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Saint Paul College A Community & Technical College

​​​​​​Backwards Course Design​

Backwards course design is a simple and effective method to set your students up for success. You start with the desired learning outcomes and work backwards to make sure every piece of your course supports student’s achievement. This technique works with face-to-face, hybrid, or online courses and will also help you with the essential standards for Quality Matters certification.

Course Learning Outcomes

Use specific, measurable verbs to state clearly what students will be able to do once the course is completed. Remember that each outcome needs to be assessed.

Use the official learning outcomes on the existing Course Outline. If they are not measurable or not aligned with the program learning outcomes, you will need to change them through the AA&SC committee, which will only take effect the following academic year. Contact your Dean for assistance with this process. In the meantime, you use them to can design effective module learning outcomes.

More information on writing learning outcomes

Module Learning Outcomes

Break down each course outcome into several smaller, more specific pieces. These will become your module learning outcomes. You are free to decide how many modules are in your course – some faculty do them weekly or quarterly, for example. In addition, you can decide to have students tackle them together in the calendar or spread them out over the course.


Each learning outcome should be assessed at least once over a course. Also, one individual assessment can measure multiple outcomes. This is usually the case for final exams/projects, term papers, or capstones.

Don’t forget to conduct formative assessments along the way. These are smaller, less intrusive activities or assignments that let students know how they are doing and where they may need to improve. You can also use these to improve your instruction during the semester.

More information on creating assessments


practice to succeed on their assessments. Keep them engaged by including different types of activities:

  • Learner-Learner – have students work together through peer review, think-pair-share, discussion boards, or group projects
  • Learner-Instructor – provide ample feedback during the class and allow for questions
  • Learner-Content – allow students to engage directly with new material - readings, required videos, essays and other practice tools

More active learning techniques

Materials & Tools

  • Add videos, with captions, to your online/hybrid course
    • Zoom web conferencing for interactive lectures that can be recorded
    • Kaltura Mediaspace to record videos, caption them, and even incorporate quizzes, all of which can be easily embedded into your D2L course.
  • Consider using Open Educational Resources (OER) like textbooks, readings, or supplemental materials:
  • Use one of these tools to break up your PowerPoint monotony. Combine text and graphics through easy-to-use templates with:
  • Verify the accessibility of your D2L course shell, images, videos, and other materials (PowerPoint slides, Word documents, or Adobe PDF files)
Putting it All together


Double check that all the components of the course work is in harmony to support the learning outcomes. Using a template to make a course map or plan can help you visualize this.A template for a course aligning module objectives, learning materials, activities, and assessments

Time Management

Once you have all the pieces in place, you need to look at the big picture and organize them over the whole semester. From there, move on to lesson planning individual classes.

Time Management Video (PowerPoint/PDF)

Course Revision

After your semester is over, take some time to reflect on the course. What went well? What could use adjustment? Making just a few small changes every term can have a big effect over time. Use the data and feedback generated from assessments and your students to guide these changes.​​​

​​Contact Us

Academic Effectiveness and Innovation
Room 3110
Phone: 651.846.1629

​​This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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