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Center for Teaching Excellence

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Distributed Learning Toolbox

The Distributed Learning Toolbox is designed to provide helpful resources to faculty, staff, and graduate teaching assistants who develop and deliver distributed learning courses at USC.

Welcome to the Center for Teaching Excellence's Distributed Learning Toolbox! Here, you will find a collection of best practices, guides, online tools, and other resources especially geared toward fostering excellence in teaching via the distributed learning format.

Course Design

Tools and resources to help you design a high-quality DL course.


Course Design Models

Course Materials 
The University’s Libraries have many resources available for instructors. Here are a few:

Creating Syllabi

Large Course Development

Learning Objectives

Open Educational Resources

Quality Assurance

  • Quality Matters (QM), the nationally recognized, faculty-centered, peer review process designed to certify the quality of online courses, provides a set of standards which is an excellent resource for online course development. (Once at the site, click "Download the Standards from the QM Higher Education Rubric" to view the QM rubric).
  • The Blackboard Exemplary Course Program Rubric provides useful rubrics for designing critical course components, including learning objectives, instructional strategies, interactions, and assessments.
Distributed Learning Pedagogy

Links to literature, guides, and other resources related to best practices in teaching DL courses.

Assessment and Feedback

Best Practices


Flipped and Active Learning

Student Engagement

Tools and Technology




Activities & Engagement
  • MERLOT’s Searchable Database: a curated collection of free and open online resources, including reusable learning objects.
  • 16 Technology Tools for Engaging Students: Idea Works’ quick slideshare overview of interactive technologies
  • Moving a Face-to-Face Course Online Without Losing Student Engagement (a Faculty Focus article)
  • Wiki Education Foundation gives professors the technical assistance they need to assign students, instead of writing a research paper, to write a brand-new Wikipedia entry, or expand an existing entry, on any topic in virtually any discipline. Students will pick up communication, media literacy, and critical thinking skills. Along the way, they’ll expand and improve the public’s access to knowledge of your field. It’s a win-win that inspires students in ways a traditional term paper never will.
Evaluation and Assessment
  • The University requires academic units to gather course evaluations from students in courses with enrollment of five or more.  There are additional questions that must be asked in Distributed Learning courses. Policy ACAF 1.04 - See Sec. II(B)(2) for Distributed Learning questions 
  • University Technology Services makes available the "Class Climate" tool for conducting course evaluations. 
Journals, Newsletters, and Other Toolboxes
  • Faculty Focus publishes articles on effective teaching strategies for the college classroom — both face-to-face and online.
  • Distance Learning: Quarterly journal of United States Distance Learning Association. Free access to back issues; current year issues are available with paid membership. 
  • Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration: a free, peer-reviewed electronic quarterly journal with a specific focus on the management of distance education programs.
  • Online Learning Consortium’s (OLC) Online Learning Journal: double-blind peer reviewed journal that promotes the development and dissemination of new knowledge at the intersection of pedagogy, emerging technology, policy, and practice in online environments.
  • The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning: a free refereed, open access e-journal that aims to disseminate research, theory, and best practice in open and distance learning worldwide.
  • The Toolbox: an online professional development newsletter offering innovative learner-centered strategies for empowering college students to achieve greater success.
Reading Room

Recommended Readings

Have a resource to share? We are constantly striving to improve the Distributed Learning Toolbox. If you have a favorite resource that is not listed here, please email Aisha Haynes, our Program Manager for Distributed Learning, at

Need help with your course? Submit the Distributed Learning Consultation Request Form for instructional design help.