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Course Design

Montclair State University recommends using the Orientation-Content-Interaction-Assessment (OCIA) model and course template when designing online and hybrid courses. Our model and template are guided by the nationally recognized Quality Matters Program (QM) in order to ensure high-quality online/hybrid education. This enables faculty and Instructional Designers to work collaboratively to enhance online/hybrid teaching and learning outcomes. Please visit our consultation page for more information on how to get started and set up an appointment with an Instructional Designer.

OCIA Model

The OCIA Course Design model supports a social, interaction-embedded approach to course design and development and uses learning modules to structure the course. Montclair State University has developed a course template based on this approach, available to faculty when designing online/hybrid courses.

OCIA includes four main components:

OCIA model
  • Orientation: The orientation sets the learning context for each learning module and includes learning objectives, module requirements, and perspective.
  • Content: Each learning module’s content includes all information students need to begin the learning process and engage with concepts introduced.
  • Interaction: Include multiple opportunities for interaction and reflection in your course design by using discussion forums, blogs, wikis, web conferencing, online hours, and group activities.
  • Assessment: Assessment is an opportunity for students to demonstrate that they have achieved the objectives you challenged them to master.
Montclair State University Course Template

Effective online/hybrid course design relies on research-based best practices. Montclair State University has developed an online/hybrid course template which is guided by the research-based course design rubric from Quality Matters Program (QM). Online and hybrid courses at Montclair State adopting the course template are designed with a learner-centered and interaction-facilitated approach. The items below are the major components recommended for online and hybrid courses:

  • Welcome: Includes a brief introduction and overview of the course structure and expectations.
  • Syllabus: Contains all relevant course information and a downloadable version of the syllabus. This should include: faculty information, course introduction and course goals/objectives, required textbooks (if applicable), course weekly schedule, assessment and grading system, URL of the student handbook, etc.
  • Learning Modules: Presents individual learning modules of instruction. Each learning module contains learning objectives, requirements, subject content, interaction, and assessment.
  • Cyber Cafe: In this area students get to know each other and post general questions or FAQs.

You can explore a public version of the Canvas Online/Hybrid Template Please note that links to Discussions in the Modules area will not work for you since you are not the teacher of this course. Should you click one of them, feel free to use your browser back button to return to the course template. You may request a copy of this template for your use.

Course Design Rubric

The Quality Matters Program (QM) suggests and provides guidelines on how to develop and maintain high-quality online and hybrid courses. As a member of QM, the University is committed to integrating the rubric into our online course design process. Access a full version of the QM Rubric Standards 2018 edition with assigned point values.

California State University, Chico, has developed a comprehensive Rubric for Online Instruction designed to clarify what a high-quality course looks like.

Online Program Development

Montclair State University has included online initiatives in the university’s strategic plan and has designed a process for online program development.

The major steps in developing an online degree program are:

  1. Identify an existing online program for online delivery
  2. Obtain approval from the respective college/school and the Provost
  3. Prepare a curriculum map (including course content-developing faculty) for the program
  4. Create a course design project plan for the program

Online Course Design Process

The process for developing online courses that are a part of fully online degree programs is very similar to that of developing individual courses. If you are developing a course for an online degree program, you will be assigned an Instructional Designer who will support you throughout the process. Faculty members designing online courses for online programs will follow a program-wide project plan and abide by program defined course design guidelines, including the use of a template. Courses are designed for eight weeks and are generally asynchronous in nature. An accredited online program results in the same quality degree earned as traditional programs at Montclair State University.

Online and Hybrid Courses

In online programs, every course will be offered in an online format, requiring a systematic approach to course design and consistency across the curriculum, as outlined in the Online Program Development section. Traditional face-to-face programs may offer some online or hybrid courses. Faculty developing online or hybrid courses are advised to collaborate with an Instructional Designer, applying the OCIA model and online course template as outlined in the Course Design section. You may be wondering how an online course differs from a hybrid or face-to-face course. To learn more about how different types of courses are defined at Montclair State, please review our course definitions:


Course sessions occur in the traditional classroom environment, on Campus or at satellite locations, during required face-to-face meeting times. The internet and other technology may be used for supplemental course content and activities.


The course occurs in an online environment. Students are not required to be present on Campus or elsewhere to meet with classmates or their instructor, but some courses may require synchronous (simultaneous) online meetings.


Online activities replace some portion of the traditional face-to-face class meeting time. Students are required to attend on-campus meetings and to spend a substantial amount of time online. The online portion of the course can be asynchronous or synchronous.


Fundamental Questions to Consider When Designing a Hybrid or Online Course: The online environment and innovations in technology provide a unique set of possibilities and challenges in the course design process for online and hybrid courses. Before diving into the pool of various technologies, consider the following fundamental questions, which will prove helpful during the progression of developing, designing, and delivering the online/hybrid course. These questions are very useful to create a blueprint which can guide the direction of course design.

The course design process will be based on these fundamental questions:

  • What are the general goals of your course and what content will be covered?
  • How will your course subject content be chunked into learning units/modules?
  • What are the specific learning objectives for each unit/module in your course? What will your students achieve at the end of each unit/module, as well as upon course completion?
  • Who are your students and what characteristics, needs, and preferences may impact the design of your course?
  • What learning activities will facilitate student learning? What instructional strategies will help you accomplish the course objectives? How will you sequence learning activities meaningfully?
  • How will you foster an interactive, social learning environment where students connect with each other, and you as the instructor?
  • How are you going to assess your students’ learning outcomes based on the learning objectives?


Online/hybrid course design is a front-loaded (process that requires the course to be ready prior to the first session). It is vitally important that you allow sufficient time to assemble your online course. If you are planning or assigned to teach an online course(s) in a coming semester and if you need Instructional Design assistance for your online courses, please complete the consultation request form or contact us: Instructional Technology and Design Services. It is strongly recommended that you contact the group at least 2 months prior to the start date of your online course. Due to the ratio between the Instructional Design support staff and the number of whole campus faculty that the group is assisting, planning ahead will allow us to more efficiently assist you.