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Development and Design of Online Courses: Requirements and Recommendations

Development and Design of Online Courses: Requirements and Recommendations

Development and Design of Online Courses: Requirements and Recommendations sets out the minimum requirements for the content and relevant technical parameters for online courses developed by the HSE University's academic staff that can be hosted in the HSE University’s information systems for internal use. An online course is a holistic audio-visual educational product, which shall include several required elements: video lectures covering each topic of a given course, various types of assessments for each topic, a forum or other feedback instruments, a final test, and a list of further course readings. There are two categories of online courses − massive courses (MOOC) and small courses (SPOC), depending on the potential number of students.

Online courses may be offered

  1. entirely online, whereby all elements, including all types of assessments, are presented remotely without synchronization;
  2. in a blended format, whereby some or all elements of the course are combined with real-time educational sessions held remotely or on-campus.

Video clips from online courses may be published on external platforms, but they must include a link to the complete course and provide information about the conditions for taking the course.

If you want to create an online course for one of the external platforms, please contact the eLearning Office. If you are interested in creating high-quality video content for internal use at HSE University, please use the OneButton service.


    The description section of an online course published on the HSE University's internal online platform must feature the following elements: course summary and its structure, course content along with expected learning outcomes, assessment methods and related grade calculation formulas, information about the authors, a list of further readings, and a link to additional materials.


    A course summary should not be longer than 3,000 characters with spaces.

    It must include:

    the core goals of the course;

    • its place in the curriculum of an educational programme (for online courses) or the course syllabus (for blended-learning courses); if the course is incorporated with another educational product (e.g., a Minor course), this should be clearly stated;
    • prerequisites (if applicable);
    • the course’s duration and average weekly workload;
    • information about the course’s authors with links to their profiles on HSE University's website.



    This section should include a brief description of the content for each topic covered under the course, as well as respective learning outcomes. The expected learning outcomes should be described in line with the Bloom Taxonomy (remembering-understanding-applying) with references to specific video clips or course assignments. If the course’s videos are fully aligned with the topics outlined in the syllabus, you can just provide a link to the relevant syllabus.


    Please provide an overview of all mandatory assessments along with a description of the relevant assessment criteria and examples of the course assignments. Please also include the formula used for calculating the intermediate and final course grade. It must be clearly stated if one of the assessments is a milestone assignment (in such cases, the overall course grade may not be higher than the grade assigned for the milestone assessment).


    A list of special hardware and software needed to complete the course, and instructions on how this hardware/software can be obtained.


    This section should highlight further readings for self-study and additional materials related to the course.


    Educational technologies used in massive and small online courses must ensure that all students have an opportunity to meet their learning objectives regardless of their physical location.

    Since SPOCs are designed for smaller groups of students, they may include real-time sessions such as webinars, online consultations, project presentations, etc. 

    The methods and tools utilized in MOOCs' design should account for a possible increase in the total number of students. At the same time, an increase in the total number of students should not result in the course support requiring much effort, and it is not intended that the course’s authors will be directly involved in work with students. Therefore, real-time educational technologies should not be used when making massive online courses.

    When planning the course content, please keep in mind that mandatory and optional elements should be delimitated. This will help the student reduce his/her course load and achieve the planned learning outcomes.

    Courses wh are offered exclusively online must include all materials necessary to complete all types of assessment and meet all expected learning goals.

    Students can take part in the development of the new course content.


    A course’s videos should be well-aligned with the topics described in the course content section. Each topic should be covered in 60-90 minute video sessions. Each video session dedicated to a single topic must be divided into short self-contained video fragments, coming to 7-12 minutes each. This structure will ensure a better perception of the course material on the part of the students.


    There should be one PPT presentation per lecture. The first slide should contain only the title of the lecture while the second slide should include only the title of a given fragment (part).

    Each new fragment within a lecture should start with a slide showing its title.

    The recommended number of slides is at least 60 for a 60-minute lecture, i.e., one slide should be on the screen for about one minute only.

    The key lecture formats that the author can make at home:

    • a screencast accompanied by an author (can be used to show how a specific application, software, content and/or web resource works);
    • a PPT presentation accompanied by an author (a demonstration of PPT presentation slides followed by the author's comments).


