even more important when you are teaching online. The process outlined below provides for a standard structure for presenting material to students online so that you can get their attention, inform them of what they are going to learn, provide them with the information they need to learn it, and to assess how well they did learn this.

The basic format of the Lesson Plan is based upon Gagne's 9 Events of Learning

Learning Outcomes

  • Identify the basic structure and expectations of an online "Lesson Plan"
  • Create lesson plans to support the learning outcomes in your course


What are Lesson Plans?

Lesson Plans are the core structure of the entire online course. As an instructor you need to divide the total content that you want to teach in the class into smaller learning units that we identify as "Lesson Plans"

A course can have any number of Lesson Plans, but should have at least 10 over the course of an entire semester.

Lesson Plans can be, but do not have to be, coordinated with the "weeks" of a class. For instance, in one week it might be OK to teach a single Lesson Plan while in another week you might teach more than one Lesson Plan.

Once you have all your Lesson Plans identified and developed, you can distribute them over any length of time!

What makes up a Lesson Plan?

The Social Sciences department has adopted a model for the development of online Lesson Plans loosely based on Gagne's Nine Events of Instruction.

Click here to view a detailed articles on Gagne's Nine Events of Instruction

This boils down to a template that has been developed that includes the following sections:

  • A title or name of the Lesson Plan (including a Lesson Plan numbers...ex: Lesson 4: Personality)
  • An attention getting section which attracts students attention to the task at hand
  • A list of the Learning Outcomes that will be addressed in the Lesson Plan
  • Content and Teaching activities that the students must engage in
  • Assessment activities that measure the degree to which students actually learn what has been identified in the Learning Outcomes

Designing Your Lesson Plans

The first step in designing your Lesson Plans is to organize the entire content of your course into a set of Lesson Plans. Number them and title them in the order that you will present them and include this in the structure of your course syllabus

You will be developing documents, resources, activities, and assessments for each Lesson Plan in your course.

When you are designing a Lesson Plan it is BEST to start with the Learning Outcomes (which you will learn about in detail later).

You then design Assessments that can be completed online that actually measure the Learning Outcomes (which you will learn about in detail later)

THEN design the teaching materials, documents, resources, activities and such that you want students to encounter in order to bring them from where they are (in terms of their current understanding of the material) to where you want them to be (able to demonstrate that they have met the Learning Outcomes you identified).

The Attention getting material is often the last stuff that you put together.

Special Lesson Plans

If you have class projects such as research papers, service-learning projects, presentations, etc...that seem to stand alone from the general outline of the class it is best to create unique Lesson Plans for these activities.

For example, you could develop a self-standing Lesson Plan for a research paper that identifies the Learning Outcomes, teaching how to write Research Papers, and provides ways to assess (such as rubrics and other outlines of expectations) the paper itself.

Example Lesson Plans

Below are some links to Lesson Plans I have designed...they are not perfect, but they provide you with some guidance as to how these are put together (These will open in a separate window).

Online Class Example 1
Online Class Example 2
Online Class Example 3

Hybrid Class Example 1
Hybrid Class Example 2

The ALOTA Method

The clearest way to approach this is the ALOTA Method, an original model by Mark Kavanaugh for the design of online Lesson Plans...the following 5 Lessons in this tutorial will discuss this method step-by-step.