Course Design

Articles and content about course design

How to Keep Teaching

When circumstances prevent you or your students from attending class in-person, keep teaching. This guide provides tips and resources for teaching online.

Entomology Department Uses Creativity and Humor to Enhance Learning

Injecting creativity into education has been a persistent challenge but Justine LaViolette found that a puppet can teach entomology.

Teaching Philosophy: Finding Your Why

share-heart(vote-rewards)Wed-12-Jan This 90-minute, discussion-focused workshop will help participants consider what aspects of teaching they're most passionate about to write or revise a teaching philosophy.

Course Mapping

map-treasure(places)Thur-13-Jan This four-hour, highly interactive workshop will walk participants through the backward design process from writing course goals all the way up to brainstorming learning experiences.

Aspirational Teaching Institute to provide resources, insight for faculty

The Aspirational Teaching Institute will provide resources and insight to university faculty members teaching gateway courses, large enrollment courses, and more.

An Introduction to Backward Design

flip-up(design-actions)10-7-21 In this workshop, participants learned about the basic components of backward design and how it can help ensure alignment between course goals and assessments.

Backward Design Model

An asynchronous, self-paced introduction to the Backward Design model of course planning.

How to Support Engaging and Thoughtful Discussions Online

7-24-20 This workshop helped participants with online discussions that also included demonstrations of Yellowdig and Canvas discussion platform.

Finding and Implementing OERs

hand-tablet(smart-devices)11-2-21 This workshop was beneficial for instructors interested in alternatives to or supplements for current textbooks.


To keep your students (and perhaps even yourself) from going adrift, regular and supportive communication is critical in an online course.

Creating a Syllabus

A syllabus acts as a contract between the instructor and each student that says, "I agree to do this and I require you to agree to do that if you remain in this course" (Gross Davis 2009). Some essential points of your syllabus should include the following...

Lessons Learned from the Fall

1-19-21 This workshop presented data collected from the students that visited CAST this fall to help faculty and staff better understand the challenges that students were facing.

Making your course more user-friendly for students

11-20-20 Students are reporting that one of their biggest challenges this semester is dealing with the cognitive load required just to navigate their widely varying courses.

Teaching in a Flexible Hybrid Classroom

7-30-20 This interactive workshop identified which aspects of a course are best delivered online versus in the classroom.

Remotely Facilitating an In-Person Course

7-29-20 This interactive workshop provided strategies for promoting an engaging instructor presence and maintaining student interest without being physically present in the classroom.

Designing Your Course: Showcasing the CAS Flexible Course Models

7-27-20 Faculty visualized strategies to design courses and meet the demands of the fall 2020 semester.

Maintaining Student Motivation and Interest in Online and Hybrid Courses

7-22-20 This webinar taught strategies for assessing student interest and helping students stay motivated online.

Anti-Perfectionism: How to Roll with the Punches During a Pandemic

7-6-20 This session began by providing a few “anti-perfectionist” teaching strategies that involve figuring out when a teaching goal matters.

Having a great first week online

7-23-20 This workshop helped faculty teaching face-to-face/hybrid courses and focused on making the best use of this time to prepare students.

Creating a Sense of Community in Your Online or Hybrid Course

7-20-20 This workshop helped instructors create a sense of community in their online courses and gave guidance on making sure students feel connected.

Using Zoom to Facilitate a Hybrid Course

7-21-20 This workshop gave detailed instructions on the different settings and functions available in Zoom.

Essentials for Getting Started

7-14-20 Instructors were provided with strategies that have a significant impact on online learning, especially for the first week of classes.

Building a Better Container: Accessibility, Access, and Universal Design

7-16-20 The goal of this workshop was to provide faculty with an overview of the interrelationship between accessibility and Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

Course Mapping: Applying Backward Design to your Course Planning

7-7-21 Participants were guided through the backward design process to ensure their course design aligned with their overall goals.

Small things, big impacts

During the pivot to online in 2020, Professor Roland Vegso prioritized small organizational features that ended up making a big difference for his students.

Accessibility and UDL Instructor Resource

Curated by several university departments and experts, the Accessibility and UDL Instructor Resource is available through Canvas.

Additional Materials

Additional course design materials, part of the Knute Broady Collection.


This collection aims to provide instructors with a succinct foundation in teaching topics supportive of UNL’s instructional goals.

Institute for Online Teaching

Institute for Online Teaching provides preparation and training, as well as a campus-wide faculty learning community, focused on online teaching.

Using Accessibility Checker for Course Materials in Canvas and MS Office

This presentation focuses on making course materials more accessible and working towards Universal Design for a biology course.

Impacts of Cognitive Load on Student Learning

This video explains aspects of course design that can contribute to cognitive overload as well as simple things instructors can do to reduce the cognitive load of their students.

Fresh Voices on Course Design

The "Fresh Voices" sections of the Knute Broady Collection aim to highlight recent publications and the work of emerging scholars -- from undergraduates at UNL completing honors theses to doctoral dissertations. If there are specific articles or scholars you believe should be featured on this page, please contact us at

Course Planning

A good way to keep course planning from becoming overwhelming is to break the process into steps. If you decide to go with a backward design, you can use the three questions from the overview to structure the planning process. For example:

Course Design

Course design is the careful planning of a course such that the learning goals are aligned with assessments and learning activities.

Course Structure and Organization

You can use Canvas to send announcements to your students, share course materials with them, collect assignments/assessments, and provide grades/feedback, or even facilitate online discussions. Think of Canvas as your online “classroom.” It is the space where all of your course material comes together, where many of your course activities happen, and where you will collect and assess assignments. Below we will outline some best practices in structuring and organizing your course:

Teaching Online for Graduate Students (TOGS)

A college student, learning in the library with a laptop and notebook
Teaching Online for Graduate Students course home page