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Course Design: A FeedbackFruits Guide

Explore resources and solutions to create engaging and scalable courses, whether online, face-to-face or hybrid

Table of contents

What is course design?
The rise of flexible course design
Different types of course design
5 steps to design a flexible course
Course design example
Resources on course design

What is course design, and why does it matter?

Course design refers to the process and methods of building a quality learning environment for students, which supports and appreciates their learning and intellectual development.

Read more about online, hybrid, blended, and hyflex →

The rise of flexible course design

It has become certain that flexible teaching will take over as the dominant course delivery method for the Fall semester 2021 and beyond. Hybrid, blended, and hyflex courses allow institutions to ensure accessibility and equality, and at the same time, address learner variability.With the rise of mixed classrooms, academics face the challenge of delivering effective, engaging lessons for both in-person and online learners. Instructors, therefore, are in high need of professional training, effective practices, and teaching communities in hybrid and online course design.

Read more: 4 tips to prepare for hybrid learning→

What are the different types of course design?

With the rise of online learning and technology implementation in course design, new teaching models and concepts have emerged namely online, hybrid, blended, and hyflex. It is important that instructors develop a shared understanding of these instructional approaches to ensure effective course design and let students know what they are expected to learn and achieve in this new format of learning.

Many people might use the words “hybrid” and “blended” interchangeably, but in fact, they mean different things. That difference lies primarily upon the proportion of face-to-face, online sessions or instructional materials provided in a course.

Blended learning

involves a combination of online learning and face-to-face learning, with the digital elements acting as supplementary learning activities. One well known version of blended learning is called Flipping the Classroom.  

Hybrid learning

is an approach in which a group of students participate online while others are taught on campus. This means that the instructor is teaching both remote and in-person students at the same time.

HyFlex learning

is the course format that offers in-person, synchronous, and asynchronous class sessions. Students have the ability to decide on how and when they participate in the course.

Online learning

is when all the teaching takes place online, as the teachers use only digital tools to interact with students. Assignments are submitted online, as is feedback. Students and teachers can work together from any location.

How to set up a hybrid classroom

Creating a successful course, whether face-to-face, online, or hybrid requires a lot more thought than merely producing study materials and assigning work to students. Think of the course design process as building a house. Though different house types (course design formats) require different procedure, they all come down to these 5 basic steps:

Step 1: Set the first stone – Learning objectives

Before you start building a house, you need to determine some general information, like: what types of house you want to build? How many floors will my house have?, etc. Similarly, upon beginning to design a course, instructors need to think about the course type, host platform, teaching tools, and most importantly – the course objectives. Course objectives will act as the northstar for your entire course development process, as all learning activities and assessment practices will be derived from them.

Resources to help you create meaningful learning goals: 

1. The Bloom’s taxonomy and its associated verbs are very useful tools for setting up course objectives.
2. The SMART criteria is also a wonderful framework to help you define the objectives for your students

Step 2: The tools - Decide your core teaching methods and assessment

With education shifting from a teacher-centered to learner-centered approach, there is no excuse not to adopt the available engaging and innovative learning methodologies. Instead of leaning on the traditional lecture approach, instructors can follow plenty of other methods such as Collaborative Learning, Social learning, or Team-Based Learning. 

FeedbackFruits Tool Suite provides instructors with plenty of options to exercise the desired teaching method. 

Optimize the preparation stage of TBL

Team Based Learning tool optimizes the iRAT and tRAT step of the TBL process, enabling students to assess their knowledge individually and within group.

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Support collaborative learning activities

Discussion tools fosters students' collaboration, interaction, and critical thinking through online debate, discussion and self-reflection.

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Foster the flipped classroom model

Interactive Study Material tools enhance deep understanding and meaningful interaction with the course content, ensuring students come to class prepared.

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Assessment is one of the key elements in course design. Therefore, it is important to decide on which assessment types (formative or summative), as well as specify evaluation criteria to allow for demonstration of knowledge mastery. 

Read more about assessment in online learning: 5 essential tips to digitalize authentic assessment

FeedbackFruits tools allow for execution of both formative and summative assessment activities, such as quiz, peer feedback, or group projects.

Support formative peer and group assessment

Facilitate continuous peer feedback on assignment and skills

Make online knowledge tests more engaging and interactive

Step 4: The blueprint - Create a Course Curriculum

Once the course’s goals and assessment have been set, it is time to develop a course “blueprint” which details the learning sequence for your students, along with the resources or activities needed for the course. 

Now that you have the course blueprint, identify the learning activities that allow students to digest the information and match the chosen teaching methods. 

Developing study content is the most time-consuming aspect of course design. Especially in the online/hybrid settings, instructors need to dedicate certain time deciding on the appropriate study materials (assignments, readings, and syllabus), and the order in which they will go.

Read some suggestions to create interactive, engaging activities for your courses: 

1. How to create interactive videos for your online classroom?
2. How to make your presentation interactive?

Step 5: The interior - Plan Activities and Course Content

Now that you have the course blueprint, identify the learning activities that allow students to digest the information and match the chosen teaching methods. 

Developing study content is the most time-consuming aspect of course design. Especially in the online/hybrid settings, instructors need to dedicate certain time deciding on the appropriate study materials (assignments, readings, and syllabus), and the order in which they will go.

Step 5: Final touches - Ensure for Accessibility and Interaction

At this point, you should have an entire "draft" of your course. Now it needs some final touch, which is to include the elements of accessibility and interaction. 

Make sure the course is accessible and inclusive to everyone, as your students will be attending the course from different parts of the world, from different platforms (in-campus or online) and time schedules. 

At the same time, ​​leave room for online interactions as well since remote teaching makes up for a large part of the course. 

How FeedbackFruits tools ensure accessibility and interaction: 

1. Activating Study Material tools and Discussion tools (Discussion on Work and Discussion on Topic) help foster asynchronous interaction and engagement
2. Peer Review and Group Member Evaluation ensure equal group contribution and participation

Explore how other instructors leverage technology for effective course design

Build engagement and interactivity in online discussion at Deakin University

For an engineering course at Deakin University, instructor Catherine Fraser issued a year-long project for her students, which ended with a presentation and a poster symposium. However, the COVID outbreak made it impossible to organize this poster conference in-person, requiring a solution that supported online discussion. Catherine decided to use Discussion on Work to facilitate the online symposium, as it allows students to present, view, and comment on each other’s posters. 

In total, around 75 students uploaded their work and 70% of them actively contributed to discussions in the tool, writing about 2-4 comments each.

Catherine remarked that the Discussion on Work tool had been an effective “de facto presentation format”, allowing the symposium activity to continue online. Furthermore, the platform was found to be effective for stimulating a discussion among students.

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Best resources on course design

Your go-to guides, checklists, and content to help you design the best learning experience

Free ebook

A step-by-step guide on “How to design an online university course”

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University resources

Teaching tips and ideas from the experts of partner universities

Academic papers

In-depth blogs and academic articles on every aspects of course design

Bring effective collaborative learning into your courses with FeedbackFruits pedagogical tools

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Streamlined learning activity setup

All you need to do is to describe the assignment, choose the right settings and enjoy.

easy-to-use, uniform design

All tools have a similar look and feel – which flattens the learning curve for both teachers and students.

Co-created with educators

Tools are co-created with educators from partner universities, thus support even the most advanced use cases.