Creating an online course

Online course creation is a demanding task and designing and developing an online course via our Scheduled Project process at Waterloo can take up to 12 months. It is a rigorous process requiring a considerable time commitment from you and from Centre for Extended Learning (CEL) staff. Once a course proposal has been approved for development, we ask authors to devote at least one day per week during peak times while developing a new course.

The following milestones describe the various phases of the process. If any of the major milestones are missed, it may be necessary to reassess the health of the project and recommend switching to a different development model or postpone development and production.


When your Dean has approved your course for an allocation slot, you can begin creating a proposal for the Proposal Phase. CEL will support you with:

  • drafting student-centred learning outcomes
  • outlining an initial assessment strategy aligned with your outcomes
  • selecting appropriate technology to match course goals
  • copyright and accessibility considerations
  • identifying sources of open content or methods for the creation your own course materials
  • preparing and submitting a representative week of learning materials (can include a landing page for the week’s content, description of activities, draft version of content, etc.)
  • confirming and agreeing to the Scheduled Projects timeline and related milestones

As you prepare your proposal, you can reach out to our Program Intake Manager (PIM) with questions. For more information, please see our Scheduled Projects page.


Once your proposal is in a strong state of readiness and has been approved to move forward, your new project will move into the Design Phase of the timeline. You will be supported by an Online Learning Consultant (OLC) who will help you finalize your learning outcomes, high-level assessment strategies, and plans for preparing learning materials to ensure that they are tailored to the unique needs of the online student audience.

Another key component of the design phase is the creation of the first prototype module (a polished, complete module) based on the learning materials you submitted in the Proposal Phase. Be prepared to set aside time for reviewing the prototype module very carefully – it will form the basis for how the rest of the course is developed.


During this phase of development, you will create material for the next five modules, all of which will follow the structure of your prototype module.

You will be expected to produce and deliver material at regular three-week intervals if your course is divided into one unit/module for each week of term. This delivery schedule provides time for you and your OLC to work together on the material prior to development.  

Please review completed content carefully and provide final revisions to your OLC.  It is critical that the timelines are followed to ensure the success of the project. Designing a high-quality online course takes time, and we encourage you to continue setting aside approximately 7-10 hours per week during this period.


Mid-way through the development of your course we switch gears to focus on your course syllabus and the assessments for the first half of the course. We do this for a few reasons: organizing the course outline and assessments at this stage helps CEL spread out the building of more complicated LMS tool resources (e.g., quizzes), plan for and request Course Reserves, and provides you the opportunity to look at the course from a birds-eye view and consider how the next 6 modules will come together.


Milestones 6 and 7 are the same as those for 3 and 4: you will continue writing course materials aligned with the structure of the first six modules, delivering each subsequent module every two weeks to your OLC.


You’re nearly there. Milestone 8 is all about finalizing the remaining assessment details with your OLC for the second half of the course.  This includes determining whether or not there will be a final exam. The Learning Technologies Analyst in Production (LTA-P) assigned to your course will work on completing the tools setup in LEARN and liaise with the library to organize remaining Course Reserves for the upcoming offer.


In the final stages of the project, you can expect a quality check of the course. Details regarding the final examination and technical training needs will be discussed (e.g., grading online, use of external tools).

Sign off

You and the CEL course development team will meet and sign-off on the course at the end of the project. From now on support for your course will be provided by CEL's systems team. You can reach them at

Course offer

Now you are ready to teach the course. Your OLC will continue to provide you with teaching support during the first term of offer; your LEARN, Content Management System (CMS), or Möbius support team will provide technical support for your course.

Final Exam coordination

We are able to help you coordinate the exam for your course. Your students could be anywhere in the world or on a co-op term, so coordination is a bit more complicated than for on-campus courses. Early in the term our examinations team will contact you request your exam master. Exams for online courses are normally held early in the exam period and are posted a year in advance on the Registrar's Important Dates page


First offer debrief

Towards the end of the first course offer, your OLC will set up a time to meet with you for a debriefing on the course experience. During this meeting, you will discuss the following:               

  • What kind of student feedback did you receive?
  • What challenges did students have?
  • What was the most enjoyable part of teaching this course and why? What was the least enjoyable and why?
  • Were there any workload or training issues we need to address?
  • Do you have any concerns around academic integrity for your course?
  • Will you continue to teach this course? If not, should written instructions be provided for upcoming instructors?
  • What would you like to change and why?

Course maintenance and re-offers

Minor revisions can be made to your course after your debrief. Once these revisions are made, the course will go into maintenance mode. CEL will communicate with you before the start of upcoming terms of offer of the course and our LTA-P staff will work with you to prepare the course at that time.