Baruch College Center for Teaching and Learning
Teach Hybrid

Course and Assignment Design

Building Your Course Around Learning Goals | Scaffolding Your Assignments | Maintaining Engagement | The Syllabus

Rigorous instructional design is key to creating effective online and hybrid courses, which often require more intensive planning than traditional classes. Since faculty will have fewer opportunities to gauge student comprehension in-person, creating an organized and well-structured course is of heightened importance. The following sections offer suggestions about how to strengthen course and assignment design to increase the likelihood of a successful, engaging, and rewarding online and hybrid course. 

Building Your Course Around Learning Goals 

When clear learning goals are communicated to students, not only is assessment easier, but students have a demonstrable map of their learning. Careful planning of online and hybrid courses from the end to the beginning allows for innovation and improvisation within a structure.

Review the Guidelines for Writing Learning Goals from the Baruch College Faculty Handbook here.

Learning goals are more than just teaching goals. These guidelines can help create strong learning goals (but also be sure to check with your department for discipline-specific goals):

  • In formulating learning goals the members of the Joint Committee suggest using the phrase: “will be able to…”
  • Vague goals should be reformulated to be as specific as possible.
  • If you are going to assess student learning goals separately, then list them separately.
  • In writing student learning goals use active verbs. For a suggested list of verbs, see this Baruch Help Sheet (pdf). Note that the verbs “understand” and “know” are discouraged.
  • The learning goals should be informed by the mode of instruction you intend to use.
    • For example, here is an excerpt of learning goals from an online Introduction to Psychology course. The goals specific to online instruction are italicized.
      • Identify ethical issues in psychology and psychological research.
      • Demonstrate critical thinking about behavior and mental processes.
      • Demonstrate effective written communication using an online forum.
      • Develop time management strategies appropriate for meeting course deadlines.
      • Demonstrate ability to use online tools for completing weekly work, managing self-progress, and taking part in virtual dialog and exchange.
  • Here is another example, where the goals are categorized:
    • Grammar and Mechanics of Writing: After completing this course, students will be able to observe sentence boundaries, punctuate correctly, vary sentence structures, and employ the conventions of standard English.
    • Hybrid-specific: After completing this course, students will be able to change their writing style when writing in different rhetorical modes and social contexts, including online environments, and take audience and occasion into account when writing.

Articulate what skills you assume students have already mastered when they enter your class, including technological skills, by defining what a student needs in terms of both access and knowledge in order to succeed in your class. Create a plan for how students who do not have those skills can catch up.

Scaffolding Your Assignments 

Often students are confused about what faculty expect of them. In traditional classes, this confusion becomes readily apparent in the classroom but can be harder to detect online. Careful assignment design clarifies the expectations and effort you expect of students in your online or hybrid course.

  • Construct tasks that give students practice before assessment.
  • Scaffold low-stakes and high-stakes assignments to build upon each other in a logical progression.
  • Consider workflow: ask yourself what assignments from traditional classes would be better accomplished online. For hybrid classes, design online assignments that prepare students to take full advantage of the face-to-face time.
  • Articulate for students the reasons for assignments, the method of assessment, and the grading process.

Maintaining Engagement 

It is important to be mindful of the personality and usability of the online spaces you deploy. To that end, here are some suggestions for keeping your students engaged in the online tasks of your course:

  • Pay attention to information architecture in your online spaces; consider building a site map before developing your course site to get a bird’s eye view of how the content flows.
  • Lay out the content of your course in a progression that makes sense and doesn’t attempt to do too much at once.
  • Clarify what kinds of communication will happen where and how.
  • Give students varied opportunities to be heard.
  • Construct opportunities for students to create communities in the online environment.
  • Model examples of the intellectual work you expect, through comments on blog or discussion board posts, and by promptly responding to student inquiries.
  • Consider having a consistent deliverable due the same time every week. Predictability helps students establish a routine.
  • Faculty presence in online and hybrid courses helps students succeed. Be involved in the online environment.

The Syllabus

The syllabus lays out the schedule, establishes policy, clarifies the contract of expectation between faculty and student, offers assessment criteria, and provides a map to the class. Certain details need to be on online and hybrid syllabuses:

  • When and where your hybrid class will meet for its face-to-face sessions.
  • How the online time will be structured.
  • What technologies will be used, and what additional fees or skills these technologies require.
  • What your expectations are for students in terms of participation and technology.
  • Learning goals (see above section for more details).
  • Contact information that includes at least one way for students to communicate with you asynchronously and digitally.
  • Guidelines for interacting with peers.
  • Where to find the online space.
  • Detailed assessment criteria.
  • Accessibility statement. Include on your syllabus a statement about reasonable accommodation.
    • For example: “If you have a learning, sensory, or physical reason for special accommodation in this class, contact the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities in Room 2-271, Newman Vertical Campus (646-312-4590) and please inform me of the accommodation.”
    • For online and hybrid classes, consider creating an accessible syllabus using the guidelines described in this guide.

Also consider including on your syllabus the skills and knowledge that you expect students to have mastered in order to succeed in your class. 

Examples of syllabi from online and hybrid classes at Baruch can be viewed on this site, under Sample Teaching Materials. Additional samples are available on the Center for Teaching and Learning site at