    In PPT presentations, the course materials should take up the entire slide space. The recommended PowerPoint presentation template is Widescreen 16:9. The font size for the titles should be 32pt bold and 24pt for standard text blocks. Links to illustrations and other borrowed materials should be marked in a grey font (11pt in size). The recommended font is Myriad Pro.

    When making the slides, please make sure that the author's image on the screen doesn't interfere with the slide contents. We recommend reserving a special space on each slide for your image.

    • Format: mp4;
    • Codec: H.264;
    • Resolution: no less than 1280x720;
    • Aspect ratio: 16:9;
    • The slide should not contain any blank spaces, but small margins on the sides are required;
    • The recommended font size is 24pt.

    OBS Studio is arguably the best software for capturing your computer screen. We recommend using this to create your course videos at home. This software requires a laptop with a web camera or a desktop computer with a web camera.


    Minimum requirements for video content:

    • Resolution: 1920x1080 or higher;
    • Video stream for resolutions 1280x720, 1920x1080:
    • bitrate in the range of 1–6 Mbit/s;
    • Frames per second: 25 fps.
    • Minimum requirements for audio content:
    • Codec: AAC, AC3, OGG, mp3;
    • Channels: 2 (stereo);
    • Sample rate: 48 kHz;
    • Audio stream: CBR at least 192 kbit/s, VBR −160-320 kbit/s.
    • We recommend using a sans-serif type font (for example, Myriad Pro):
    • We do not recommend using more than two fonts in the same course;
    • Please use the same bullet point format throughout the course;
    • We do not recommend using a completely white background, text boxes and strokes;
    • It is advisable to use colour contrast between the text and background to make the text more readable;
    • We do not recommend using more than three font colours for the same course.
    • We recommend that you refrain from using contrasting font colours within a single sentence, paragraph, or table;
    • If you need to use background colour in tables, please refrain from using contrasting colours relative to the slide background; instead, you can make the background colour a shade lighter or darker or use a transparent fill;
    • The width of the borders, table lines, and arrows should be the same as the thickness of the lines in a given font;
    • It is advisable to stick to the same style, colour scheme, border and shadow formatting for all photos, drawings, and animated materials used throughout the course;
    • It is advisable to respect the copyright of third parties when using pictograms and infographics;
    • We recommend recording one session in one take to ensure a better experience for viewers;
    • When preparing to appear on camera, please refrain from using contrasting colours and multiple colours in your clothes and/or make-up;
    • Teachers are not recommended to have checked or striped elements in their clothing while appearing on camera.

    The general requirements for setting up a learning outcomes assessment system are specified in the Regulations for Interim and Ongoing Assessments of Students at National Research University Higher School of Economics.


    The assessment framework should include instruments, which can ensure that all expected learning outcomes are properly tested. Each course topic should end with an assessment session held via the online platform or in an integrated system. In turn, assessment criteria, scales, and relevant procedures should be set up for each type of assessment. For MOOCs, all assessments should be either fully automated or partially automated and relying, in part, on self-assessments or peer reviews.

    The algorithm for calculating the intermediate and final grade for the course must be clearly defined.

    To improve the validity of assessments, e.g. reducing the risk that students may still remember the assignments during retakes, it is advisable to set up delayed retake schedule (e.g., students can only attempt to retake a failed test covering a given topic 24 hours later; a retake for the final test cannot take place earlier than seven days from the first attempt, etc.).

    The final course grade may include additional points for academic achievements among the peers (e.g., being in the top 10% of best students throughout the course or for an individual assignment), as well as points for forum participation, regular involvement, etc.


    All assignments should be aligned with the capacity of the respective online platform or integrated services. If integration with a third-party service is necessary to effectively run the course, a decision with respect to the feasibility of the integration should be made at the planning stage.

    The recommended number of test questions covering each course topic ーup to 15 questions (to be completed within 30 minutes).

    The recommended number of test questions for the final exam (if the final exam is a test) ー up to 30 (to be completed within 60 minutes).

    We recommend making two to three alternative versions of the final test, which can be used for retakes.