Online Course Development & Revision Cohorts

What are Course Development Cohorts?  Where did this model come from?

As an outcome of the Education & Preparation* subcommittee's work the online course development process was completely re-imagined. After a successful pilot implementation in the fall of 2016, all online course developments and revisions, to the extent possible, are now organized into “cohorts.”  Cohorts, in this case, simply refer to a small group of (three to seven) faculty working on online course developments or revisions.  When neither a new development nor revision is needed, edits to a course can be achieved through an administrative course update.

How do the Cohorts work?

Each individual works on their own course, in an open, collaborative fashion, meeting periodically with one another and with resource personnel.  The regular gatherings are set in advance, and considering everyone’s unique scheduling needs, they can occur simultaneously online and in-person.

Cohort Model Graphic
In this way and many others, the process itself acknowledges that “online course development is a complex endeavor” and “production requires a highly organized, concerted effort from many players” (Caplan, 2004,  p. 186).  The re-alignment of resources and placement of the faculty subject-matter expert at the center of the process results in a scenario in which “faculty are able to concentrate on course content and the design of learning activities and assessment” (Luck, 2001, p. 1).  Review and input from peers comes naturally as a part of the ongoing sharing, demonstration, and discourse. Support from CoursePro services ensures that no time is consumed on the tedium of setup work in the LMS.  By using DesignPro, instructors can ensure that courses include aesthetically pleasing and appropriate design elements. The CIS Creative Media Production team also assists faculty throughout the process to use video as an effective content delivery method. 

When do Cohorts begin?  How long do they last?

Due to the logistical demands of arranging faculty and staff schedules, as well as space and other resources, the cohort model limits CMU’s ability to support course development on demand.  The benefits of the model outweigh any inconvenience this may cause.  Cohorts begin three times each calendar year – in January, May, and September.  Course development contracts are typically 12-weeks in length; revision contracts are 12-weeks also. 

How do I get into a Cohort?

Online course development and revision cohorts are for faculty working under contract to produce and/or revise online courses.  Until a course has been approved for online development or revision, and a faculty member contracted to undertake the endeavor, it generally will not be included in a cohort.  Planning for each triannual cohort begins months prior.  Many steps must occur before courses or new programs are ready to reach the development stage.  

I have other questions about the Cohort process.  To whom can I direct my questions?

Please contact CIS to explore cohort-related questions further.

*Education & Preparation was one of four Online Academic Programs Committee subcommittees.  The group included faculty and staff representatives and was co-chaired by Teacher Education and Professional Development faculty member, Dr. Kathryn Dirkin, and Director of Instructional Development, Jeremy Bond. 


Caplan, D.  (2004).  The development of online courses.  In T. Anderson & F. Elloumi (Eds.), Theory and practice of online learning.  Athabasca, AB, Canada: Athabasca University.

Hixon, E. (2008). Team-Based Online Course Development: A Case Study of Collaboration Models. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 11(4), n4.

Luck, A.  (2001, Jan/Feb).  Developing courses for online delivery: One strategy.   Technology Source.