Backwards Learning Design

Backwards Design: What Will People Learn in Your Course?

Everyone has their favorite readings, ideas and activities that they might want to pull into their courses. But designing a course is about selecting the right elements that will bring about transformation.

Start with what you want folks to know. Work backwards from there.


  1. What ideas or skills do you want students to master in your course? Make a list of 3-5.
  2. Think about what kinds of projects students might complete to show mastery of those ideas or skills. Jot down 1-2 ideas.
  3. You now have the learning outcomes for your course. Post your learning outcomes and project ideas below!
  1. Ideas/skills to master

a. Find places to MOOC
b. Share places they have MOOCed
c. Share people, places, ideas they have come across in their MOOC travels

  1. To show mastery of the above.

a. Add to a growing list of available MOOCs that arise in their networking. Explain why that MOOC might be worth their time. This amounts to a preview of the MOOC.
b. Review a MOOC
c. Tell digital stories about MOOC experiences. (Vines, movies, zeegas, instagrams, blog reflections) All gathered via tagging of the MOOC.

Learning outcomes

Add to a list of available and upcoming MOOCs
Add to reviews of MOOCs that are current, completed, or ongoing.
Tell stories about MOOC experiences in various digital formats.

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ideas to master

  • understand a set of concepts and critical approaches practiced in digital literature criticism
  • read 6-8 works of digital literature
  • apply systematic critical analysis to at least one work of digital literature
  • practice with if not master a generic systematic critical approach to works of digital literature: describe, analyze, interpret.

projects to develop mastery

  • collective notes on the concepts as discussed in readings. Pre-class meeting.
  • end of term lit crit paper or multimodal artifact
  • continued contribution to larger set of concepts and implications. Added to weekly but not organized by weeks. Wiki-like. Post-class meeting.
  • that is, pre-meeting notes followed by post-meeting development of wiki.

Learning outcomes

  • regularly contribute to face to face discussions on lit crit practices
  • regularly contribute to the collective set of lit crit reading notes
  • regularly contribute to the dig lit wiki
  • create and present f2f or online an end of term critical artifact drawing on what we have worked with over the course.
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@mcmorgan seems like collaborative highlighting might be a useful tool for your learners. They can do one level of analysis in green, identify certain thematic threads in pink, etc.

Wyn Kelly at MIT used highlighting as a kind of assessment in teaching Moby Dick:

You might also check out which is a tool made by the Open Knowledge Foundation.