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Design

In the Design phase, a course blueprint or map of the entire course is created. In developing the blueprint, consider all the components of instruction. It can be helpful to work backwards and think about what learners should be able to do by the end of course, how they will demonstrate what they have learned, how they can practice what they are learning and prepare for assessments, as well as what materials and supports they will need to help them successfully complete the course. Learning outcomes are the foundation of the Design phase and all components should be carefully developed and selected based on these. It is also important to consider quality standards as a guide for this phase, as they can inform instructional decisions. It is recommended to check if your institution has adopted any internal or external quality standards for online courses. Examples of external quality standards include, the Quality Matters Higher Education Course Design rubric and the Online Learning Consortium Quality Scorecard.

Note: Before entering the Design phase, it is recommended that you consider, such questions as, Who is your audience? What prior knowledge do they have? What instruction is needed to help them complete the course? What is the purpose and scope of the course?

Syllabus 

Syllabi are used to inform learners of the intent of the course, by offering a description of the content and curriculum expectations, describing the evaluation methods and material requirements, and identifying important policies that learners must be aware of.

 

Begin with a welcoming statement

Planned icon.The course syllabus is one of the first things learners encounter and provides an opportunity to establish a welcoming environment.

 

Associated UD Principles

  • UID - Principle 5: Supportive learning environment; Higbee, J. L. (2009)
  • UDL - Principle 3: Provide multiple means of engagement; CAST (n.d.-a)
  • UDI - Principle 9: Instructional climate; Dukes III, L. L., Koorland, M.A., & Scott, S. S. (2009)
Include an accommodation or accessibility statement

Planned icon.

An important part of any course syllabus is the accommodation or accessibility statement. It ensures learners are aware of the accommodations available to them and how to request assistance if needed. 


Associated UD Principles

  • UID - Principle 4: Information is explicitly presented and readily perceived; Dawson, T. & Keenan, L. (2009)
  • UDL - Principle 2: Provide multiple means for action and expression; Dell, C. A, Dell, T. F., & Blackwell, T. L. (2015)
  • UDI - Principle 1: Equitable use, Principle 4: Perceptible information 
Establish ground rules 

Planned icon.

Clearly state what is expected of your learners and hold each of them to the same standards. These ground rules may be static as with institutional codes of conduct, but can also evolve from discussions within the learning environment. 


Associated UD Principles

  • UID - Principle 4: Information is explicitly presented and readily perceived; Open Learning and Educational Support (n.d.)
  • UDL - Principle 3: Provide multiple means of engagement
  • UDI - Principle 4: Perceptible information, Principle 9: Community of learners; Scott, S. S., McGuire, J. M., & Foley, T. E. (2003)

Learning Outcomes

Learning outcomes clearly describe the competencies that learners should be able to demonstrate upon the successful completion of the course. Outcomes inform course design, including the development and selection of assessments, course activities, instructional materials, multimedia, and support resources.

Develop clear learning outcomes 

Planned icon.By developing clear learning outcomes for the course, activities and assessment strategies can be directly aligned to measure  learner progress. In sharing the learning outcomes, learners become aware of what is expected of them and will understand the direction of the course.

 

Associated UD Principles

  • UID - Principles 4: Information is explicitly presented and readily perceived; Palmer, J. & Caputo, A. (n.d.)
  • UDL - Principle 2: Multiple means of action and expression; Rose, D. H. & Meyer, A. (2002-a), Disability Resources and Services - Temple University (2016), CAST (n.d.-b)
  • UDI - Principle 4: Perceptible information; Black, R. D., Weinberg, L. A., & Brodwin, M. G. (2015)

Assessments

Assessments document and measure an individual learner's progress towards the learning outcomes of the course. Assessment methods may vary and include, but are not limited to, written tests or reports, presentations, activities, discussions, and exams.


Constructively align assessments with learning outcomes 

Planned icon.Clearly developed learning outcomes will dictate the focus of your assessments. Constructing assessments that are directly aligned with the course learning outcomes allows the instructor to evaluate the learner's progress towards the learning outcomes and indicates to learners exactly what is expected of them.

 

Associated UD Principles

  • UID - Principle 3: Straightforward and consistent, Principle 4: Information is explicitly presented and readily perceived; Rao, K., Edelen-Smith, P., & Wailehua, C-U. (2015)
  • UDL - Principle 3: Provide multiple means of engagement; Smith, F. G. (2012), CAST (n.d.-c), CAST (n.d.-d), Gordon, G. T., Gravel, J. W., & Schifter, L. A. (2010)
  • UDI - Principle 3: Simple and intuitive, Principle 4: Perceptible information; Scott, S. S., McGuire, J. M., & Foley, T. E. (2003)
Consider if time restrictions are necessary 

Planned icon.Having a time limit imposed on learners in a testing environment can invoke test anxiety and increase the levels of stress associated with the assessment. When planning assessments within a course determine if time restrictions are necessary; are you looking to assess how quickly they can complete a task, or if they can complete it correctly? If time is not a key factor of the assessment, consider removing time limits or providing sufficient time for all learners eliminating the need to request special accommodations. Keep in mind that learners will have different levels of connectivity to the online environment, individual differences in processing and performance times or may be using assistive technologies to interact with the assessment content.

Associated UD Principles

  • UID - Principle 5: Supportive learning environment; Higbee, J. L. (2009), Silver, P., Bourke, A., & Strehorn, K. C. (1998)
  • UDL - Principle 2: Provide multiple means of action and expression; CAST (n.d.-c), Poore-Pariseau, C. (2013)
  • UDI - Principle 1: Equitable use, Principle 5: Tolerance for error; Scott, S. S., McGuire, J. M., & Shaw, S. F. (2003)
Consider using frequent (short) assignments/assessments 

Planned icon.When planning assessments consider breaking down large assignments into sections or utilizing more frequent smaller assessments. Courses with relatively few high-value assessments can be intimidating. Learners with time constraints, executive functioning challenges, or who may underperform in one assessment area, may struggle to successfully complete assignments and the course. Assessing learners more frequently helps them stay on top of coursework, to meet timelines and assignment dates, reduces the anxiety surrounding large assessments, and provides a status update on the learner's progress towards the learning outcomes.

Associated UD Principles 

  • UID - Principle 2: Flexibility in use, participation and presentation, Principle 5: Supportive learning environment; Rao, K. (2012)
  • UDL - Principle 2: Provide Multiple means of action and expression, Principle 3: Provide multiple means of engagement; Boskic, N., et al. (2008), Poore-Pariseau, C. (2013)
  • UDI - Principle 2: Flexibility in use