Key Principles

The following principles and research guide the course design process to ensure that:

  • Research-based pedagogies provide the foundation for all courses
  • Courses are designed and implemented in ways that engage students, and promote learning.
  • You are adequately supported pedagogically and technically.

I. Alignment

A well-designed course is one that fosters student learning and promotes interaction while providing an avenue for students to meet the stated course goals.  Before you begin creating course materials, you need to define learning objectives based on your course goals. This approach is sometimes referred to as “Backwards Design”. This is the first step to creating a solid course structure. The design and development of assessments, as well as the selection of teaching and learning activities follow. Content (what you will teach) and learning activities (practice/feedback opportunities) are designed to provide students with the necessary and relevant information to meet the objectives. Assessments are designed to measure whether student have achieved those objectives. You should always be able to see clear relationships between your learning objectives, activities, and assessment strategies. Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Are the learning objectives stated using measurable and observable terms?
  • Are all of the activities and assessments based on objectives?
  • Are all objectives supported by the weekly content? Is there content that does not map to an objective?
  • Are all the objectives measured by activities that allow participants to judge whether or not they have met the objectives?

II. Seven Principles for Good Teaching Practice

Originally published by AAHE in 1987, the Seven Principles for Good Practice in Education are a meta-analysis of 50 years of research on the way teachers teach, and how students learn at the college level. Chickering and Ehrmann later published an update to the Seven Principles in 1996 tying the guidelines to online tools and environments, effectively documenting how these principles apply to teaching and learning in any environment. While each principle can stand alone, when all are present their effects multiply. Good teaching practice:

  1. Encourages contacts between students and faculty
  2. Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students
  3. Uses active learning techniques
  4. Gives prompt feedback
  5. Emphasizes time on task
  6. Communicates high expectations
  7. Respects diverse talents and ways of learning

III. Online Interactions

Research shows the quantity and quality of interactions with students is linked to student learning. More consideration needs to be made to student interactions, particularly online (student-instructor, student-student, student-content). (Swan, 2004)

While Swan’s research focused specifically on online courses, her principle observations and recommendations can be applied to all environments. Course interactions are most effective through a structured, consistent delivery and greater clarity in course design, goals, and instructor expectations, as well as ongoing assessment of student performance. Instructional designers can help you design (or re-design) your course; establish clear goals, clear guidelines or rubrics for participation and assignments, and create relevant, aligned assessment opportunities. These steps will lead to increased learning and a better overall student experience.

How long does the process take?

The course design process takes approximately twelve weeks, when ideally planned. Development time will be affected by the amount of material currently available in digital form and the types of media included in the course. A new course built without pre-existing materials and some multimedia –from start to finish - can easily take 100-150 plus hours (ideally spread out over twelve weeks). To increase efficiency, you can use affordable/open-source materials for course content when possible. Contact Jessica Bell, Institute Librarian, for more information or visit Library Resources.  Below is an overview of the process broken into five phases:

Phase 1: Orientation (week 1) :During Phase 1 instructional designers provide you with an overview of the course design process. Collaboratively you will explore potential strategies based on course inputs including course goals, syllabus, textbooks, existing materials, etc.

Phase 2: Establish a course plan and overall approach (week 2): During this phase you will work to establish weekly learning objectives and define your course topics. Instructional designers will work collaboratively with you to develop an overall instructional approach and create a week prototype, if developing an online course.

Since much of the design workload is upfront, it is essential that multiple interchanges between you and the instructional designers occur during the first two phases to provide a solid start for the project.

Phase 3: Week/Lesson design (weeks 3-9)

Phase 4: Faculty Production/Course Creation (weeks 4-10): Work during this phase runs concurrently with Phase 3. As week/lesson designs are completed, the materials can be created and built into D2L, as required.

Phase 5: Faculty Q/A (weeks 10-12)

You will meet with the instructional designers periodically throughout Phases 3-5, prior to the live course launch. The course design/development process should begin during the semester prior to launch:

Design Process begins no later than

Course Offered

June 1st

Fall Semester (September)

October 1st

Spring Semester (January)

March 1st

Summer Semester (May)

If these dates cannot be met due to extenuating circumstances, consultation will be needed to determine what level of design services can be offered based on current workload, amount of existing content, resource availability, and numbers of weeks available for design/development prior to course offering. Services and process are determined on a case-by-case basis.

Works Cited

Chickering, Arthur and Stephen C. Ehrmann (1996), "Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever," AAHE Bulletin, October, pp.  3-6.

Swan, K. (2004) Relationships between interactions and learning in online environments. The Sloan Consortium/Sloan-C Editor for Effective Practices in Learning Effectiveness

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