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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

Designing Your Course - Begin with Backward Design

Start by watching this video or for more extensive information visit our Instructor Pre-Training guide, 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

Backwards Design for Course Development 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 suppoprt your students' achievement. Wiggens & McThighe's course design template (document) is a great place to start designing your course.


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

Understanding by Design Unit Template (document).  Try this template when planning your course modules.

view infographic

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 

RICE Workload Estimator

Course Workload Estimator


Estimated Reading Rate:




Estimated Writing Rate:








Estimation Details

Research & Design
Elizabeth Barre
Justin Esarey

Quality Assurance: Constructively Evaluating Your Course

We're here to partner with you in reviewing the components, structure, and pedagogical design of your online course. Use the rubrics below to guide your own course assessment or contact us.  Use the rubrics for:

Formal course review: A formal assessment can be requested for any online course. An Instructional Designer will be assigned to the course and provide a detailed analysis using the QA form as an evaluation tool.

Self-evaluation assessment: Instructors can assess their online course using the QA form prior to revising an existing course to ensure the course structure and content follow the best practices outlined in the QA form.

New course development tool: QA form can be used as a way to design a new course for the online environment, following the form as a course outline.

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. 


Assess Yourself

Online Teacher Training

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