Backward Design is an intentional means of constructing your course; you identify the ultimate objectives and prioritize them throughout the course design process. As you build new courses and make minor or significant changes to old ones, consider using Backward Design to help get the wheels turning and ensure your course is as effective for your learners as possible.
In its simplest form, it is designing a course with the ends in mind. It is a practice of identifying the end goals for learners and building the course backward from those end goals. This process ensures that each component of the course is intentionally pieced together. Each activity, text, assessment, technology tool, etc., will all support learners in hitting the learning goal targets.
This runs counter to how we tend to think about constructing a course of study or any kind of progression. Compare how you might typically plan a course: the sequence tends to follow a pattern of “beginning” to “end.” For example, you have learners first watch the lecture, next read the textbook, then take a quiz, then study and take the test. Repeat for 15 weeks. This pattern prioritizes content first, which intuitively makes sense, but can unintentionally leave out the questions of what the content is for or what the learner is supposed to do with that content.
Backward Design asks you to consider the following questions and goals before designing your course:
The most significant benefit of using Backward Design is that you ensure that every component of your course has a pedagogical purpose that helps your learners master the material. Additionally, it encourages intentionality in course design which will help you to weed out the unnecessary components that may actually get in the way of learning. It requires you to reflect on and clearly identify the purpose for or reason why something is included in a course, and when you can do that, you can share that purpose with your learners.
Course objectives should be written to be measurable, specific, and from the learner’s perspective. Course objectives are what you want learners to be able to do by the end of the course. These are objectives you can quickly identify by using Backward Design. Once you begin constructing the course components, such as assessments or instructional content, make sure each piece directly supports the achievement of these objectives.
Clemson Online – Where Tech and Teaching Meet
Ensure your course components work together to support achievement of the intended learning outcomes.
Whether taking a face-to-face course online or building a new one from scratch, designing an online course takes time and planning. Here are our recommended steps for getting your course ready to go in time.
Our Fall 2023 Online Instruction Development Calendar is ready! You can find various topics for the skills and knowledge needed to be an effective instructor.