Designing a course

Designing a new course can be overwhelming. Where do you start? A lot of times you do not start from scratch - instead you update an existing course. And oftentimes you redesign the course a little bit every year. Based on your own experiences, course evaluations and assessment results you gain new insights, read new literature and find modes of instruction and tools you can use. The guiding principle when it comes to course design is constructive alignment

Designing a course in 4 steps

Determine the learning objectives and modes of assessment 

The starting point is to determine what you want students to learn from the course, and decide what they must have achieved at the end of the course. This knowledge and these skills and attitudes can be described in learning objectives. You can then determine what assessment types the students have to complete to show what they have learned. What do students need to do to convince you that they have achieved the objectives? What level do they need to obtain?

You can then choose which modes of assessment and what content matches these learning objectives and decide how you will assess the student’s work or behaviour. 

Determine the learning activities

With this step you decide what activities students can perform to work towards completing the learning goals. What exercises can they do? How should students’ intermediate knowledge be assessed? What materials can they study? How can students learn from each other?

Determine modes of instruction and tools

During this step you determine how you make the learning materials available and how students should work. For example: do students work with their fellow students or is the focus on individual study? You also choose how important ICT tools and modes of instructions are. This way you create a varied learning environment also known as blended learning. On the website RadboudEDIT you will find activating modes of instruction.

Determine your role

The final step in your course design is to determine your tasks as a lecturer. What do students need to perform the learning activities? What materials are available? What do you explain or show in classes? Where do you offer space for group interactions? When and how do you provide students with feedback? Do you have moments where students can provide one another feedback?

If you revisit an old course there will probably already be set contact moments and modes of instructions. You can determine how you can best offer support for the student within these existing frames. 

Additional points of attention and tips

  • Be aware of how your course fits the programme and explain this to your students, for example in the course manual. You can contact the programme coordinator to learn more. 
  • Find out if students have acquired skills and knowledge in previous courses that can be used in your course. 
  • Explicitly explain to students what new things they will learn during the course and how they will need these skills at a later stage. The feeling of necessity this will cause might increase the students’ motivation.
  • Stay in touch with colleagues who teach or have taught this course. Exchange experiences and ideas that will improve the course.

Learn more about course design

Do you want to find out how you can improve the design of your own course? Then sign up for the course about course design from Education Support. In this course, you will learn to design your own course in a way that optimises students' learning processes. 

More information about this course


Do you have any questions or do you need more information? The Teaching Information Point of your faculty will be happy to assist you.