Course development timeline

You may be wondering what online course development with UCSC Online Education looks like: How long does it take? What should I do first? How does it start? How much work is it? Even though the answers to these questions vary case-by-case, this section will try and shed some light on them.

We think of online course development in four stages: Design, Production, Post-Production, and Teaching. UCSC Online Education provides assistance and guidance to instructors with all of them.

Course design  is where you create the structure for your course, outlining lectures, reading and assignments each unit/module/week contains.

Production means recording lectures, presentations, interviews, or tutorials you will be using in the course, as outlined in the design phase.

Post-production takes place shortly following production, where “raw” videos are edited into videos ready to be used in a learning management system and watched by students.

Finally, teaching the course the quarter it is offered involves — apart from recorded lectures — interacting with students in discussion forums and/or synchronous sessions.

For a course being developed in Spring 2020 and offered as a ten-week course in Summer 2020, this timeline will look something like this, where the letter D would indicate the deadline for completing those respective stages:


The course design phase starts with the logistics meeting between the instructor (you) and the Online Education team. It includes meeting with the Instructional Designer to start course design which takes place in the first week of the quarter you have set aside for developing an online course. You will be walked through the process, expectations, and best practices.

Course design continues with weekly meetings and check-ins with the Instructional Designer. Your entire course should be designed by the end of the fourth week of your course development quarter.

Broken down into weeks in the Gantt chart, course design will look like this, and be completed by the end of the fourth week of the quarter:


Since the last week of the quarter is generally not available for studio time, you have about five (this estimate allows room for planned or unforeseen events delaying production) weeks of production to produce ten (10-week-quarter) weeks’ worth of teaching material. Therefore, the minimum amount of course material you need to produce per week of production is two weeks’ worth of teaching. This can be done in one longer (2–3 hours) studio session per week, or two shorter (1.5h) ones. Schedule-permitting, and if the idea appeals to you, you can also film several lectures at once and be done with production sooner. Depending on your teaching style, you may decide to lecture based on notes or slides, or to film a scripted lecture that you read off a teleprompter. In either case, the final version of the materials you will be using needs to be complete (and shared with the team) a day before filming. In order to make the most of our precious studio time, you need to come well prepared.

In a scenario where production takes six weeks, you should plan to have the first third of the entire course content completed by the end of the second week of production (or sixth week of the quarter in the Gantt chart); the second third by the fourth week of production; and the whole course by the deadline.

This is what that plan would look like when mapped onto the chart:


Based on the first studio session, you will be presented with an edited proof-of-concept video. It is a demonstration of what the “end-product” video will look like. You will be asked to review it and provide feedback. This will form a “template” that will be followed in the rest of the course.

You will be asked to review completed videos using a platform called Wipster, which is very intuitive and easy to use. Please set aside the time to do this, as it is essential that any errors (especially if they are content-related!) be caught and corrected before the video goes “live”.

Once the final version of a video is completed, the video is uploaded to YouTube. Once there, we will order captions for it (from an external vendor) before linking it to your course in Canvas, as required by law.

Finally, a fully completed and functional course will be tested by a student specially hired to do this. They will be added to the course in Canvas before the offering quarter to make sure everything (videos, captions, links, quizzes…) works as intended for students taking the course.

This “invisible” post-production work is by far the most time-consuming, which is why sticking to an arranged schedule and production goals is so important in order to be able to guarantee the completion of the course before the start of the offering quarter. Of course, plans can, and will, be adapted to accommodate any exceptional circumstances that may affect the course development schedule.


We hope you found this page useful for envisioning what course development looks like time-wise. If you have any other questions, email