Initial Publication Date: August 25, 2006

Other approaches to course design

Many viable approaches to course design exist. In many respects, all of the approaches listed below are variations on a theme that involves articulating objectives, goals, or outcomes, designing assignments, selecting instructional formats, and developing assessments. All of these approaches are valuable. Our course design model is another variation on the theme, one that focuses on having faculty articulate what they want students to be able to do after completing the course. We have found this approach to be both highly successful in a workshop setting and transformative in terms of participants' thinking about course design overall.

  • Diamond's model of course design involves a recursive process that includes designing the "ideal" course and then modifying it based on specific local constraints (Diamond, R.M., 1997, Designing and assessing courses and curricula: a practical guide: San Francisco, CA; Jossey-Bass Publishers).
  • Wiggins and McTighe suggest a "backwards design" approach that begins with identifying desired results, followed by determining acceptable evidence and planning learning experiences and instruction (Wiggins, G. and McTighe, J., 2000, Understanding by design: Englewood Cliffs, NJ; Prentice Hall).
  • Fink presents a model focused on creating significant learning experiences for students (Fink, L.D., 2003, Creating significant learning experiences: an integrated approach to designing college courses: San Francisco, CA; Jossey-Bass Publishers).
  • Walvoord and Breihan describe workshops that help faculty design assignment-centered courses (Walvoord, B.E., and Breihan, J.R., 1997, Helping faculty design assignment-centered courses: To Improve the Academy, v. 16, p. 349-371).
  • Saroyan and Amundsen advocate beginning the course design process by focusing on main concepts, rather than on specific content (Saroyan, A. and Amundsen, C., 2004, Rethinking teaching in higher education: from a course design workshop to a faculty development framework: Sterling, Virginia; Stylus Publishing).

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©2005 On-line Course Design Workshop and Tutorial developed by Dr. Barbara J. Tewksbury (Hamilton College) and Dr. R. Heather Macdonald (College of William and Mary) as part of the program On the Cutting Edge, funded by NSF grant DUE-0127310.