Structuring Course Content

Lesson 6: Structuring course content

Selecting and organizing course content

When you’re ready to select content for your online course consider the following questions:

What are the major topics in your course?

Creating a concept map of your content can help you visually recognize the vast amount of information that needs to be organized for your online course. Analyze your content by drafting a concept map of all your content so you can visually see how much information you’re working with.

How do I organize material in an effective way?

A great online course considers how the learning materials, content, and concepts can build upon each other to create an engaging student learning experience. Organizing content into small topics or units of instruction typically begins by creating an online learning module in the course.

What content is essential to student learning?

Deciding which content  to leave out of your course can be challenging. Think of this step as an essential “decluttering” of  your online course content. Rather than making delivering your content the goal, utilizing course learning outcomes as a roadmap to navigate the elements of your course can help streamline your content and maximize the student learning experience. Decide which content to leave out by revisiting or drafting course learning outcomes for your course and removing any content that is not relevant or in alignment with the outcomes.

Structuring an online course

Content is composed with learning modules in D2L. When putting content online, it is vital to keep the learning modules organized in a logical and sensible way to make navigation intuitive for students. If students spend too much time or have difficulty finding the readings, materials, or any information they need, students tend to feel confused and frustrated, and thus prohibit learning. Instructors use modules for three main reasons:

  • Organizing course content into weekly topics
  • Including course materials and learning activities that help students progress towards the course learning outcomes
  • Structuring and sequencing the learning materials into smaller parts so students can engage with complex tasks in meaningful and manageable ways. 
  • Break down the larger course learning outcomes into more manageable module learning outcomes to include at the beginning of each module. 

Organize your learning modules in a clear and consistent manner to help students learn. There are two common ways to structure your learning modules. One is to create learning modules with different topics or similar content groups; the other way is to map the learning modules chronologically, such as Week 1, Week 2 and so on.

It is also recommended to integrate all teaching and learning activities such as discussions, projects, surveys, quizzes and so on in the content area so that students will be trained to follow through the content and complete tasks as required.

Lesson checklist

  • Organize learning modules by topics or weeks 

  • Group similar content with sub-module and order activities

  • Complete the Online Course Planning Template

  • Write module learning outcomes

More lessons


Lesson 1: Introduction to online learning

Inclusive environment

Lesson 2: Foster an inclusive and accessible learning environment

Learning outcomes

Lesson 3: Developing online course learning outcomes