Course design | Dominican University College

Course design

Course Design

Redesigning Your Course

Successful course redesign is a continual process of revision and improvement to reflect advances in the discipline, in the scholarship of teaching and learning, with the objective to maximize student engagement and learning. Using the results of course evaluations or this redesign evaluation checklist (p.37-38) can also inform ongoing course revisions as well as your philosophy of teaching and learning.

Redesigning a course, depending on the extent of the review, might take up to 6 months to achieve. Here are some questions to reflect on as you prepare for a review process.

  • Is this a course that you have taught before?
  • Where does this course fit into the curriculum of the program?
  • Where does the course begin and end?
  • Based on feedback and results of course evaluations, what is the estimated extent of the review?


There are five usual areas of a course that can be subject to periodic review. These areas are closely linked and should be carefully aligned with each other for a successful learning experience for your students. Changes to one of these areas might require some adjustments in other areas.


  • Who are the students in this class?
  • What are their expectations for this course?
  • How can I respect the diverse abilities and needs of my students (language, cultural, learning style, prior experience)?
  • Does this course prepare students for other courses (is it a prerequisite, a foundational course)?
  • What extra resources are available to the students?
  • Where will the course take place (access to technology, size and layout of the class)?

Learning Objectives

  • Do the learning objectives have to be reviewed for this course to be more student-centred?
  • Are the learning objectives clearly described, reasonable, achievable, measurable (SMART) given the contextual issues?
  • What other learning outcomes are expected (presentation skills, writing skills, collaborative skills, technological skills)?

Assessment Plan

  • Does the current assessment plan align with the stated learning objectives and learning activities/teaching methods?
  • Are the assessment expectations clear for the students?
  • Are the deadlines for assignments manageable for students given the expectations and other commitments?
  • Is the grading distribution fair and reasonably scaled?
  • Does the type of assessment used currently reflect the nature of skills required in the discipline (authentic learning)?
  • How are the different opportunities for assessments planned during the course (frequency and timing)?

Course Content

  • Is the course content divided into manageable parts?
  • What resources have been used in the past for this course?
  • Are the resources for this course appropriate to achieve the learning objectives?
  • Do your resources reflect different levels of complexity?
  • How much is reading and out of class work expected for this course?
  • Should you vary the types of resources for the different types of students (prerequisite level of knowledge, prior experience)?
  • Are there new resources that could be added?
  • Are there different types of resources available (online resources, Open Educational Resources (OER), multi-media)?

Course Delivery

  • What is the current format for the delivery of the course (face to face, blended, video conferencing)?
  • What proportion of the course makes use of technological tools to support your teaching?
  • What teaching methods are currently used (lectures, group work, discussions, etc.)?
  • How much time is devoted to student participation in the classroom?
  • What are some different teaching methods that could be used to ensure the achievement of learning outcomes?
  • What parts of the course could be offered online or using a hybrid/blended format?


Choosing a Pedagogical Format

Face-to-face / classroom

A face-to-face course fosters real-time interactions and discussions between the professor and the students and is mostly limited to classroom time. The content of the course is often presented as lectures with or without the use of some technological tools (for example, use of an interactive whiteboard or use of multimedia). This requires that the students be available according to the course schedule. 

Video conference (also referred to as Distance Learning)

A video conference course is offered in real-time with students who are connected via a Web application (i.e. Bridgit or Skype or Google Hangout) and may also include students who are present in the classroom. It is also possible to consider that the professor is connected to the classroom remotely via video or audio conference with the students present in the classroom. A course conducted via video conferencing allows the professor to share course material with the remotely located students, using the interactive whiteboard (i.e. Smartboard).   

Online course

Online courses are offered to students via the Internet. Instruction is usually conducted using a learning management system (LMS) such as Moodle, D2L, Brightspace and others. Students complete the learning activities in a synchronous (at the same time as the professor) or a differed manner (students learn on their own schedule). Various tools are available to facilitate interactions between the professor and the students or between the students themselves. The teaching and learning happen exclusively online.

