OSCQR – Standard #16

OSCQR – Standard #16

A logical, consistent, and uncluttered layout is established. The course is easy to navigate (consistent color scheme and icon layout, related content organized together, self-evident titles).

Review These Explanations

The online course should be designed so that learners can easily navigate and progress through a logical sequence and pace. This is achieved through consistency in layout and delivery of information types in regular order within learning modules.

Organization is one of the most important parts of an online course, and complicated course layout and poor navigation links contribute directly to learner confusion and a poor learning experience overall. (Bristol and Zerwekh, 2011)

The key factor in organization of an online course is consistency — from the overall color scheme and page design to the layout and structure of learning modules, assignments, and rubrics. Redundancy (the same documents appearing in several locations) is favored, as such repetition helps learners navigate easily to relevant information without having to search extensively.

By consistently sequencing online course overviews, content, learning activities, interactions, learners can routinely access what they need within each module, and anticipate where to find new course materials.

Titles and headings that link to learning content, activity, and assessments should detail specifically what the learners will access, including name and file type (if applicable).


Bristol, T. J., & Zerwekh, J. (2011). Essentials of e-learning for nurse educators. Philadelphia, PA: F. A. Davis

Refresh Your Course with These Ideas

General Suggestions

  • Create a logical consistent modular course structure.
  • Create sequential modules that include meaningful headings that reflect the subject matter covered.
  • Download or create a graphic icon set that you can use to guide learners about learning asset types. Assignments can be depicted by a check-mark icon, for example, and discussions by a conversation icon. Use these consistently throughout the course.
  • Create your first module and review it with a campus instructional designer or experienced online instructor. Then use this module as a template to create the other modules in your course.
  • Create a course design style checklist to keep track of consistent styles and content characteristics in your course. If you use a standard style header in one module, this will help you carry the style through to other modules.

Explore More Refreshing Ideas from the Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository (TOPR) at the University of Central Florida (UCF)

These Pedagogical Practices from TOPR explore approaches to organizing and structuring online course content to benefit learner success.

Applying Motivational Design Principles to Create Engaging Online Modules
In a classroom setting, levels of learner engagement vary widely, but instructors can adjust the lesson based on the perceived level of learner engagement. However, in an online environment, instructors cannot spontaneously prompt learners to motivate their engagement. When developing asynchronous modules, using a motivational design model and appropriate technologies allows one to replicate a dynamic, active learning classroom environment. (Read more …)
Create Modules to Organize and Present Content and Learning Activities
The first step in developing an instructional strategy is to identify a teaching sequence and manageable groupings of content (Dick, Carey, & Carey. 2005). One way to sequence and group content in your online course is to create modules. A module is a unit or section of material within your course that organizes and presents content and outlines the learning activities and assessments for learners over a certain period of time. (Read more …)

Explore Related Resources

SUNY Online Teaching has developed a set of online course design templates for the Brightspace D2L environment based on OSCQR standards that incorporate research-based effective practices and recommended course structures for a variety of online and digitally enhanced instructional modalities. The templates provide instructional designers and online faculty with a quick start into a high quality course design and a consistent framework based upon nationally recognized quality standards. These templates are freely available and openly licensed for anyone to use and adapt. Simply download them and upload them into your Brightspace environment. A number of other OSCQR-designed templates are available for other learning management systems also openly licensed, free and adaptable. Common cartridge zip files and Bb zip files are available for use in other LMSs.
Powell, W. (2003). Essential Design Elements for Successful Online Courses. Journal of Geoscience Education, 51(2), 221-230.

Share What You Know

OSCQR has been developed by a community of online practitioners interested in quality course design. There are numerous opportunities for community members to offer suggestions, donate resources, and help with future development.

Discuss this standard in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

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