Building Your Course


On this page you'll find information on (click the link to jump to that section):


Click here for the Center for Teaching and Learning's upcoming workshops - a valuable resource in planning the design of your course.

    • faculty timeline

Course Components

These are the primary and supplemental (optional) course components.  You should have a plan for each of the essential components early on in the setup stage.

In this section you'll find information on:

  • Types of videos
  • Creating your videos
  • Equipment and staff available
    • components


There are 3 ways to create your videos (you may choose to do any combination of these):

  1. Self-record
  2. In-studio
  3. On-location

Types of Videos

    • slide1
    • slide3
    • slide2
    • slide6
    • slide5
    • slide7
    • slide7
    • slide8
    • slide10
    • slide11
    • slide12
    • slide13
    • slide14
    • slide14
    • slide17
    • slide18
    • slide19
    • slide20
    • slide21
    • slide22

Guidelines for choosing a type of video:

  • Having your face on-screen helps connect you to students
  • Feel free to mix and match video types
  • Make the best use of the medium (e.g. avoid narrating a PowerPoint)
  • Leverage the professional video and editing resources available to you
  • Add in some relevant (timely) content:
    • react to submissions from students
    • comment on current events
    • changed perspective based on the previous weeks


Equipment and Staff Available 

The following is a list of equipment and resources available for use along with experts who will guide you through the process:

  • Studio setup with customizable backdrops
  • Green screens
  • Teleprompters
  • Offsite recording
  • Audio capabilities
  • Editing capabilities
  • Digitally created settings


This is the equipment we recommend: 

Webcam – Logitech HD Pro C920


Microphone – Blue Snowflake Microphone

Studio Lighting:

Software – Camtasia 8


Creating Your Videos


  • Maximum length per video:  20 minutes
  • Typical total length per week:  1.5 to 3 hours
  • Subtitles and captioning provided by Coursera
  • We highly recommend not videotaping you in the classroom
  • You should have face time every week, at least an intro video
  • Keep things flexible so you can add/change along the way
  • Watch several courses to see what works for you
  • Students will often download videos due to:
    • Using ADA tools
    • Bandwidth variation by country
    • Wanting to watch at their leisure

What to Wear

  • Solid, bold colors work best
  • Stripes or checks can interfere with the camera
  • Do not wear green if you are working in front of a green screen
  • Consider your background

Reducing the Number of Takes

In a studio:

  • Visit the studio in advance to get a feel for it (ask the point of contact for a tour)
  • Have a script
    • Provide a file in advance if you are using a teleprompter
    • If narration only, bring with you
  • Determine what makes you most comfortable:
    • Being alone (the studio staff will be present)
    • Having a small audience


  • Record in small takes and splice them together:
    • iMovie, Camtasia or other video editing software are very easy to use
    • Choreograph the narration with the slides
  • Ensure the lighting is good:
    • Avoid shadows
    • Ensure your workspace (if on camera) is bright and even
  • Audio quality:
    • Use an external microphone
    • Be consistent with your microphone so that audio quality does not vary and that transitions are not as noticeable


  • You will want to have the videos ready for Week 1, 2 at least two weeks prior to the start date
  • You can do videos throughout the course, in fact, you may want to plan for this since you will refine them as you go
  • If you are using the help of a studio, you will want to make sure to schedule in advance


There are four types of assessments in Coursera:

  • IN-VIDEO QUIZZES - thought provoking questions interspersed in the video requiring the viewer to pause to respond
  • QUIZZES - quizzes, assignments, exams, surveys (objective question types, computer graded)
  • PEER ASSESSMENTS - subjective questions with rubrics that guide students to evaluate their peers
  • PROGRAMMING ASSIGNMENTS - complex computer algorithms grade assignments

Please expand the sections below for more details.

1. In-Video Quizzes

In-video quizzes are a type of informal assessment that appears within lecture videos, typically after a key concept has been explained. They facilitate retrieval-based learning and enable students to test their understanding on the spot. Students are not formally graded on in-video quizzes, and correct answers are not required to continue watching the rest of the lecture video.

