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Principles of Course Design

Course design is a cyclical process for which several models exist. The advantage of employing one of these models is that they provide a research-driven and systematic approach to designing instruction. The most well-known model is referred to by its acronym: ADDIE.

A - Analyze learners: Who are the students? What do they already know? What do they need to know?

D - Design instruction: What are the course goals? What are the learning objectives? What assessments and activities will help students achieve those objectives?

D - Develop learning materials and activities: What textbooks, readings, simulations, interactive digital materials, and online resources are needed for the activities and assessments that have been designed? Identify and create these resources. Prepare support materials such as rubrics, handouts, and templates; request library e-reserves.

I - Implement instruction: Teach the course.

E - Evaluate: Evaluate whether students achieved the learning goals (grade the students) AND evaluate the course: what worked, what didn't, request student input on course activities and expectations. Begin again.

Further Resources

  • Universal Design for Learning is an educational framework that takes into account student variability (in terms of students' abilities, preferences, prior education, etc.) and provides guidelines for developing curriculum that is accessible to everyone.
  • Integrated Course Design  by L. Dee Fink (IDEA Paper No. 42) is a five-step system that provides a conceptual framework for determining course goals, activities, and student assessment when creating and evaluating an integrated course design. 
  • Cutting Edge Course Design Tutorial from Carleton College is an online version of their all-day workshop. This extensive tutorial will help you write course goals, build part of a course to meet those goals, explore new teaching techniques, and develop innovative ways of teaching the course. 
  • Backward course design begins by identifying the desired results of a course and then designs teaching strategies to achieve those results.

More on Course Design

Learn what the instructional designers at DePaul's Center for Teaching and Learning have to say about course design on their blog.

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