Hybrid or Blended or Flipped Classroom (includes an online component)

A hybrid or blended course is a course design model that combines traditional, face-to-face class time with online and out-of-class coursework. The percentage or proportion of the course content that is offered online can vary from a single unit of content to several. Hybrid learning includes more than course content online but also some elements of online collaboration (i.e. discussion forums, group work, etc.). Some components of a hybrid course are offered in real-time, while others are offered according to a deferred timeline. 

The flipped classroom is a model in which students gain first-exposure learning prior to class, via video or audio recordings and focus on the processing part of learning (synthesizing, analyzing, problem-solving, etc.) in class (Brame, 2013).

Planning and Preparing Your Course

Content to follow.

Choosing a Pedagogical Approach and Learning Activities 

Content to follow.

Transforming your Classroom Course into a Hybrid / Blended Course

Here is a short video from Steven Murgatroyd, PhD, Chief Innovation Officer from Contact Nord to help you reflect on how to redesign your course into a hybrid / blended format. 

This document also provides some information on key questions and best practices to consider when redesigning a course to a hybrid / blended format. 

Integrating Technology Into Your Course

As you plan or redesign your course, you might consider using technological tools to complement your students' experience. The SAMR Framework (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition) is a reliable model that can assist you in determining the level of technology integration that might be considered in your teaching and learning environment. Read more about the SAMR model here. Consider choosing technologies that support your objectives and complement learning in the classroom: sharing course content, facilitating group discussions, supporting peer assessment, etc. Finally, choose a technology that fits your level of technical expertise.

Best practices for a video conferencing class

Familiarize Yourself With the Equipment and Set Up 

  • Practice using the equipment. Become familiar with the equipment and learn to operate it without assistance. 
  • Develop a backup plan in case of technical difficulties. 
  • Run a test session with the remote location or locations that will be connecting with your classroom so that the setup is correct. 
  • Compile the contact information for technical people at the remote location, just in case something goes wrong. 
  • Consider the classroom set up (background, clock, Smartboard, seating configuration).
  • Preview local camera angle and preset angles if possible to ensure that the camera can get the best picture of you and the rest of the class.
  • Carefully consider microphone set up.
  • Arrive in the classroom 15-20 minutes early to get organized.
  • Connect with the remote site 10-15 minutes prior to the course start time.
  • Set up the desired audio and video parameters for interaction between the classroom and the remote sites.


Course/Lesson Preparation

  • Use email or "chat" to communicate with your remote students as necessary prior to the course.
  • Arrange for remote facilitators, guest speakers, technical support, etc. well in advance of the course.
  • Prepare a lesson plan and materials for distribution well in advance of your class.
  • Send any course material for the lesson to students, ahead of time by posting them to a pre-designated location (i.e. shared folder or Dominicus).
  • Remote students should be asked to check the designated space before coming to class and bring a copy of the relevant material with them, in hard copy or electronic copy.


Communication Protocols for Video-Conferencing Sessions

  • Refer to the following document for videoconferencing netiquette.


Teaching Environment and Teacher Presence During Distance Courses

  • Establish clear roles and responsibilities between the lead teacher and the remote site teaching partner before the start of the class.
  • Ensure that the remote site has access to the course material that is projected in the classroom.
  • Remember that you and the students are on video and picture resolution is important. Decide what to wear for the video conference class (avoid loud distracting patterns, highly contrasting colours.
  • Learn the names of your remote students and involve them directly in discussion questions.
  • Perform visual checks to make sure that the remote students are present and paying attention.
  • Be aware of less overt forms of communication that could be lost in videoconferencing classrooms such as body language suggesting confusion or discomfort.


Engaging Remote Students

  • Greet remote students specifically at the beginning of every class to make them feel included.
  • Stay in contact with remote students through email, and arrange special times they can call you in place of a physical visit during your office hours if required. /li>
  • If possible, travel to the remote locations two or more times during the course and teach from that location.


Other Considerations

  • Provide or arrange for training of students on the use of the videoconferencing system/application/platform.
  • Prepare a videoconferencing etiquette summary for your students.
  • Recommend that individual remote students wear a headset with a microphone while participating in an audio discussion.
  • For the highest quality audio and video signals, students should be connected through a high speed (broadband) connecdtion.