EWC course development integrates the basic principles of Backward Design (Wiggins & McTighe, 2006) by focusing first on the learning outcomes and then designing assessments and learning activities to support learning and mastery.

Understanding by Design (UbD or Backwards Planning) is not a rigid framework. It is simply a way of thinking about developing your course using the best practices.

When you think about UbD, it just makes sense. Which seems more logical – trying to fit an interesting assessment or activity into a course, or developing an assessment or activity that aligns with the predetermined goals of a course? Every single activity in your course should be aligned with the learning outcomes of the course.

Before you begin developing your course, please watch the UBD/Backward Design videos below. They cover in detail the three stages upon which Backward Design is built.

After watching the Backward Design presentation, it’s time for you to start working on the Course Design Worksheet by following the Backward Design stages listed below.

Grant Wiggins – Understanding by Design (1 of 2) (YouTube, 00:10:51)

Grant Wiggins – Understanding by Design (2 of 2) (YouTube, 00:10:51)

Stage 1 – Establish Desired Results

In Stage 1 your first priority is to locate the course learning outcomes. These are your desired results.

How can you know what students are to be able to do without having the course learning outcomes at hand? You can’t.

Learning Outcomes are set in stone. They are developed and approved by your department and/or college administration. We can’t change them. Course Learning Outcomes align with program or degree outcomes. If we ignore them now, it will hurt students later.

Take some time to reflect on the course learning outcomes. Are there themes or big ideas around which you can organize and sequence learning in the course? What are some low-risk (quizzes, discussions, blogs, wikis, etc.) and high-risk (projects, debates, presentations, research papers, etc.) ways in which students could demonstrate mastery of these outcomes?

Sketch out some of your ideas. Doing so will help prepare you for Stage 2.

Stage 2 – Determine Acceptable Evidence

In this stage, you are encouraged to review the learning outcomes listed in Stage 1 and determine what “collected evidence” is needed to document and validate student achievement of these learning outcomes. The evidence is the assessments you chose to utilize in the course.

Assessments may include presentations, reflections/journal entries, essays, reports, portfolios, individual or group projects, discussions, research papers, or exams. Each assessment should align exactly with a course learning outcome as well as objectives you create for each module.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

When building Module Objectives, Bloom’s Taxonomy is an outstanding resource. Bloom’s taxonomy is a model used to classify educational learning objectives into levels of complexity and specificity. To make use of the model, first think about exactly what you want your students to use, based on the pyramid framework of the model. Only then will you be able to select the appropriate verb to build your module objective.


For instance, if you wanted your students to simply remember something, an example module objective could be “At the end of this module, students will be able to list each step in baking a cake”. An example of a high-level module objective could be: “At the end of this module, students will be able to create a computer program that scans file uploads for malware”.

Be sure to review Bloom’s Taxonomy chart and verbs.


Bloom’sTaxonomy and Online Learning (YouTube, 00:01:40)

Module Objectives Builder

Here are some free online tools that can help you build your module objectives:

Arizona State University
Tufts University

Within the EWC community, learning objectives are called module objectives. By definition, they are derived from learning outcomes, which are larger goals you want your students to achieve (generally tied to the entire course). Module objectives are specific and measurable and describe what must be achieved by the student within a given period of time (a module or week). They are action-oriented statements that break down the goal and define the results and achievements.

See the Building Module Objectives section for more information.

Stage 3 – Plan Learning Experiences and Instruction (Activities)

In this stage, you will think about the learning activities and resource materials students will need in order to achieve the desired results of Stage 1 and to perform well with the assessments of Stage 2. In the table below, envision your course in terms of an overall sequencing and flow (storyboard). Briefly enter your initial ideas for module titles, descriptions, and learning activities. Note: This is a draft that will serve as a reference point as you begin work on developing the detailed modules. 

Remember, Module Objectives should finish this statement: At the end of this module, students should be able to:

Module Title

Module Objectives

Learning Activities

Online Communication Tools

 At the end of this module, students should be able to:

  1. Discuss online communication tools.
  2. Identify the best communication tool for a specific scenario.
  3. Match communication tools to their specific uses.

Readings (1 Hour)
Videos (1/2 Hour)
Discussion 1: Communication  Tools (MO 1) (1 Hour)
Case Study Paper (MO 2) (3 Hours)
Quiz 1 (MO 3) (1/2 Hour)

6 Hours Total.



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