Brown faculty interested in developing an online course are provided with support from the School of Professional Studies (SPS) Online Team.

The SPS Online Team is responsible for the design, development, delivery, and facilitation of online and blended courses within three primary program areas: Executive and Professional, Undergraduate, and Pre-College. The team also collaborates with colleagues across Brown’s campus and at other peer institutions to advance online teaching and learning initiatives.

The SPS Online team partners with faculty throughout the SPS online course lifecycle to create engaging and effective student learning experiences.

Designing an Online Course

Planning and designing an online course takes considerable time and thought, whether the course begins as a face-to-face class or is constructed from scratch. To create meaningful and effective student learning experiences in the most efficient (and enjoyable!) way possible, we invite Brown faculty to partner with an experienced SPS instructional designer (ID).

Instructional designers work in close partnership with faculty to understand the essence and aims of the course in order to develop clear course learning objectives: What should students be able to do as a result of their learning experience? How will it change them?

Next, instructional designers work with faculty to design student-centered assignments, projects, discussions, and activities that support those objectives using design and pedagogical practices proven effective for online learning. How will the activities in your course enable you to measure and assess student learning?

This sample Course Development Worksheet has helped many Brown faculty to organize these items and think holistically about their course design before they begin to “build” their course online.

At the close of the design process, most faculty have three things in place:

  1. a short list of clearly defined learning objectives

  2. a course outline or syllabus, including

  3. the majority of course content and media assets identified.

As the course design process concludes, the next stage is to build your course.

Faculty will work with their instructional designer to set up, place, and format course content in Canvas, including all assignments, discussions, and media.


  • Completed, thoroughly reviewed, and faculty-approved online course

  • Updated course syllabus based on completed course

Building an Online Course

As the course design process concludes, the next stage is to build your course.

Once the course is completely developed, your instructional designer will​ ​provide you with helpful resources to​ ​ensure that your course is ready for your students.

Canvas is  Brown University’s Learning Management System (LMS). It serves as Brown’s online learning platform and allows faculty to build course websites. Canvas also provides a collection of built-in tools for content uploads, communication, collaboration, assignments, and assessments that faculty can incorporate seamlessly into their online course.

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