Week 5: Integrated Course Design


The last module provided an overview of instructional design and you were introduced to three common instructional design models that can be used to help guide the design of online instruction. In this module, we will narrow our focus to the Integrated Course Design model, which has proven to be a helpful framework for educators that are new to the online environment. The Integrated Course Design model is based on the notion of beginning instructional design with the end in mind. It suggests starting with desired learning outcomes and working backwards through assessment activities, and teaching and learning activities (Fink, 2003). With this model, the learning outcomes, teaching methods, and evaluation methods are mutually consistent and supportive (Biggs, 1996). This module will provide a brief review of the Integrated Course Design model, and you will have the opportunity to work through the first two steps of the initial design phase that involves identifying situational factors and writing learning outcomes.

Learning Outcomes

When you have completed this module, you should be able to:

  • Discuss constructive alignment (backward design) and the importance of aligning course learning outcomes, assessments, and learning activities.
  • Identify situational factors that might influence the online teaching and learning experience that you intend to design.
  • Write effective learning outcomes for your online teaching and learning experience.

Topic 1 – Review of Integrated Course Design


Please read page 5 of the following guide:

As we learned in the previous module, the Integrated Course Design model supports the principles of backward design and constructive alignment that suggest that your learning outcomes, assessments, and teaching and learning activities should all be intentionally aligned with each other (Biggs, 1996). The learning outcomes specify what students should achieve, the evaluation methods determine whether and how well the outcomes have been achieved, and the teaching and learning activities help students achieve the learning outcomes.

Biggs (1996) suggest that if evaluation methods are misaligned with learning outcomes or teaching methods, it can undermine both student motivation and learning. If we tell students that we want them to achieve something and then evaluate them against criteria that do not match, it can create tension and lead to surface learning.

Reflect on courses you have taught or taken as a student.

  1. Can you think of an instance where the key components were not fully aligned?

Watch the video below to see what can happen when learning outcomes, teaching methods, and evaluation methods are not aligned:

  • Johnson, K. (2009). Professor Dancealot [Video file].

  • Source: Youtube:Kari Johnson

When designing for the online environment, the Integrated Course Design model can be a helpful tool to keep in mind, especially when selecting technology to support the assessment and teaching and learning methods. For technology to be integrated into the online environment successfully, it needs to be carefully aligned with learning outcomes, evaluation practices, and teaching and learning activities. This helps to ensure that any technology adopted is being used to support learning rather than as an add-on or gadget. According to Darby (2017), even with all of the technology available to educators, the best tool is the one that achieves your teaching and learning outcomes most effectively. Armellini and Aiyegbayo (2010) also suggest that learning outcomes and evaluations should be the basis for making decisions about educational technology in the online environment.

The following is an example of Integrated Course Design in practice:

  • Learning Outcome: By the end of the course, students should be able to develop an evaluation plan for an educational technology.
  • Assessment Method: Students will work in group to develop an evaluation plan for a specific educational technology and teaching and learning context.
  • Teaching and Learning Strategies: Students will research examples of evaluation plans and will analyze existing plans and identify best practices.

Learning Activity 1 – Educational Technologies

What educational technologies do you think would align with the learning outcome, teaching and learning strategies, and evaluation method? Please share your thoughts on the Google Doc.

Please review the following website:

The University of New South Wales’ (UNSW) Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching (TELT) website provides examples of the educational application of some common technologies and features and provides a useful matrix for matching learning outcomes with technology tools, and conversely how these tools can contribute to learning outcomes.

Topic 2 – Situational Factors


Please read page 6 of the following guide:

The first step of the Integrated Course Design model outlined by Fink (2003) involves gathering information about the situational factors, which consist of the contextual issues in any given course environment that could affect the learning. According to Fink (2003), all components of a course are interdependent and impacted by situational factors, thus they provide the foundation on which important decisions about the course should be made. Situational factors can help you to plan more efficiently and pragmatically for the online environment. Fink suggests that the following general categories of situational factors should be considered: (1) The Specific Context of the Teaching/Learning Situation; (2) The General Context of the Learning Situation; (3) The Nature of the Subject; (4) Characteristics of the Learners; and (5) Characteristics of the Teacher. Fink (2003) provides a list of guiding questions to help educators identify important situational factors that might influence your course.

