Best Practices FAQ: Objectives and Competencies

I’m in the process of planning a new course, but I’m not really sure where to begin. Do you have anything that might assist me in getting started with the objectives and the content of the course?

Absolutely! We have a simple, easy to use tool called the Course Planning Worksheet. It will assist you in planning and aligning the scope and sequence of your course, the objectives, the content (readings/media/resources), how students engage with the content, and how students will be assessed. Visit our Files and Forms page and click on the link for the worksheet.

What resources would you recommend for writing effective course objectives?

If you are not yet familiar with Bloom’s Taxonomy or Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy, we recommend you investigate the following resources for identifying actionable and meaningful objectives and assessments in your course. As a general rule of thumb, we should aim for objectives that will support or scaffold real-world experiences for students or build skills and knowledge that will advance students toward these real-world experiences.

Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Compose Learning Objectives. Bloom’s Taxonomy divides the way people learn into three domains. One of these is the cognitive domain, which emphasizes intellectual outcomes. This domain is further divided into categories or levels. The key words used and the type of questions asked may aid in the establishment and encouragement of critical thinking, especially in the higher levels.

Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy
Guide to Writing Learning Objectives


Best Practices FAQ: Assessments

University of Memphis online courses are expected to provide the same rigor as “on-the-ground” courses. Each course should include clearly defined objectives, meaningful assessments, and activities designed to engage and retain the online learner. The following questions have been asked by faculty at the University of Memphis:

How long should quizzes and exams be?

The length of quizzes and exams will be based directly on the competencies and objectives for your course. You may also consider basing this on the weight of these assessments. For example, a more informal or formative assessment could be completed in fewer questions — a “temperature check,” so to speak. However, if you are more interested in exam-type questions, you may consider creating a text bank, and randomly selecting quiz questions so that students do not always receive the text/exam in the same format, order (or the same questions). eCourseware provides you multiple ways of delivering your quiz or exam. To learn more about the Quizzes tool, we recommend you contact umTech (901.678.8888).

What length of time should I provide my students to complete an exam or quiz?

Similar to the length or number of questions, the time you provide your students will be based on a number of factors: the content of the quiz, the format (multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, essay), or other restrictions. If you are mostly interested in protecting the integrity of your quiz (or preventing students from looking up responses), we do recommend you place a time limit on an exam or quiz. However the length of time will vary based on the objectives and the course in general.

If a student has a technical issue with an online exam and is unable to complete the exam or quiz, should there be a penalty for the student?

For the most part, it will be up to you to determine whether or not the student has reason or need for extended time to complete an assessment. Knowing whether or not to permit an extension will be based on a variety of factors: (a) statement of expectations for completing assessments on time (Did the student wait until the last minute to access the exam?) (b) severity of the technical issue experienced (Has the technical issue prevented the student from submitting the exam?)

 What should be the expectations for discussion postings?

Research indicates that active participation in discussions is a successful method for improving student engagement in a course.  The guidelines will be based on the driving questions you provide the students and the overall objectives of your curriculum and course.

At minimum, we recommend you set deadlines for the posts and guidelines for the frequency of posts and replies to other students. We also recommend you have a strategy in place to measure the quality of posts — this could be in the form of a rubric or a checklist. Again, the depth and breadth of discussion will be based on the subject matter of the course and your own expectations for your students. Also, remember to place a statement of these expectations (as well as other expectations for online learning) in your syllabus.

A great resource for Managing Online Discussions can be found at (