Community Explorer

Minimum Requirements for Every Course?

I recently joined Endicott College in Beverly, MA as an instructional designer. After looking at the existing courses that had been built in Canvas I noticed there was a great range in how courses were designed. Some were great... some not so much. It made me think about what should be the minimum expectations for the design of an online course. I looked at the questions from two perspectives:

  • promoting good online instruction
  • developing some common navigation for students

I want instructors to still have room for creativity in designing their courses. But it seems that there are basic elements, or minimum requirements, that each course should have. Here is my list as well as a link to a Playlist of video tutorials for each of the items.

  1. Course Home Page
  2. Welcome Video
  3. Syllabus connected to Syllabus link
  4. "Introduce Yourself" Discussion
  5. Modules
  6. Simplified Course Navigation

Video Tutorials for Basic Elements of a Canvas LMS Course - YouTube 

Has anyone else developed a list like this? Any thoughts on my list? Thanks

12 Replies
Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni

Hey  @hellis ‌, are you just looking for like a course design checklist or rubric or are you looking for broader advice on institutional change around online courses?

For rubrics/checklists, I would recommend either:

QM Rubrics & Standards | Quality Matters 

OLC Quality Scorecard - Improve the Quality of Online Learning & Teaching  

Coach Emeritus

Our Online Taskforce developed a rubric that we use to do our Online Quality Assurance, which is a committee based peer review of all our Online Instructors over a two year cycle. As part of this here is the rubric - Online Course Review Rubric‌. I've also got a page in our Instructor training course that explains what our expectations are for our online courses (click on the online tab) - Course Modalities: Canvas Instructor Training 

Hope this helps!

Community Contributor

Thanks for sharing. An allied question:  I like the tabbed page you used where content switches in the frame per tab.  Where can I get info on the code for this?  Thanks.

Check out the directions on this page (click on the Tab tab) - Pages: Canvas Instructor Training 

Community Champion

I love your list of minimum requirements! My question to you is, are these just suggested to your faculty, or required?

I would love to have a required course template designed with these elements, especially the simplified course navigation, or at least a common navigation in all courses, but I can only suggest and faculty are only required to have two things in Canvas 1) post an official syllabus 2) use grade book for posting grades. However, our online/distance learning classes must follow a modified QM rubric and an internal review before they can go online. I would love to see more consistency with our courses in Canvas, for the sake of the students! My husband was taking 3 online classes in Canvas this summer and he was so frustrated at the wide range of course design and set up. In one course he had to find the discussion for the week in the Discussions link, in another it was located in the Modules only (Discussion link was hidden), and it yet another he only found the discussion on the Syllabus page!

Community Explorer

Thanks Melinda. My plan is to make these required for online classes. We'll see how faculty reacts;) Your husband's experience of inconsistent course navigation is exactly the thing I'm trying to avoid by setting up these requirements.

You mentioned that you follow a "modified QM rubric". If you have a moment could you send me a copy of your rubric? I'm at hellis@endicott.edu  Thanks!

Community Novice


I am an education developer at RMIT Uni in Melbourne. We develop a set of Minimum Threshold Standards for Online course development so that we can ensure a level of consistency across our many courses. They incorporate QM standards as well as a number of extra specifications. Feel free to reach out and if arbitration is given we are happy to share. 


Hi Andrew - would you be willing to share your Minimum Threshold Standards?

Yep! Threshold standards for online course environments. Just shout out to RMIT in Melbourne if your are keen on adapting/applying them.



Community Novice


Great discussion! To me, course organization is the most important element to course design, and I think you've kept it basic, so most faculty should not fight against this idea. 

I have a group that discussion Best Practices in Online Course Design, and this definitely fits in with that!

Community Novice

I think those look good. You might want to also keep an eye on what the learners can access through the navigational menu on the left as well (Modules, Syllabus, Grades, etc.)  You're going to want to see if you can drive the students through the Module to get to their content, so there's less worry about them clicking here, there and everywhere (earworm anyone?-- Beatles reference).  Best of luck!

Community Explorer

This is similar to our minimum requirements:

1. Standard course navigation order

2. Online syllabus

3. Course introduction and bio page.

4. Listing due dates for assignments, quizzes, discussions

5. Grades

With the exception of the first item, this is similar to the requirements they had in the previous LMS so it's not a huge change.  We are strongly recommending and driving them to use Modules.