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Backwards Course Design

Backwards design is a well-established method for planning learning experiences from the individual lesson level all the way up to the program or curricular level.  Rather than re-invent the wheel by describing the process in detail here, we provide links to a few well-chosen resources and “kits” for course design.

The Cal Poly Pomona eLearning Course Design Kit (docx)

Includes worksheets for lesson planning;  sample lesson modules including learning objectives, assessment examples, and learning activity examples; a total course planning table; a syllabus template.

Self-Directed Guide for Designing Courses for Significant Learning (pdf)

Based on the outstanding book Creating Significant Learning Experiences (Fink, 2003, revised 2013), this 37-page workbook leads the user through every step of course design from articulating learning objectives to “de-bugging” course plans to assessing the course overall.

Understanding by Design template (pdf)

Don’t be fooled by the fact that Understanding by Design (Wiggens & McTighe, 1998) was originally written for the K-12 world.  The powerful idea that our real task as instructors is to help students to become expert thinkers, not expert playback machines, crosses every level of education.  This template leads the user through the three stages of design:  crafting learning outcomes based on essential questions, articulating evidence, and creating effective learning activities.  

Designing Effective & Innovative Courses tutorial

This is an online version of an intense 4-day backwards course design workshop.  Although it’s written for the geosciences, it can be adapted to any discipline.  This is an in-depth, detailed treatment of course design with links to a wealth of other resources.