Learning Activity 2 – Situational Factors

Please use the Step 1 Worksheet from Fink (2003, pg. 7) as a guide to identify the situational factors for the specific educational context that you described in the Online Teaching and Learning Context Activity from Module 3. Review each of the factors concerning your specific educational context and write down all of the information that you know. If you don’t have some information, but think it could be important, write down ideas about how you might obtain the required information. The more details you provide, the more likely you will be able to design an integrated learning experience and formulate meaningful learning outcomes. Once have complete the worksheet please consider the following, post your response on your blog, and tag your post with “EDDL5141”:

  1. How might the information gathered through this step help you to design your online learning experience?
  2. How do you think the situational factors might influence design for the online environment versus the face-to-face classroom?

Topic 3 – Learning Outcomes


Please read pages 8–10 of the following guide:

Please review the following website and watch the following video:

According to Fink (2003), after you have considered the situational factors, your next step is to determine the learning goals, also commonly referred to learning outcomes, which specify what a learner is expected to know, understand, or be able to do as a result of a learning process. Learning outcomes should be learner-centered, focusing on what students should know and be able to demonstrate, as well as the depth of the learning that is expected. Clearly defined learning outcomes form the foundation for selecting appropriate assessment measures, and teaching and learning activities. Thus, learning outcomes are fundamental to creating effective learning experiences both face-to-face and online.

While learning outcomes can be written and developed using a variety of techniques, they typically contain four main elements/parts:

  1. Stem — The statement prior to outcome, for example: “By the end of this course, students will be able to…”
  2. Action Word / Performance
  3. Learning Statement/Condition
  4. Standard/Criteria

When writing learning outcomes it can be helpful to start with an action verb that is measurable and observable. Then, follow the verb with a statement that indicates the description of learning to be demonstrated, and end with a statement to give the learning outcome context and to identify criteria for an acceptable performance. The following are examples of learning outcomes that follow this format (Knaack, 2011):

  • By the end of the course, students will be able to develop a written seven-step plan for undertaking a small research project.
  • Upon completion of this module, the student will be able to construct a timely response to written or spoken message in a manner that ensures effective communication and professional conduct for an office situation.

A variety of taxonomies have been developed to conceptualize the different levels of learning that can take place, and they can be helpful tools for writing learning outcomes. Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956), adapted more recently by Anderson et al. (2001) is one of the most widely used frameworks for the development of learning outcomes. Bloom’s Taxonomy proposes that learning fits into one of three domains: (1) Cognitive (knowledge, “head”), (2) Affective (attitudes, “heart”); and (3) Psychomotor (skills, “hands”), and assigns to each of these domains a hierarchy that corresponds to different levels of learning. This taxonomy expresses thinking and learning through a set of concepts that begin with lower order thinking skills and build to higher order thinking skills. Bloom’s Taxonomy is a convenient way to describe the degree to which we want our students to understand and use concepts, to demonstrate particular skills, and to have their values, attitudes, and interests affected. For more information about Bloom’s Taxonomy, please visit the following website:

The SOLO (Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome) Taxonomy (Biggs & Collis, 1982) is another popular framework for classifying learning outcomes. Like Bloom’s, in the SOLO Taxonomy, learning is conceptualized hierarchically, from “pre-structural” where the learner knows nothing about the area, to “unistructural” where the learner picks up only a few aspects of the task, to “multistructural” where the learner understands several aspects but they are unrelated, to “relational” where the learners can integrate ideas into a whole, and finally to “extended abstract,” where learners are able to generalize the whole to untaught applications.

