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Online Course Designer Career Guide

How to Become a Online Course Designer

Thanks to online learning, many students have been able to complete degree programs without leaving their own homes. Though there are both pros and cons to distance learning, it does allow schools, colleges, and universities to offer students around the world access to high-quality academics. Online course designers help to create these learning programs — curriculums designed with remote students in mind.

As an online course designer, you’ll create dynamic courses that help online students engage with lessons and content. You might even work alongside educators to ensure that the courses you create are easily teachable and beneficial for students seeking to improve their knowledge of specific fields.

If you have a passion for education, and you want to help take modern education into a bright future, the role of an online course designer is right for you.

Focused teen girl writes notes while watching an online video or school course.

What is an Online Course Designer?

An online course designer is an individual who builds a variety of digital courses, learning programs, and curriculums to help virtual students thrive. You will make decisions that influence students’ content consumption, while structuring courses in ways that help teachers gauge student progress.

Though it’s similar to the course-creation role of an instructional designer, an online course designer role is about creating curriculums for online students.

Potential online course designers generally need both an undergraduate and a master’s degree to enter the field. Because of the differences between traditional and online education, many employers also prefer that you have at least a few years of experience working in a virtual educational environment.

What Does a Online Course Designer Do?

Online course designers are expected to fulfill quite a few responsibilities each day. You will ideate, design, and help to implement courses that positively influence the students who use them.

The exact responsibilities of an online course designer include:

  • Brainstorming new courses with educators, school executives and representatives, and other team members.
  • Creating all course materials, including general course materials, study sheets, and exams.
  • Optimizing courses according to feedback from students, parents, and school representatives to help online curriculums further benefit student education.
  • Troubleshooting any issues with online programs or platforms required for full course use.
  • Communicating with educators to determine how course materials should be best packaged and presented for student use.
  • Researching the latest developments in online education to identify any new trends or technologies worth implementing.
  • Collaborating with other online course designers to build courses promptly.

These and other responsibilities keep online course designers busy each day as they remain focused on building the best possible assets for remote students.

What Education Does a Online Course Designer Need?

Before you can begin a career as an online course designer, you’ll need to clear a few educational hurdles. Once you have completed your undergraduate degree, you’ll need to further your education with an instruction-related master’s degree.

Many students pursue a master's degree in instructional design. This program also helps to prepare you for a full-time course-creation role, helping you improve your knowledge of design analysis, evaluation methodology, and the course evaluation process. Similarly, a degree in learning and technology could be a great fit for a student looking to pursue a career as a course designer. In this type of degree program you will learn about how technology and course design connect. 

Best Degrees for Online Course Designers

Instructional Design – M.Ed.

An online master's degree for current teachers and others...

An online master's degree for current teachers...

An online master's degree for current teachers and others looking to further their careers with a graduate program focused on designing top-notch curriculum.

No teaching license required.

  • Time: 87% of grads earned this degree within 24 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,635 per 6-month term.

Coursework in this program covers the following areas of study:

  • Instructional design
  • Research fundamentals
  • Measurement and evaluation

Improve teaching, training and learning. Learn to build better curriculum with this education master's degree.

Learning and Technology – M.Ed.

An online master's degree for current teachers or others looking...

An online master's degree for current teachers or...

An online master's degree for current teachers or others looking to further their careers with a graduate program focused on integrating technology with instructional design principles.

No teaching license required.

  • Time: 73% of grads earned this degree within 18 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,635 per 6-month term.

Coursework in this program covers the following areas of study:

  • Instructional design
  • Research fundamentals
  • Technology integration

Harness the power of technology to teach more kids in better ways with this education master's degree.

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What Skills Does an Online Course Designer Need?

Online course designers depend on a variety of skills each day. Whether you’re creating new curriculums, integrating educator feedback into your courses, or learning new pieces of technology, your skillset will be critical for achieving success each day.

The skills an online course designer needs include:

  • Creativity: The ability to design courses that help online students engage with materials and develop useful skills.
  • Course implementation: The ability to fully integrate courses into a school’s existing networks, to provide all students with access to the educational materials they need to succeed.
  • Course optimization: The ability to revise specific aspects of online courses to accommodate student preferences and changing student needs.
  • Writing: The ability to draft written course materials that help students easily understand, and learn from, the content.
  • Troubleshooting: The ability to diagnose and solve technical issues that an online course might be experiencing.
  • Technological proficiency: The ability to fully use all required technology for the role, including any computers, tablets, phones, and digital platforms, as well as online education tools.
  • Teamwork: The ability to work well alongside other online course designers, school representatives, or team members.
  • Interpersonal communication: The ability to correspond effectively with anyone else involved in the course creation process.
  • Data analysis/reporting: The ability to collect and learn from data in ways that can inspire further improvements to online curriculums.

These skills help online course designers excel in creative roles as they work to provide students with high-quality online courses and programs.

How Much Does an Online Course Designer Make?


The exact income of an online course designer varies based on many different factors. These can include your employer, employer’s location, employer’s size, employer’s public or private educational funding, your years of experience, and education. On average, the annual salary of an online course designer is $66,467; the top 10% can make $134,000 and the bottom 10% of earners take home $18,500 each year.

What Is the Projected Job Growth?


As online education continues to grow in popularity and use, the job outlook for online course designers should remain favorable in future years. Employment for all instructional coordinators is expected to grow 6% from 2019 to 2029, a growth rate above the average across all occupations.

Where Do Online Course Designers Work?


Online course designers work for a number of different employers. While some online course designers are employed by third-party curriculum-creating companies, others work internally for educational institutions.

Online course designers currently work for institutions such as elementary schools, high schools, colleges and universities, trade schools or other post-secondary schools or independent curriculum providers.

No matter where an online course designer works, they will work to create the best possible curriculums for online student use.

Interested in Becoming a Online Course Designer?

Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for this meaningful career.

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