Some faculty at Ferris State University have devoted extensive time creating high-quality online courses through the Course Development Agreement (CDA) process. The process uses backward design (McTighe & Wiggins, 2012) through three short online courses with the focus of: online instruction, pedagogy design, and developing the course in Canvas. Regardless of a faculty member’s online experience, all faculty follow the same process. The courses are taken in a cohort with other faculty under the guidance of an instructional designer. The goal of the process is for faculty to learn and implement best practices in online delivery and online course development. 

The faculty have developed exceptional, high-quality, fully online courses with good social presence, balanced course content, outcomes alignment, and adherence to the Ferris rubric for online courses. They have done an excellent job in their online course development! 

Some examples follow from their effort put into developing and improving their online courses in three critical areas.

Girl typing on laptop

Social presence

One faculty member from Social Work added social presence and engagement into her course modules. She shared, “… I discovered that I could always record a video that introduced the content for the week, and also highlighted material, made corrections, or reviewed expectations to the previous week’s material.”  

Stephen Guilliat from Criminal Justice shared that at times his student discussion board thread would get off track by students with an incorrect understanding of the content, and he would have to address it at the end of the week in an email. He has made improvements to his course and shared, “When I did group discussions, especially graded, I would typically stay out of the discussion – now, I am going to start helping guide it when I see that it starts to go off track of where I think the discussion should go.”

Student Engagement

Sharon Colley from Nursing has expanded the student interaction and engagement in her course in two ways. First, interaction was increased by integrating the community and authentic learning into her course and involving community stakeholders. Students will interview community members in the field for two papers. Secondly, student interaction to one another was increased due to Sharon adding the assignment of students giving video feedback to one another through use of the discussion board. 

Tim Cassady from Criminal Justice who had a ‘read, take a quiz and write a case brief’ format improved engagement for his online students significantly. He stated, “I will add interviews of people in the field, group projects (which I never thought I would ever agree to do), along with quiz embedded videos and case briefs.”


How faculty redesign their current instructional in-person practices for online delivery has been impressive to see. One Business faculty member fine-tuned her assignment instructions and directions for clarity to be more student-centered. She updated her course design to help students be more successful, by moving some assignments earlier in the semester to allow more time to complete and to scaffold the learning from the assignments during the following weeks. 

Faculty quote

Steve Hundersmarck from Criminal Justice has redesigned a course using scenarios throughout the course, and the students stay within their given roles as they respond to the scenarios. He has them working through relevant learning in real world situations to give students the background needed for their future career roles. As an assessment of student learning in another course, he added a discussion board thread for students to answer as a reflection, to see how the students are understanding and applying their learning.

The faculty have developed exceptional, high-quality, fully online courses with good social presence, balanced course content, outcomes alignment, and adherence to the Ferris rubric for online courses. Using best practices in online course design, Ferris faculty members have done an excellent job of continuous improvement and quality course design to keep Ferris moving forward in online learning. Great job, faculty members!

References and Further Information:

Written by: Kelley E.B. Senkowski, Online Design Consultant, Ferris State University

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