10 Key Differences Between Course Design and Course Development

designers create course design and course development

Even seasoned pros get mired in the terminology surrounding content creation. Besides that, the industry is full of change. Still, these industry terms—course design and course development are, at times, used interchangeably. Yet, course design and course development are two distinct actions. Therefore, here is a primer to explain the differences. 

What is Course Design: The Big Picture

This stage of course design is the fun part of content creation! Here is the spark that creators say, “I have an idea for a course.” “Yes! It’s a course.” Besides that, creating courses is fun. Most importantly, the beginning stages of projects can push the imagination to create without limitations. Here is when the course creators envision the course and develop a course design. Seasoned pros will work with teams to sketch out the course flow. Experienced instructional designers will listen to the flow of ideas. ID pros will ask how to fill the learning gap. They partner with stakeholders to bring the course into existence. 


What is Course Development: The Big Build

Most importantly, this stage is the hands-on build of the course. Here, the process moves from the big picture storyboards to the minute making of the content, creating the course development. Programmers code simulations. Videographers record role plays. Voice talent records audio. IDs fill in question banks. In smaller organizations, one or more can complete these different jobs. Large organizations may have departments devoted to each specialized skill. Therefore, an organization benefits from working with an experienced instructional design or course development company. Besides that, seasoned project leaders understand the importance of using subject matter experts. IDs know how to work with SMEs to create the unique content each course needs. 

10 Key Differences Comparison Table


In sum, course design and course development are two distinct processes. Together they make a dynamite course, a course that students want to take! Besides that, course design and course development are powerful tools in the hands of experienced pros. In the right hands, a course embodies the science of learning and the art of play.

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