Course Design


What is meant by Course Design?

The following video Effective Teaching Framework - Dimension 2: Course Design provides a brief description of this dimension of the effective teaching framework.


How can I reflect on my teaching with respect to this dimension?

Below are some questions to consider with respect to your course design:

Coherent Design of Instruction
  • How well does the pace, organization, type and number of learning activities, resources, and assessments foster your students’ learning?
  • Are students able to easily discern what is expected of them to attain success in your course or are they often left asking many questions after being given instructions?
  • Are your course activities varied and do they align with your course outcomes?
Constructive Assessment Strategies
  • How immediate, clear and useful is the feedback that students’ receive before, during, and after completing their assessments?
  • How do you engage students with the feedback they receive from you — the instructor— or peers?
  • Are students assessed in multiple ways and do these assessments align with your course outcomes?
  • How clear or well communicated are the standards or criteria used to evaluate your students’ knowledge and skills?
  • What variety, innovation, or creativity do you use in your assessment practices?
Meaningful Learning Resources and Materials
  • How well do your curated set of resources help students attain their intended learning outcomes?
    • Where possible, do your course activities use authentic case studies, industry experience, or partnerships for learning?
  • What is the quality and how often do you update your course instructional materials and resources?
  • How suitable, appropriate, varied, and cost-effective are your course materials?
  • How often and how do you revise, improve, innovate or update your curated set of resources?
  • How many means of representation (visual, auditory, text, etc.) are used through your course materials and information available to your students?

Below are some strategies that you might use to collect evidence to reflect on your teaching with respect to this dimension:

Evidence from Self

Some evidence you might collect on your own to help you reflect upon your Course Design includes documentation of:

  • Personal responses to those questions asked above.
  • Journal of observations, insights and reflections about how well your course activities, resources, and assessments were received or promoted student achievement of course outcomes.
  • Reflections about insights obtained on how well the pace, organization, type and number of learning activities, resources, and assessments foster your students’ learning 
  • Documentation of (and reflection on) professional development undertaken (e.g., courses, literature, attending conferences, etc.) to learn about course design
Evidence from Peers

Some evidence you might collect from your peers to help you reflect upon your Course Design include:

  • Documentation of having colleagues observe, read into, or respond to your course design. e.g. consider having a colleague complete the Course Design Rubric about your course design (Sections A, B & C).
  • Discussions or peer review about the extent to which the pace, organization, type, and number of learning activities, resources, assignments and assessments in your course have the qualities that you intended for them.
  • Nominations for awards or teaching awards received by you including departmental, faculty, and University of Alberta awards, and external awards (professional association, civic groups, nation-wide, and international teaching awards).
  • Solicited or unsolicited communications from course supervisors, colleagues, or chairpersons.
Evidence from Students

Some evidence you might collect from your students to help you reflect upon your Course Design includes:

  • After redesigning parts of your course design, a comparative analysis of how well your students acquired or developed the required knowledge, attributes or skills. For example, how well did they achieve each intended learning outcome?
  • Analysis of student’s patterns of interaction with the course on eClass.
  • Students’ perspectives about how the course design including activities, resources, and assessment support their learning experience.
  • Student course evaluations (summary of numerical results, selected comments or emerging themes), mid-course or mid-term feedback as related to the pace, organization, type and number of learning activities, resources, and assessments in your course.
  • Recent solicited or unsolicited letters from students and teaching assistants.


How can CTL help

CTL’s mandate is to support teaching and the professional development of instructors and to support the improvement of teaching at the University of Alberta. To this end, CTL provides formative feedback on teaching observations, consultations about the types of relevant evidence of effective teaching, and information about wise reflective practices.

Any feedback from the CTL is confidential and will only be shared or discussed with the instructor.

CTL supports teaching reflection for formative but not evaluative purposes. Should you require feedback for evaluative purposes you will need to contact your department head or an administrator.


What do I do with this evidence?

Of course, you can use this evidence and reflections to make changes to your course, and we suggest that you do. We also encourage you to share these changes with your students and peers and explain why these changes were made.

Should you wish to document this evidence (and your reflections) we encourage you to consider developing a teaching dossier and other forms of engagement further explained in our What to Do After Reflecting on Your Teaching page.