In-video quizzes are available only to students who stream the lecture videos, but not available to those who download the videos and watch them offline. As a result, in-video quiz results cannot be factored into the final grade of a course.

In-video quiz questions are usually designed such that a student should be able to answer within about 10 seconds if they have been paying attention; longer or more difficult questions can sometime break the lecture flow. We suggest creating one in-video quiz question for every 8-10 minutes of lecture video. You can specify the precise moment in the lecture video that the in-video quiz appears.

To see Coursera's demonstration video, click here.

For more information, see Coursera's support documentation on In-Video Quizzes.


2. Quizzes

Quizzes are auto-graded based on the answer scheme you provide when creating the quiz, and students can see their scores immediately upon completion of the quiz. Standalone quizzes also contain immediate feedback for students; you provide explanations of correct and incorrect answers when creating the quiz, and students are automatically shown these explanations when they get their scores.

Another feature is randomization; you can create several variations of the same question, and different instances of the quiz will display different variations of the question. For example, two students doing the quiz at the same time might see different variations of the same question, thereby reducing instances of cheating. 

Different Quiz Types

There are four different types of assessments that are subsumed under the category of quizzes:

  • Quizzes refer to small tests that are assigned throughout the course

  • Exams refer to midterms or finals

  • Homeworks are usually regular, weekly assignments

Different Question Types

  • Radio: This is the basic multiple choice question with one correct answer.

  • Dropdown: Like the radio button question, this is a multiple choice question with one correct answer. The difference is in the display: answer options for a dropdown question are shown in a dropdown menu.

  • Checkbox: This question can have more than one correct answer. Students are awarded credit for selecting the correct options and for not selecting the incorrect options.

  • Single numeric: Usually used in math and science classes, this type of question asks students to input their answer as a number.

  • Multiple numeric (vector): This type of question requires students to input their answer as a series of numbers in a particular order.

  • Short answer: This asks students to enter a short word or phrase that must exactly match the answer.

  • Short answer (regular expression): This asks students to enter text that must match some pattern found in the correct answer.

  • Short answer (math expression): This asks students to enter a mathematical phrase using a combination of numbers, variables, operators, and symbols.

To try out different question types, see Coursera's Quiz Gallery.


3. Peer Assessments

Why Peer Assessments?

Not all assignments lend themselves easily to automated computer grading. For example, in a poetry course, an instructor may want students to practice critical thinking and interpretive skills by answering essay-style questions, which do not have clear right or wrong answers. Similar issues arise when we are evaluating business plans, engineering designs, medical chart reviews, or many other assessment types.

Peer assessments accomplish two important functions in a MOOC:

  • first, assignments that are graded by peers (rather than instructors and course staff) make personal feedback possible in large classes that have thousands of students
  • second, and importantly, peer assessments give students a chance to learn by being both "student" and "teacher" 

Creating Peer Assignments

There are two critical pieces of the assessment that you as an instructor need to create:

  • the assignment itself (i.e. the general instructions and question(s) that you want to ask students
  • the grading rubric (i.e. the detailed instructions and criteria that students use to evaluate the homework)

Learning what makes a good assignment and going through the experience of evaluating assignments is a critical part of the student learning experience. Careful attention devoted to an effective rubric is as important as designing effective instructions and questions.

Guidelines for Successful Peer Assignments:

  • at least 5 students should review their peers' work
  • it won't be the same 5 students, so assignments should not be "cumulative;" alternatively students may need to repeat the key points each week
  • test the process out thoroughly with TAs
  • students must use Safari, Mozilla or Chrome to view
  • the clearer the rubric, the fewer complaints you will have:
    • it should be quantifiable
    • it should be clear
  • give students a range of points to award
  • stress that collaborative and constructive feedback has value
  • stress clarity of their submission if you are having them upload images

Click here for Coursera's support documentation on Peer Assignments.

