The Building Blocks of Course Design

Pre-Conference Workshop Session 2

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

This workshop session is intended for anyone interested in building a course from the ground-up or for those who are interested in a complete overhaul of their existing course(s). Each participant will walk away with the beginnings of a blueprinted plan for developing their course including goals, objectives, and assessments

There is a fee for this Pre-Conference Workshop: $195 Early Bird / $225 Full Price

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Amy Skyles is an instructional designer at the Missouri University of Science & Technology who specializes in laboratory course design. Skyles holds a BS in Biological Sciences from Missouri S&T and a Master’s of Education from Drury University. Skyles is also certified as an online educator by the University of Missouri, Columbia (Mizzou Online). Skyles has developed an expertise in laboratory redesign practices using best pedagogical methodologies. She is recognized as the 'go-to' person on the S&T campus for learning about instructional design of laboratory courses, including DELTA Labs, which strive for the goal of Delivering Experiential Labs To All.
Jeff Jennings is an instructional designer who is passionate about teaching and learning. He holds a B.S. in middle childhood education (science and mathematics) from Georgia State University and a M.Ed. in educational leadership from Trident University International. Jeff is a doctoral candidate in the College of Education at the University of Missouri - St. Louis focusing on STEM Education Enhancement. Jeff has taught middle school and served as a Functional Course Manager in his last duty assignment prior to retiring from the United States Army in 2011. As an instructional designer in Center for Advancing Faculty Excellence, Jeff assists instructors in redesigning their courses to an online or blended format. He believes that a good foundation in course design and alignment is essential to closing the gaps between course goals, student learning outcomes and the assessment of the outcomes which leads to an engaging course for students.

Extended Abstract

Just as you need a plan for building a house, you also need a blueprint for building a course. The Building Blocks Workshop will help you do just that. At Missouri University of Science and Technology, the Building Blocks Workshop is offered by instructional designers who are experts in course design. The designers guide instructors through the course design process starting with the basic foundations of course design using best pedagogical practices. Each workshop session, which is offered at least once per semester, consists of several hours of hands-on, intensive course design. The courses are broken down to the basic elements and reconstructed into beautifully-designed courses with proper alignment of course goals, learning objectives, and assessments.

The session will begin with the course description, which is often the only clue that students have as to course content when enrolling in the course. Many instructors never visit the catalog description before developing the course. In this portion of the workshop, attendees will investigate the appropriateness of the current course description and develop a revised description that may be provided to their students. This revised description may simply be provided in the syllabus, or it may be necessary to formalize the new description in the course catalog.

Typically, the catalog course description is accompanied by prerequisite courses, skills, or knowledge. The next step in this workshop will describe the need for a list of prerequisite skills and allow participants the time to develop a strategy for determining where students should have acquired these skills. Participants will also be asked to consider what to do if students are lacking these skills and how to best review such prerequisite skills in the most effective way. Participants will also be encouraged to collaborate both within and outside of their departments to ensure that changes to prerequisite courses do not negatively impact subsequent courses in the curriculum.

After evaluating the course description and prerequisite skills, participants will develop the broad course goals, which are the main points that students should remember long after completing the course. In this step, it is important to think about the things that students should remember for the next semester, the next year, or even after they graduate. Essentially, why do students really need to take this course?

Next, this session will guide participants through formative and summative assessments and strategies. Assessment frequency as well as assessment type currently being used will first be considered. Participants will then determine which types of new assessments they may wish to add to their course(s) as they develop online content. Several types of face-to-face, blended, and online strategies will be presented.

After considering the course assessments, each participant will be guided through the creation of specific and measurable learning objectives which connect and align the various course assessments with the course goals. This portion of the workshop will allow participants the opportunity to determine exactly how student knowledge should be measured. The depth of knowledge for each learning objective will also be discussed as an important factor in course alignment.

This workshop session is intended for anyone interested in building a course from the ground-up or for those who are interested in a complete overhaul of their existing course(s). The session will provide the opportunity to complete the Building Blocks Workshop for an actual course being taught by the participant. Each participant will walk away with the beginnings of a blueprinted plan for developing their course including goals, objectives, and assessments.


Credits: The Building Blocks Workshop includes processes and strategies used for instructors and instructional designers to work through the creation of a course blueprint. This model provides an implementation strategy for the creation of the course blueprint. The blueprint used at Missouri S&T is adapted from the course blueprint contained within the Blended Learning Toolkit prepared by the University of Central Florida and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. The Blended Learning Toolkit is an open educational resources under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.