I want my course to ENCOURAGE LEARNING.


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This video is a walkthrough of the strategies, technology, and resources found on this outcome webpage. It was recorded during the summer Resource Toolkit Workshop Series (July 2020). You can access the video using your YSU credentials. Please contact atkaufman@ysu.edu if you are unable to access the video.

In a Spring 2020 survey of YSU students (n=1,268), 50% of students said the amount of time they spent preparing for their courses increased, while only 27.2% of students said they learned what they expected from their courses. It is critical to design courses in a way that encourages learning. To encourage learning within your course, consider implementing a Backward Design Model. This model starts with the end outcome in mind. What do you want students to achieve or learn by the end of your course? Once you have identified the desired results, you can build learning experiences, instruction, and resources to align with those results. With this model, your focus is on the "learner" rather than the "teacher" and ensures instruction has a purpose. Check out the sections below for guidelines on the three steps of the Backward Design process:

  1. Identify Learning Outcomes
  2. Determine Assessment Items
  3. Plan Instruction

For a more in-depth look into backward course design, visit Vanderbilt’s Center for Teaching page on this model.

  • Identify Learning Outcomes

    The first step in backward course design is to build your course-level objectives which specify what the student can expect to gain from taking the course. These objectives should be listed in the syllabus and may also be listed in a course introduction section within Blackboard. The objectives should be written clearly from the student’s perspective and should reflect observable behavior that can be measured. Effective learning outcomes are expressed as knowledge, skills, or abilities that students will possess upon successful completion of a course. They frequently following the prompt, "Students will be able to (VERB)___________." For example, "Students will be able to build a model of an electrical circuit."

    Learning outcomes are frequently organized around Bloom's taxonomy, and it is important to consider the "level" of learning that should be happening in your course. Course content and interactions should follow through the support achievement of the goals defined in the learning objectives. Assignments and assessments correspond to the level of knowledge established in the learning objective. The following links provide additional resources on writing objectives and action verbs.

  • Determine Assessment Items

    Ask yourself:

    • What are the criteria that students will be evaluated on?
    • What authentic tasks are students going to complete as evidence?

    It is important that assessments align with outcomes, particularly the level of the outcome. For example, a multiple-choice exam may be appropriate for an outcome that focuses on students being able to recall information, but probably wouldn't be appropriate for an outcome focus on students creating something. Rubrics are a great way to clarify expectations for students. Rubrics contain descriptions of levels of performance for each component/criterion. They can also focus on the quality of the entire document/performance/project.

    Check out the, I want to ASSESS LEARNING section for more information on designing assessments.

  • Plan Instruction

    It can be easy to unknowingly overload students with readings, videos, and other instructional content. Segment content into manageable sections or chunks for students to easily digest. The segmenting principle (Mayer, 2001) states that people learn best from media that is segmented into small, user-controlled chucks rather than one, large continuous unit. For example, create multiple short videos as opposed to one long video.  

    Organize content in the manner you wish students to learn. Course content should build on previous content and progress through a logical sequence. Lower-level skills developed in prerequisite courses or early in the current course should be later used to support the development of higher-level skills. Higher-level skills can be taught and assessed through assessments and active student participation.