Plan Your Development Time

Many instructors wonder how long it takes to develop an online course. This will vary based on existing materials, content to be developed by the instructor, and the instructor’s other responsibilities.

In many ways, developing an online course is similar to publishing an article. You plan an outline, create a draft, revise it, format it, and have a peer review it. For an online course specifically, you outline your course’s units, draft them one by one, revise them, upload them to the site, and test the course.

Don’t wait until the last minute to build content.

Aprille Black, Instructional Technology Consultant / Lecturer

Best practices for maximizing your time:

  • Outline the learning outcomes, plan the course structure, and design the assessments before writing.
  • Rely on readings and existing videos rather than rewriting what they contain as a time-saving solution. (Cite sources appropriately.)
  • Plan dedicated times to write out the material. An attainable goal for most is to write one unit per week.
  • Give yourself due-dates and stick to them.
  • Write everything out before you go back and revise.
  • Alert your course testers (colleagues, former students, etc.) a few weeks before you want them to review your course, so they expect to be contacted about testing and can plan their time.
  • Plan to finish making final edits to the course at least two weeks before the semester it is offered begins.

Visual Diagram

Map out your course outline and brainstorm the pieces of the course on paper, a chalkboard, or using a digital tool. This outline may help you design your course, and if you choose to share it with your students, it may help them visualize the course structure as well. Then, after you see the units on the page, you can make adjustments and edits within the site.


Here are examples of ways to map out a course visually using Word or PowerPoint. You can sketch it on paper, use a whiteboard, or use Google Docs, too.