Use the Backwards Design process to facilitate good course design for on-campus and hybrid courses including course assessment alignment to course objectives, effective instruction, and student engagement activities. See below for more information about course organization & design and accessibility.

Backwards Design

Backwards Design is a model for designing instructional materials with a focus on the desired results, or the learning objectives, of instruction. It takes a look at the course objectives first and uses that as a basis for driving all course assessments and instruction being planned within the course. Backwards design works in three steps: identifying course objectives, determining assessment evidence, learning experiences, and instruction.

Course Objectives

When developing course objectives, it is critical to consider what the desired outcome of the class is. In other words: “what do I want my students to be able to know or do by the end of the term?”
Course objectives should always be specific, measurable, and observable. Below is a general formula that can be used for objective writing:

  • Audience - Who will be reaching the objective?
  • Behavior - What will the audience be doing that will let you know they’re reaching the objective?
  • Condition - What are the conditions under which the audience will be carrying out the behavior? (i.e. in small groups, independently, etc)
  • Degree - To what degree with the audience be successful? (i.e. “with 95% accuracy”)

Note: Courses at JWU have course objectives already created within the course syllabus. For information about the University curriculum process, please contact a Faculty Representative on your College Curriculum Committee or the University Curriculum Committee (UCC). Faculty cannot change course objectives without going through the university's curriculum process.

Course Assessments & Assessments Evidence

It is imperative that all course assessments be directly aligned to the course objectives, as assessments serve as the primary tool for determining whether or not students have met the course objectives. To help establish alignment between existing course assessments and objectives, use the following document: Course Objectives and Course Assessment Alignment Planner Document. When developing or revamping course assessments, consider including different assessment types (i.e. multiple choice assessments, essays, performance assessments, etc.) to ensure variety to reach different learning styles, as well as including diverse question types using Webb’s Depths of Knowledge and Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Effective Instruction

Effective instruction takes a lot of strategic planning. Some common characteristics of effective instruction include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Clearly communicated objectives
  • Established class norms, routines, and community
  • Elements of “Universal Design for Learning” (i.e. varied delivery models, materials/tools, etc)
  • Daily activities to promote active learning
  • Scaffolded learning experiences for instruction, feedback, and reteaching
  • Solid connections to real-world contexts

Instructional Strategies

Instructional strategies are the techniques or methods that an instructor can adopt to meet various learning objectives. Instructional strategies enable students to focus their attention and organize their materials for better understanding.

The Instructional Strategies Packet contains 15 instructional strategies tailored around increasing student metacognition and comprehension of material that have been sorted by the environment that they would work best in (i.e., F2F or online with remote learning). All strategies in this packet are compliant with UDL standards and can be used at the discretion of the instructor for any class size that they see fit.

Active Learning Strategies

Active learning is an approach to instruction that involves directly involving students with the material that they are working with in class. The Active Learning Strategies Packet contains 15 active learning strategies to promote student engagement that have been sorted by the environment that they would work best in (i.e. F2F or online with remote learning). Each strategy has a stamp indicating which environments they would work in. All strategies in this packet are compliant with UDL standards and can be used at the discretion of the instructor for any class size that they see fit.

Essentials of ulearn Course Design

Intuitive course design includes good practices in the structure of the content in a ulearn course as well as guidelines for creating accessible content. Your ulearn course will be more effective when it shares the qualities of an intuitive website because it will allow your end-users, students, to determine what needs to be done without expending excessive cognitive load. One of the more intuitive methods for arranging course content is by setting up your class in a weekly format with a content area for each week. This format can minimize student frustrations as their information and tasks are laid out in a linear progression.

Requiring students to click on many folders to find different items, information, tasks, etc can make the learning process more challenging. It might not be obvious to students in what folders they will find the instructional components to complete the work for the week. By having all the parts that students need for the week’s work in one content area they are more likely to be successful as there is increased clarity of what they need to do without navigating to a variety of folders within the ulearn course.

Using ulearn to Communicate Student Directions Clearly:
It is a good habit to include specific, accurate, and detailed course content so it seems clear what students must do. Detailed and concise directions will save faculty time because students will not need to individually email them to ask about expectations and course logistics. Invest in time with course design before the semester begins to save time later during the semester.

As you create your course materials for ulearn, refer to the Course Accessibility Faculty Support to make sure your content is accessible to all students. For a more detailed outline for ulearn course design, see the Course Design Essentials Handout.

Instructional Design & Technology