Fink’s (2003) Taxonomy of Significant Learning, another common taxonomy, differs from the other two frameworks as it is not hierarchical and it represents six categories of learning in a circle where no type of learning is valued above the others. Categories in Fink’s (2003) Taxonomy include: (1) Foundational knowledge; (2) Application; (3) Integration; (4) Human dimension; (5) Caring; and (6) Learning how to learn. Fink (2003) considers each category to be a type of learning that has value and that can be incorporated into the development of learning outcomes.

When writing learning outcomes, one method to ensure a strong outcome is to apply the SMART criteria, which proposes that learning outcomes should be:

  • S pecific and student focused
  • M easurable in terms of student success
  • A ttainable by students (given their knowledge and skill level after learning takes place)
  • R elevant to focus of the course
  • T ime frame for completion is realistic (consider the depth of knowledge required by students)

Learning Activity 3 – Writing Learning Outcomes

Please examine the online course that you are using for the Online Course Audit Assignment and see how the learning outcomes are articulated in the course. Please use the SMART criteria to assess the quality of the learning outcomes. Share your findings on your blog and tag your post with “EDDL5141.”

Then, write at least two measurable learning outcomes for the online teaching and learning experience that you would like to design for your Online Design Plan Assignment, and share your learning outcomes on your blog and tag your post with “EDDL5141.”

Please review at least two of your peer’s learning outcomes and provide feedback using the SMART criteria. Based on the feedback provided by your peers, please revise your learning outcomes as appropriate.


In this module, we reviewed the Integrated Course Design mode, which is a helpful instructional design framework for educators that are transitioning to the online environment. The Integrated Course Design model is based on backwards design and advocates starting with the desired learning outcomes and aligning them to the assessment and teaching and learning activities (Fink, 2003). You had the opportunity to complete the first two steps of the Integrated Course design process, which involves identifying the situational factors that could affect the learning, and defining the learning outcomes. You were also introduced to examples of learning taxonomies, which can be useful tools when writing learning outcomes. In the next module, we will continue to explore the Integrated Course Design model and you will work though the remaining steps of the initial design phase that includes determining the online assessment and teaching and learning activities, and ensuring integration and alignment.


Anderson, L. W., Krathwohl, D. R., & Bloom, B. S. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives . New York: Longman.

Armellini, A., & Aiyegbayo, O. (2010). Learning design and assessment with e-tivities.  British Journal of Educational Technology, 41 , 922–935.

Biggs, J.B. and Collis, K.F. (1982). Evaluating the quality of learning: The SOLO taxonomy , New York: Academic Press.

Biggs, J. (1996). Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment. Higher Education , 32 (3), 347-364.

Bloom, B. (ed.) (1956) Taxonomy of educational objectives, the classification of educational goals – Handbook I: Cognitive Domain, New York: McKay.

Carleton University. (2017). Instructional design methodology and course design [Video file]. Retrieved from “https://mediaspace.carleton.ca/media/Instructional+Design+Methodology+and+Course+Design/0_5oxocd37”

Carleton University. (2017). The role of learning outcomes [Video file]. Retrieved from “https://mediaspace.carleton.ca/media/The+Role+of+Learning+Outcomes/0_2uxpre9y”

Carnegie Mellon University. (2016). Articulate your learning objectives . Retrieved from “https://www.cmu.edu/teaching/designteach/design/learningobjectives.html”

Darby, F. (2017). How do i align learning objectives with technology using backward design? Retrieved from “https://www.magnapubs.com/online/mentor/how-do-i-align-learning-objectives-with-technology-using-backward-design-14319-1.html”

Dee Fink, L. (2003). A self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning . Retrieved from “http://www.deefinkandassociates.com/GuidetoCourseDesignAug05.pdf”

Knaack, L. (2011). Designing learning opportunities: A practical handbook for educators. De Sitter Publications, Whitby, ON

Johnson, K. (2009). Professor Dancealot [Video file]. Retrieved from “https://youtu.be/1k8aeDUC9XQ”

University College Dublin. (n.d.). Using Biggs’ model of constructive alignment in curriculum design . Retrieved from “http://www.ucdoer.ie/index.php?title=Using_Biggs%27_Model_of_Constructive_Alignment_in_Curriculum_Design”

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