Course design is .....

 The teachers’ task is to make the right combination of F2F teaching and the pedagogical options available through E-learning and self-study activities.

The basic idea is that the teacher designer uses the powerful features of the three teaching and learning activities areas.

The expected results of the redesigned courses is that (1) the teachers have a course in which they can teach optimally and (2) the students have a learning environment in which they can study successfully. They use the offered learning and practice materials, achieve good test results and value the course.

Course Design is in between research and teaching

Design is goal-oriented and normative; this is different from the scientific approach. The teacher designer strives to balance what is desirable from the viewpoint of design, the possibilities available it (hardware and software) and the characteristics of students and teachers.

The thinking of the teacher designer should driven by possibilities, not constraints (Earl, 1987) and Visscher-Voerman (1999). In design, there is no one best solution.

This way of thinking is different from scientific thought. The researchers will finish their research activities if they prove their findings are correct and publishable.

The teacher carefully selects the appropriate evidence-based IT options and considers using them in the design of the learning process. Evaluating your design results using the quality criteria you formulated during the Basic DD process is crucial.

Typical Characteristics of course design

The emerging ideas of your new course.

Design is an ongoing process of refining your ideas. You do not necessarily have to start with your first design activity. An important rule is that the teacher designer should finish all design activities in the design process. The results of the design activities should be coherent with each other.

Read also:

The Snake model of design  (Roozenkrans, J. (2020). How to create better ideas. Connecting the left and right brain in the design process. Amsterdam: BISpublishers). 

Design as described in the Delft Design Guide (Technical University Delft, the Netherlands Van Boeijen, A., Daalhuizen, J., Zijlstra, J., & Van der Schoor, R. (2021). Delft Design Guide. Amsterdam: Bis Publishers).

Chapter 18 of my book: Evidence-Based Blended and Online Learning

Course design is an iterative process of alternating divergent and convergent thinking

In a design process, you alternately think of divergence and convergence (Roozekrans, 2020) (Van Boeijen et al., 2020). The alternation between divergent and convergent thinking during the Basic DD process is shown in the figure. Divergent and convergent thinking are both essential aspects of course design. The divergent side creates possible new pedagogical options for your course design. At the same time, the convergence side makes choices about which ideas are most promising. Before finishing a design activity, ask yourself: do my ideas fit my educational vision and learning objectives?

Creativity and intuition are vital elements of divergent thinking in a design process. In other words, without creativity and intuition, your pDD process will end.

Teacher designers are ‘craftspeople.’

Teacher designers are craftspeople. For example, teacher designers have mastered the skills required to prepare the learning process for students, formulate learning objectives and have insights regarding pedagogical possibilities of learning methods and materials and how to make these materials. They must also understand and apply evidence-based pedagogical options in new teaching-learning situations.

Cooperation in a small teacher group (or team teaching) is an important supplement to help the teacher designer during the course design. The input of your colleagues’ ideas and comments can be beneficial. Also, you can divide tasks between the group members, giving you more space to carry out your design task. 

And very importantly, working together can have a robust motivational effect. Nonetheless, diversity between the group members is complex and challenging. The reward is you obtain more different ideas.

Different design situations ask for different course DD processes

Click on Design Situation for the description of the design situations.

In my book the different course DD processes are elaborated in practical instructional activities.

Teacher has a limited number of new ideas they want to implement in the current course;


Has several new ideas for some crucial changes in the pedagogical approach they have to design the complete course. The learning environment remains broadly the same.

Has to restructure their course because of serious problems or wish to develop the concerning subject matter and learning objectives.


Must restructure their course because of new pedagogical visions, unique learning activities and materials.

Must design a completely new course: new content, new didactics, new requirements, etc.

Different design situations ask for different course design processes.

This means:  You formulate your personal course design and development process (pDD) that fits in your design situation.

The elements of the design toolbox

Teacher decides on the quality criteria

Standard course qualities

Effective: The learning goals are achieved. The students had good results on the tests;

Valued: The learners found their learning time and activity worthwhile. The students participate in group activities, follow the lectures and study the subject matter properly;

Well-liked: The learning experience has been enjoyed and motivated the learner more;

Efficient: Optimal time and energy spent on the necessary learning activities.

Feasible: The students, the teachers and the organisation can deal successfully with the blended course. The teacher has the necessary teaching skills, the organisation arranges the education spaces properly and the students have the required learning skills (Earl, 1987).

 I always start with five standard criteria that should be realised: effective, efficient, well-liked, valued and feasible (Table 1). During the pDD process, the quality criteria are elaborated to stimulate the thinking of the teachers in their selected direction.

In the evaluation study of the new course, these quality criteria play a central role: Are the students satisfied? What should change? 

Support by visualisation

For example, Diamond diagram, Route map, blueprint, lesson plan, organiser, structure /sequence/models of content/learning activities in the course or curriculum development.

Support by visualisation (2)

Evidence-based or evidence-informed course design

One of the ingredients of a successful course design and development process is to apply the evidence obtained in educational research. In practice, it appears that teachers rarely use this helpful evidence.  Nedermeijer (2023, chapter 22) describes possible reasons Herckis gives why faculty hesitate to adopt evidence-based, innovative teaching methods.

Nevertheless, drawing up an evidence-based pedagogical concept in the systematic course and curriculum projects appeared possible. Research evidence and teachers’ ‘craftspersonship’ should be combined in all design situations. These choices result in a clear and practical description of the evidence the course and curriculum committee will apply to the course or curriculum programme.

Evidence based Design Principles

The eight DPs summarise the multitude of teaching and learning research results. In practice, you see other summaries with different formulations. However, the similarities predominate. These differences can mainly be found in the pedagogical options. Different words are used or specific pedagogical options are seen as more important than my set of DPs in the different learning theories.

Another reason not to stick strictly to my eight DPs is that it might be necessary to use more recognisable words for the teachers and managers in a specific context to describe the chosen design principle. However, the design principles should always be based on scientific evidence.

Design tools presented in my book:

  1. The necessary elements of the learning environment
  2. Evidence-based it-options
  3. Elements of the course or module book.
  4. Verbs for learning objectives
  5. Examples of ITedu tools (software)
  6. The Matrix ITedu-tools vs learning function
  7. Possible sequences in a course
  8. Example of blended learning course models
  9. Examples of a Route map
  10. Examples of a Blueprint
  11. Instructional planning and building principles to be realised in your course
  12. Learning in higher education, according to Hattie and Donoghue
  13. Design Principles in Serious Game mhe
  14. Examples of assignments/educational methods  
  15. Formative and summative testing            
  16. Some common mistakes (Earl)   
  17. Brainstorm techniques   
  18. Examples of requirements and qualities

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