Main Content

What is Course Design?

Course design is important for a good education and offers the best for students' learning, but what is course design exactly?

Components of Course Design

  • learning outcomes, assessments, teaching and learning activities, and content

George Brown College has adopted an outcomes-based approach and UDL Mindset to curriculum development and delivery.

Outcomes-Based Learning

Like many other organizations and post-secondary institutions, George Brown College has adopted an outcomes-based approach to curriculum development and delivery. As the name suggests, this approach to learning emphasizes outcomes, that is, the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that students can demonstrate at the end of a course, rather than “inputs” or resources (facts and content) available to students. The outcomes (what students should be able to accomplish) for each course are detailed in the course outline.

Because the stress falls on the end goal of teaching, OBL teachers start developing their courses with their learning outcomes but plan backwards, thinking about what students should be able to do by the end of a course as a demonstration of their learning. They then devise lessons accordingly.

This means that, even though we should start with learning outcomes, then move to choosing teaching methods, and finally develop assessments, the OBL course design process is not quite linear. It might help us to start with writing the Course-level Learning Outcomes (CLOs) and then give some consideration to appropriate assessments before we explore and select teaching methods and learning activities.

Alignment is another important aspect of OBL course design. Course-level Learning Outcomes, teaching objectives, learning activities, and assessments should “match up” or align with each other. Simply put, the outcome you want students to achieve should correspond with how you teach a course as well as the way students demonstrate their learning.

Additional Resources and Supports:

The Teaching and Learning Exchange’s Outcomes-Based Learning Series of workshops will enable you to increase your effectiveness in the classroom by helping you to design curriculum that assists students to achieve measurable and achievable goals. These are listed on Cornerstone.

UDL Course Design

A UDL Mindset

Universal Design for Learning “is a framework that guides the design of learning goals, methods, materials, and assessments, as well as the policies surrounding these curricular elements, with the diversity of learners in mind.” (CAST, 2017) The framework consists of three principles that address learner variability through intentional design of the learning experience: multiple means of representation, multiple means of action/expression and multiple means of engagement.

Each UDL principle is divided into multiple checkpoints, found here: UDL is primarily a framework that guides reflective practice on the part of the teacher and helps students develop increasing accountability as expert learners.


  • Your assessments should align with your learning outcomes

Whether these assessments are formative (occurring during the term) or summative (occurring at the end of the course), you should be able to explain to students how their assessments tie into the outcomes. Formative assessments include: labs, in-class presentations and reading responses, while summative assessments include midterm or final exams, final projects or final research papers.

Learn More about Assessments

    Teaching and Learning Activities

    • You should also align your teaching and learning activities

    Lecturing is one format of conveying content and you should not continuously talk for hours. Implement some Interactions with students to help determine if the students understand the materials. (In-class, Hybrid or fully online)

    You can consider implementing an activity every 15-20 minutes in order to engage students and assess their learning and understanding. These activities may be five minutes, 15 minutes or 30 minutes depending on what your students need and take a variety of forms and structures (i.e.. individual activities, work in pairs or small groups).

    Teaching and learning activities include: Peer instruction In-class discussion, Peer assessment In-class, writing exercises, Group work, Problem-based learning, Online self-check learning activities.


    • You must identify your learning outcomes before you consider your course content.

    Don't overwhelm all of the content you would like to include, work with the Instruction Designers to define the learning outcomes that will help you focus on what content must be covered in each class.

    You can work with the Learning Technologies Specialist to develop a variety of teaching and learning activities to ensure your students understand the content and help your students to prepare for the next class, as well as help them to succeed in assessments.

    Learn more about Teaching Technology