Design your Course(s)

A good model for approaching course design is the Backwards Design model . This simply means beginning at the end – your intended learning outcomes – then aligning your teaching and assessment activities with these learning outcomes which is also called Constructive Alignment. When you align these three elements of your course, you ensure an optimal learning environment where students can acquire and construct their own knowledge and develop solid competencies.

Steps to Course Design

To begin, you should first identify your desired results for student learning by the end of your course – What essential knowledge, skills, abilities, competencies, attitudes, values, etc. do you want students to possess by the end of the course?

Once your learning outcomes are identified, you should determine what assessment criteria would provide appropriate evidence as to whether and to what extent students have learned what you intended for them, and what assessment tasks would be best suited to gather this data – What would allow them to demonstrate that they possess this knowledge, skill, value, ability, competency, attitude, etc?

Once you have identified your learning indicators, you can plan the teaching and learning details of your course – What course content, instructional practices and learning experiences will best support student learning?

Course Design is composed by 4 modules: Learning Outcomes, Assessment Planning, Instructional Planning, Constructive Alignment

Course Design Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, you will be able to design a course that:

  • Is based on student-focussed learning outcomes
  • Aligns assessment tasks to course learning outcomes
  • Targets instructional strategies and learning activities that align with assessment practices

For more information on course alignment, please review:

Blumberg, P. (2009). Maximizing Learning Through Course Alignment and Experience with Different Course Design Landing Page

Types of Knowledge. Innovative Higher Education, 2009, Volume 34, Number 2, Page 93

For more details on Backwards Design principles, please consult:

Wiggins, G. P. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VI: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

For more details on Constructive Alignment, please refer to:

Biggs, J. 1996.  Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment.  Higher Education 32:347- 364.

1McTighe, Wiggins, Understanding by Design Framework

2John Biggs Constructive Alignment