Learning Pyramid

Course Design Kit » Outcomes and Methods

Clearly stating your desired learning outcomes, and the methods by which students to achieve them, is the important first step to designing an effective online course. You can state these objectives and methods in two locations: In the Orientation you can state your Course Level Outcomes and in each Module or Unit you can list your Unit Level Outcomes. Note that measurable course learning objectives are a requirement for successful academic quality review.

The most important thing to remember about writing outcomes is that they should describe observable performance. For instance stating that students will understand a concept is not a measurable outomce. How do we observe understanding? Think of ways students can demonstrate their understading. See the Resources below for guides to developing written outcomes.

Course Level Outcomes

Every course has gone through a curriculum development process that has identified learning outcomes and a range of instructional methods. These can be found in the Master Course Inventory (MCI) available through the Curriculum Management department. These course outcomes are also built upon Program Outcomes and General Education Outcomes for the College. This process has also generated a range of student assessment activities listed in a Formative and Summative Assessment (F&S) Chart available through the Assessment Department. You may wish to consult these documents when designing your learning activities.

Unit Level Outcomes

Backward Design Model

The module/unit-level outcomes should be consistent with the course-level objectives. For example, the module/unit objective “Students will write sentences that demonstrate correct usage of commas, semicolons, and periods” is implicitly consistent with the course objective “Students will demonstrate correct writing skills.” Remember to write learning objectives in student language, not faculty language. Try to avoid educational jargon or esoteric terms for your discipline. Students should be able to easily grasp what they are expected to accomplish.


When designing your course outcomes, you may want to consult two influential sources on curriculum development:

The authors advocate working backward from big picture outcomes to specific knowledge.

Fink's Instructional Design Model

Fink advocates for consideration of situtaional factors, such as learner experience, that will lead to learning activities that have "significance."

We have created two job aids to help you identify course and unit outcomes:

  • Unit Design Worksheet (.doc)
    This job aid will assist you in thinking through the develpment and writing of lesson outcomes. It will help you create learning and assessment activities that align with learning outcomes. Well written outcomes describe performance that can be observed and evaluated.
  • Course Design Chart (.doc)
    This chart can be useful in working with Instructional Technologies to develop media for your online course. Once individual lessons have been planned, each can be summarized in the attached worksheet. Using this information, we can discuss and design the media most appropriate for delivering the learning activity, materials and evaluations.