Q&A: Who Designs the Curriculum for Online Courses?

Answer: Most students are under the impression that online instructors create their own syllabus, assignments, discussion questions, quizzes, tests, etc. However, most online schools have either curriculum writers or a general format already designed for classes.

A curriculum writer researches the latest, relevant content on course/educational subjects and designs the course accordingly. This means the writer has the ability to create the assignments, discussion questions, tests, quizzes, etc., based on their knowledge and current research. Larger colleges/universities may have several curriculum writers or a curriculum department. These individuals will most likely have a background in education, teaching and/or curriculum development, particularly in the area where they are developing courses.

The majority of curriculum writers have a master's degree as well. Schools hire these individuals to create courses based on their educational background, teaching experience and subject knowledge. Let's say an individual has a master's degree in English. This person may be a great candidate to design English classes (of course), but may also have the ability to design courses in literature, creative writing, business and technical writing, communication etc. A curriculum writer with a master's degree in math might develop various courses in fields such as accounting, computer science, math or statistics.

There are great advantages to having curriculum development at your college. The first is that these individuals usually have a wide range of experience in specific subjects, as well as how students learn. This means they have researched how students respond and learn best in an educational environment, specifically in an online class. A second advantage is that curriculum writers often consult online instructors on the students' abilities and success of the course. The school staff works together, as a team, to agree on what's working and what's not. This may include overall course content, course materials and grading. A third advantage is that all classes in a department or school should be uniform. This means that students can depend on the course workloads and expectations to be similar in each class. Consistency in education increases opportunities for student success.

Dr. Beverley BrowningDr. Beverly A. Browning (Dr. Bev) has been a higher education adjunct faculty member for over 25 years. She has taught in the classroom and online for multiple colleges and universities including Spring Arbor College, Baker College of Flint, Mott Community College, and Rio Salado College. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan, Spring Arbor College and Mott Community College. She is currently an online instructor for ed2go.com (Cengage Learning). In addition to founding and directing the Grant Writing Training Foundation, Dr. Bev is also Vice President of Grants Professional Services for eCivis, Inc. She is the author over over 37 grant-related publications and a frequent keynote speaker and workshop presenter for national and regional conferences. Dr. Bev is a product of lifelong learning and an advocate for online teaching and learning!