4. Programming Assignments

Coursera supports more complex (programming, etc.) exercises, where the students submit something (such as code or data), and an instructor-provided grading routine checks their submission, and provides back to us (i) a (possibly HTML formatted) text string that gives feedback to the students, and (ii) a number giving the student’s score. These exercises are typically programming exercises; in most of these exercises, our servers send over test data to the students, the students run their code on the test data (on their own computer), and return the output of their program to our servers, where it is checked for correctness.

This system greatly expands the range of machine-gradable assessments, and you may want to consider using programming for some part of the assessment, even if it's not a CS class. Other examples of classes where programming might make a lot of sense could include a Statistics class having students implement something in R which could be auto-graded, or an engineering class asking students to write a Matlab or Octave program to calculate facts about flows/turbulence/stresses/etc. We can also consider this approach for numerical calculations in an excel spreadsheet, e.g., in a finance class. This is an option worthy of consideration for any class that can utilize software that produces a formatted output.

For more information, please go to Coursera's support documentation on Programming Assignments.

discussion forums

A forum is a place where students can post questions and comments on class material. Forums are moderated by teaching staff and instructors can post comments in forums as well. While students can post content within forums, they cannot create forums themselves.

Forum screen shot

Forum screen shot


Structure them to optimize the traffic

Create one for each week's specific material

Isolate technical problems in a separate forum

Have a plan for what TAs will do on the forums

Do not put your personal contact information on there

Respond generally to themes that arise

Set the expectation you cannot respond to individual requests/questions

student outreach

Welcome Email

This is an auto-generated email that students will receive when they enroll. This is filled out in the course setup process. It is customized with the registrants' names.

Weekly Email

It is a good practice to send "end of the week/wrap-up" emails which can:

  • summarize what the students learned
  • take note of what they accomplished
  • give them encouragement
  • remind them what's due
  • give them insights into the following week

Emails for Important Updates

You may find the need to communicate with students throughout the course, and you can send them an email at any time.

We recommend:

  • sending a test email first (TAs can typically draft these)
  • using email infrequently (at most 2x/week)
  • using email when there is a major content or technical issue
  • not sending an email with each announcement (though you can trigger it to happen automatically per email)

Direct Contact

We discourage you or your TAs to provide your personal contact information (though students may locate it anyway) and we also do not recommend replying to personal emails. Professors can check in on the forums and provide some general replies.

TA Structure

TA Structure


It may be helpful to think of a TA's roles in two categories:

  • Content "expert"
  • Coursera platform editor

Content Expert

This will be someone who can:

  • Create assignments and assessments
  • Answer content related questions on the discussion forums
  • Make suggestions on course and/or platform setup given pedadgogical goals
  • Produce supplemental content materials for the course if applicable
  • Possibly serve as Lead TA if there are multiple
  • Provide content that can be shared on Twitter and Facebook

This person (role) is required at the following times:

  • 2-3 months in advance of the course for content related functions (range is from about 5-20 hours/week)
  • During the course to monitor the forums, handle content issues (5-10 hours/week)

Coursera Platform Editor

This may or may not be the same person and will be someone who:

  • Can manage a schedule of how your course will be launched and delivered
  • Is available as needed (sometimes this requires getting on the Coursera site at midnight) - most things can be done virtually 
  • Can organize your material well
  • Has a focus on detail (e.g. typos are instantly visible to the entire world)
  • Has a proficient knowledge of technology (websites and HTML are a plus)
  • Is available at the same time each week to ensure everything is ready to go for that week of class
  • Can translate any issues to the other TAs and instructor if required
  • Do basic analytics on your course's performance
  • Understands social media

This role takes about:

  • 50 total hours of setup time
  • 10-20 hours per week during the course
  • 20 hours per week the week before a course goes live
  • 4 hours during the week after the course is closed

You can always contact the open learning team or CTL for guidance on your specific needs.

Below is a TA description with tasks and time estimates which may be helpful when searching for TAs.


The Library's information on copyright:

Click here for their website resources on intellectual property and Open Learning.  Email the team directly at: .

The Center for Teaching and Learning:

Click here for their website resources on Open Learning