How to Design a Course: Let’s Practice What We Preach!

Author: Marijne Scherjon, Heleen Verkiel, & Yentl Croese

Whether you’re a seasoned educator or new to the field, as a teacher you are always a part of a course. This is the case irrespective of whether you are designing a new course, redesigning an established one, or are part of the teaching team.

To learn (more) about the basic principles of designing a course or class (lecture or small group session), teachers can enroll themselves and participate in one of the five so called U(niversity)T(eacher)Q(ualification) course modules provided by LLInC.

At LLInC, we continuously try to innovate and improve our products. So, when the opportunity arose to improve ‘How to Design a Course’, we immediately rose to the occasion. This blog is about how we’ve redesigned ‘How to Design a Course’. 

Looking back
-What was the module ‘How to Design a Course’ about? 

During the module, participant teachers prepared their homework in advance by considering learning goals, implementing the theory of course design, and, ultimately, designing a teaching session. During our sessions, the homework was then reviewed with participants receiving more information concerning the ADDIE model and the importance of evaluations. 

The following were amongst the topics covered: 

  • Looking and improving learning goals
  • Using constructive alignment* to analyse a design
  • Proposing improvements for the course
  • Taking your learners into account
  • Implementing blended learning principles

– Does the module offer both what we would like and what our participants want? 

One of the main topics of the UTQ module ‘How to Design a Course’ is that of constructive alignment. Constructive alignment is a didactical principle which helps you to assess whether your learning goals, learning activities, and assessments focus on the same things – in other words, whether or not they are aligned. 

Even though there was a solid constructive alignment between this module’s learning objectives, that which was being taught, and the participants’ assignments, we still felt that there remained room for improvement. When our coworker Heleen began teaching the module, she sensed there was something missing, namely that the module wasn’t taking our learners into account.  

Many teachers who follow the UTQ are newly embarking on their teaching careers and consequently either have no experience with designing a course or hold minimal authority over the design process. For this reason, our learners did not feel the module to be consistently relevant. Concerning this particular module, we also noticed that the constructive alignment might have been a bit ‘too’ aligned. Based on blended learning principles, we asked our participants to prepare assignments in advance, but during the meeting, we still covered over a lot of the required theory – oops! 

Accordingly, the time had come to practice what we preach and to make improvements on our own UTQ module. 

Moving forward
– Let’s redesign! 

When redesigning ‘How to Design a Course’, we looked first towards our learning goals which, fortunately, had recently been reassessed to match our university’s Final Attainment objectives. Turning to address other aspects of the module, we then devised a serious game with the dual intention of making meetings more engaging while addressing participants’ commonly-expressed lack of confidence. 

During this game, participants created a learner profile followed by a course design. Based on someone else’s course design and learner profile, they then filled out our very own Leiden University evaluation forms before having one last opportunity to redesign the course – a process which allowed them to experience the entire cycle of designing and redesigning a course. 

This last step concerning redesign is most crucial when it comes to ensuring that our participants had not only a fun experience but, significantly, a learning experience. After the game, they were encouraged to reflect upon the insights they received and how these related to both their learning questions and homework. 

What about the outcome? We are still innovating our module but, so far, our evaluations have improved! 

Curious to experience the game for yourself? You can either sign up for the BKO module, or if you want to play this with your colleagues, send us an email at:  

Did you know we do research on playful learning? You can read our blog series, to get inspired and find out which lessons learned we’ve used to create our game. 

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