Online Development Checklist

This checklist is provided for CalArts faculty to assist them with preparing to develop and teach fully remote or hybrid courses. The guidelines are intended to help faculty to adapt to planning and designing their curriculum for remote instruction, while also ensuring equity and accessibility for students.

The checklist is based on materials and guidelines developed by Quality Matters, Open SUNY, and the Online Learning Consortium/Every Learner Everywhere.


  • Your course should include an orientation module that:
    • Welcomes students to the course
    • Introduces you as the instructor
    • Outlines the goals of the course
    • How the course is structured
    • How or where students should start the course.

This module may repeat information in your syllabus.

Revised Syllabus Template

We have created a revised syllabus template to include language around COVID 19 specific policies and practice; you can find that here: 


Revised Syllabus Template


A printable syllabus is posted in your course, either as a PDF or HTML, so it is accessible to screen readers. In addition to information requested by the Office of the Provost and your school/program, the syllabus should include:

  • The modality of the course (fully on-campus, fully online, hybrid group, hybrid individual, etc).
  • Your preferred method of contact. Set expectations with your students from the start about your level of interaction with your course, specifically: 
    • When/how often you check email or the forums, 
    • When they can expect a reply, and
    • How they can set up an appointment with you.
  • Your expectations for how students will engage in your course virtually—or more specifically, explicitly outline how your students will spend their time interacting with your course. A detailed schedule of sessions, assignments and activities with due dates and time frames is helpful.
  • A statement acknowledging that your syllabus will be responsive to the needs of the students and course, and is subject to change based on current circumstances.
  • Your grading policy, and how grades will be articulated to students—either using the LMS’s gradebook tools or otherwise.
  • Late submissions policy: how you will handle late submissions in your course.
  • Information for students regarding computer, hardware, and software requirements beyond the core requirements for learning online.
  • Your expectations about in-class behavior on the LMS or synchronous meetings.
  • Link to information on student success resources. These will be available on the CalArts website later this summer, and will include: 
    • Required technology 
    • Technical support for the LMS (,
    • LMS orientation and academic preparedness, and
    • Academic accommodations resources.

Course Structure and Design

  • Your course is structured in a clear and organized way. Session structure and content layout is consistent, and self-evident labels for sessions and coursework are used. 

  • Each session should clearly outline its purpose, objective(s) or learning outcome(s).

  • Course content and activities are evenly distributed across sessions. 

  • Ideally, your course should be a mix of asynchronous and synchronous activity, i.e., instructional content that students can review or complete on their own time (not limited to reading assignments, pre-recorded video content, or discussions) complemented by short discussions or meetings over Zoom. 

    • Try to find a balance between synchronous and asynchronous activity to ensure flexibility and equity. Students are coming to college to interact with expert faculty, but weekly 3-hour Zoom meetings can be exhausting for both students and faculty without planned breaks or interaction, and particularly challenging if neither have a strong internet connection.  

    • If you have students who cannot attend live meetings because of a time zone difference, try to find a way to meet with them synchronously outside of regularly scheduled class time (i.e. office hours). 

  • All course content and activities, whether synchronous or asynchronous, should align with CalArts’ credit hour policy: 1 unit = 45 hours for UG credit or 60 hours for Graduate credit. Consider the total time a student will be interacting with your course, including attending Zoom meetings (if required), reviewing assignment instructions, reading articles, watching tutorials, writing forum posts, etc.

Coursework and Feedback

  • The grading policy on the LMS should match what you have on your syllabus.

  • Aim for more frequent, low-stakes assignments throughout the course to ensure active engagement and flexibility for students. Or break up larger projects into smaller chunks or milestones to encourage more frequent check-ins. 

  • All online activities and assignments should include:

    • Clear instructions on how to complete the assignment.

    • What you want students to submit (what files, filetypes, how many, etc).

    • How students’ work will be collected.

    • How the work will be assessed (graded according to a rubric, instructor feedback, peer assessment, etc). 

    • When the assignment is due. Proper lead time should be provided to ensure there is an opportunity to prepare an accommodation.

    • Whether you will accept late submissions, and if so, how students should submit them.

    • Where and when students can expect to receive feedback or a grade

  • Expectations around online course participation are clearly outlined, with explicit instructions for how to participate, when responses or submissions are expected (or how often throughout the course), and how the activities are assessed. Ideally, provide an example of what you expect participation to look like.

Course Content

Community and Interaction

  • Add resources or activities to your course that are intended to build a sense of class community, support open communication, and establish trust. Consider including at least one of the following: an icebreaker activity, an introductions thread or forum, or a general discussion forum for peer-to-peer discussions not necessarily related to your course content. 

  • Course discussion forums are organized in an intuitive way, and encourage student-to-student interactions. Consider creating a list of critical, reflective questions in advance.


  • Maintain an active presence in your course. Check in with your course at regular intervals throughout the week, i.e. five days out of seven. 
  • Make yourself visible in your course. Demonstrate active participation by proactively posting critical, reflective discussion prompts, and answering student posts promptly. Try using authentic, expressive modes of communication whenever possible, such as short video announcements or regularly-scheduled drop-in office hours on Zoom.
  • Use announcements effectively and appropriately. It can be very helpful to send reminder announcements at the start of every week about upcoming meetings and  deadlines, as well as a recap message at the end of the week to summarize what happened and next steps. 
  • If you make changes to course content you need to communicate that clearly with students (i.e., with an announcement).


  • Encourage students to give feedback on your course content and designate a method of doing so (email, 1-on-1 meetings, survey, etc). 

  • Give yourself time to consider what you might bring forward to the next time the course is offered and what you might leave behind, regardless of the mode of delivery in future terms.