Features of High-Quality Online Courses in Higher Education: A Scoping Review


  • Alysia Christine Wright University of Calgary
  • Timothy Cameron Carley University of Calgary
  • Raisa Alarakyia-Jivani University of Calgary
  • Sameer Nizamuddin University of Calgary




online learning, higher education, course design, quality


What are the features of high-quality online courses in higher education? In this scoping review, we explore peer-reviewed scholarship related to the features of online learning in postsecondary contexts. We searched ERIC (EBSCO), Education Research Complete, and SocINDEX with Fulltext to retrieve peer-reviewed literature from 2010-2022 pertaining to features of online learning in higher education. Two reviewers independently conducted the initial title and abstract screening (n = 1,574), full text review (n = 483), and data extraction of the included articles (n = 38). Using thematic content analysis to explore the data extracted from each article, we found that the literature predominately included scholarship related to quality online course design, instructor facilitation in online courses, quality assessment of online courses, and student engagement in online courses. The breadth of these themes included a multiplicity of strategies and approaches to consider when designing online learning experiences. We recommend that administrators, faculty members, and instructors responsible for designing online courses and programs for postsecondary contexts continue to incorporate these considerations to promote high-quality and consistent online offerings. We conclude the review by presenting four high-level considerations to guide these discussions.


Author Biography

Alysia Christine Wright, University of Calgary

Alysia Wright, PhD Candidate, is an Educational Development Consultant at the University of Calgary, Canada, where she also teaches at the Faculty of Social Work as a sessional instructor. She brings more than a decade of community and educational development experience to her teaching and consultation practice. Alysia is currently the academic lead for a three-year initiative to catalyze blended and online learning at the University of Calgary, which has included the development and delivery of faculty development initiatives with a focus on pedagogy, academic integrity, and intentional use of learning technologies to promote student-centered learning.


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Systematic Reviews of Research on Online Learning