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Designing Your Course

Most instructors get little or no training in how to design courses. At the start of their careers they are often more focused with the subject matter and putting together a good lecture.  While content is important, it is only one element of course design. With the wealth of information and communication technologies available today, most information can be called up within seconds. The instructor's role then changes from being a dispenser of information to being a creator, facilitator and assessor of effective learning activities.  Using a systematic approach based on one of the models of instructional design described here will help you to focus on each of the key components of your course.  The basic components of both models are similar and emphasize the need to start with the end point, or learning goals.  Taking this approach ensures that the content is focused and organized. 

Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins: Understanding by Design, or UbD

UbD is a 3 stage model that relies on "backward design".  In Stage 1 you identify the learning outcomes - what student's should be able to do,  the "big ideas" or global understandings, and essential questions that will guide the learner towards understanding.  In Stage 2 you determine what you will accept as evidence that understanding and new skill acquisition have occurred. Only when these stages are complete should you turn your attention towards the sequence of activities, events and resources you'll need to create or provide to the learners. 

Learn more in these online books in Kellogg Library

Understanding by Design, by Wiggins and McTighe
The Understanding by Design Guide to Creating High Quality Units, by Grant Wiggins

Dee Fink: Integrated Course Design

By following the steps below and the principles outlined in the self-directed guide, you can build a solid foundation that will enable active, meaningful learning. 

  1. Identify your goals and objectives.
  2. Formulate appropriate assessments and feedback mechanisms.
  3. Determine the learning activities needed to prepare students to meet the objectives.
  4. Identify the teaching materials needed to support the learning activities.
  5. Map the order of the e-learning activities.
  6. Choose your instructional strategies.
  7. Assemble and integrate into Learning Management System.

Key Components of Integrated Course Design

triangle demonstrating that assessments and learning activities as elements leading to achievment of topic objectives. The learner and environment also determine what activities and assessments are appropriate. ng topic objectives

Adapted from Fink, L.D. (2003). Creating Significant Learning Experiences, Jossey-Bass.

A Self-Directed Guide to Designing Courses for Significant Learning, by Dee Fink, PhD, based on the book " Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses,  By following the principles outlined in this document, you can create strong, effective, focused courses that will significantly impact your students.

More Online Books from Kellogg Library

Idea-based learning: a course design process to promote conceptual understanding, by Edmund J. Hansen, 2011

How to design and teach a hybrid course: achieving student centered learning through blended classroom, online and experiential activities, by Jay Caulfield, 2011