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Center for Teaching & Learning: Course Design, Development, and Assessment

Supporting the MCPHS faculty and staff in their commitment to excellence and innovation in teaching and learning

Write Your Syllabus

Start Strong: Plan Your Online Course

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Ready for next semester? Use these quick checklists.

Get Ready!

Try our checklists with detailed recommendations to help you stay on track while your prepare your courses.

  • Are you on schedule for the semester? Review the Preparing & Managing Your Blackboard Course Space timeline.
  • Are you are a Blackboard and online teaching expert? Try Housecleaning for Your Copied Course.
  • Do you teach face-to-face in the classroom? Facing Next Semester: Prepare Your Face-to-Face Course is for you.
  • Developing a new course? Start with Moving In: Prep Your New Course.

Designing Your Course - Begin with Backward Design

Start by watching this video or for more extensive information visit our Start Strong: Build Your Online Course, which has resources  instructors of all levels will find useful. You'll learn the basics of course design. The design approach called Backward Design is introduced. This is just one of many design models. It's a good place to start for many instructors. Three important questions are discussed and they are designed to get you started quickly!

  1. What do you want your students to know?
  2. How will your know that they have learned?
  3. What will they do?

Learn More: Backward Design Framework

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Backward design refers to a way of designing a course or lesson, where you start from from the end your course. You consider your learning goals or the "big ideas" - what your students will know at the end.  Then working backwards, you consider what will demonstrate that your students have achieved those goals. And finally, you develop your course assignments, readings, lectures, activities, assessments and other content to support your students' achievement. Wiggens & McThighe's course design template is a great place to start designing your course.


Bowen, Ryan S., (2017). Understanding by Design. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. Retrieved from


What Do You Want Students to Know?

The first step in designing your course is to know where you are going.

Your course goals take the very general course description and fill it out. At this stage,focus on the goals or learning outcomes. Sometimes goals and objectives are confused. The table below illustrates the differences.You'll get to the objectives later.

Course Goals or Learning Outcomes

  • Broad statements that describe what you want your students to be able to do once they complete the course.
  • They're overarching and relate directly back to the course description.
  • They tie the course to the program curriculum and are sequenced to support the student's progress.
  • These are not class activities.



  • Use action oriented and measurable verbs (see the Critical Thinking Resources)
  • Break down learning tasks and focus on specific cognitive processes.
  • Support students' mastery of a complex skill through practice in the discrete component skills
  • Clear objectives allow students to practice component skills and allow you to select appropriate assessment and instruction strategies.


Students will understand the effects of healthcare policy on health outcomes.


Writing may include objectives such as:

Identify the author's argument, enlisting appropriate evidence, and organizing paragraphs.

Problem solving may require

Define the parameters of the problem and choose the appropriate formulas.

Bloom's Taxonomy Resources

Anderson, L.W., & Krathwohl (Eds.). (2001). A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: Longman.

Bloom, B., Englehart, M. Furst, E., Hill, W., & Krathwohl, D. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York, Toronto: Longmans, Green.

Writing Objectives Resources

How to Write Learning Objectives for Online This site compares objectives to goals, describes the importance of objectives, and explains the components of a well-written objective.

The Objective Builder This tool offers a step-by-step "fill in the blank" wizard that guides the user through the process of writing learning objectives.


Assessment: Measuring Student Learning

We assess in order to understand how and what our students are learning, and where there are still muddy points or confusion. Authentic assessment is built into your course or lesson right from the start, and is based on your learning outcomes. (See also Teaching Resources tab Language of Teaching section.)

Examples of Authentic Assessment:




Case studies


Group projects


Peer reviews


Research projects




Web sites



Student-led discussion

Student-created TED Talk

(via web conferencing or recorded)

From Efficient Ways to Check for Understanding


Sewell, J., Frith, K. H., & Colvin, M. M. (2010). Online assessment strategies: A primer. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 6(1), 297.

Types and Purposes of Assessment



Image source and link to full size table

Reporting by: Sarah D. Sparks | Design by: Lovey Cooper Vol. 35, Issue 12, Page s3 

Student Workload Estimator 2.0

How much time does a student need to complete the course activities?

The Enhanced Course Workload Estimator now includes podcasts, videos, discussion posts, and class meetings. The screenshot below shows a completed estimation. The tool is flexible and allows fine-tuning. For example, you can enter the engagement expected from your students when reading (e.g., survey, understand, or engage). Try the video calculation too. Even if the assigned videos are short, it's easy to overlook the total viewing time.


Screenshot sample of Enhanced Course Workload Estimator

Course Quality Review

Are you looking to update your course design or just want to refresh your course? Ask for an MCPHS Course Quality Review!

We're here to partner with you in reviewing the components, structure, and pedagogical design of your online course. We'll work with you and conduct an in-depth review and provide course-specific recommendations for you. Send a request via ticket (select Instructional Support from the menu) or send an email  and ask for Course Quality Review. 

Custom course review: A custom course assessment can be requested for any online course. An Instructional Designer will be assigned to the course and provide a detailed analysis using the MCPHS Course Quality Review (CQR) evaluation tool. After the review is complete, an instructional designer will meet with you to review the report and discuss targeted recommendations if you'd like. You'll receive the full report. Get the details!

Preview the MCPHS Course Quality Review.

More Course Review Tools

Accessibility Resources

Access for All: Getting Started with Accessibility

Start here

MCPHS Ally and Content Accessibility resources. Ally is built into your Blackboard courses and is easy to use. It's the fastest way for you to ensure your course documents are accessible. 

Next, check out these other resources:

Web Accessibility Evaluation. This tool allows you to type in a web address, including a Blackboard course, to identify accessibility problems. It identifies the type of issue and the degree of importance. (To securely test your Blackboard course, use the WAVE browser extensions.)

Selecting font size for PPT presentations. Learn what size fonts are best suited to your application.

Hyperlink Usability: Guidelines For Usable Links. Learn best practices for writing discernable links.

Use the websites listed below to verify or test that courses have sufficient contrast for all students. Some of these sites permit you to upload your image and check it. 


Online Teacher Training

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