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How to Design a Course with Video Using Two Important Frameworks

/ Tyler Agnew

Learner working through online course.

Successful course design helps employees and learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed in their careers. Learning how to design a course remains top of mind for faculty and learning and development professionals. What's more, pairing video with tried-and-true course design strategies is the perfect way to create powerful learning experiences for your audience.

More on this to come, including: 

What is backward design?

Curriculum experts Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe proposed a new approach to course design — they called it “backward design.” Before introducing their new  framework, course designers followed a familiar course creation formula: Learning activities, assessment, and then corresponding learning objectives.

Wiggins and McTighe saw the disconnect. Instead, they positioned learning objectives at the forefront of how to design a course. Backward design asks what mastery looks like. It's a focused approach. Course designers first set the destination; then, they plan the best routes to accomplish the goals (AKA: learning activities and assessment). The backward design model gives meaning to each activity and assessment. It's a great way to develop a course and an effective syllabus.

How to design a course using backward design

Backward design is much more than an approach to designing objectives. It’s a framework guided by seven principles

1. The best learning comes from purposeful planning

Backward design answers how to design a course by helping course designers focus their efforts around the most impactful learning objectives. This intentionality helps course designers enhance what aligns with their goals and eliminate activities and assessments that veer from intended outcomes. The framework promotes structure without enforcing rigid systems. 

2. Consider prior knowledge and deepen skill sets 

Backward design results in a curriculum and instruction focused on developing and extending students' understanding and the ability to transfer their knowledge to other situations. Backward design asks what skills and knowledge students gain from course completion. Part of that process considers current knowledge and how to build on it effectively. 

3. Student success depends on using knowledge independently

Student understanding is apparent when they can demonstrate their learning by performing authentic tasks autonomously. In higher education, this may occur periodically in various settings but often happens during a capstone project. Learning and development professionals may use key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure how well an employee utilizes knowledge from a course. 

4. Long-term, clearly defined results drive effective course creation 

To create a good curriculum, course designers start with clearly stated long-term goals and follow a three-stage path: desired results, evidence, and a learning plan. Following this methodology eliminates busy work and unproductive assessments. 

5. Understanding effective teaching drives appropriate course design

With backward design, teachers and L&D professionals facilitate understanding rather than simply delivering material. They know the power of active learning over traditional lecturing models. They make room for knowledge checks. Did they learn? Is that learning retained? These professionals never assume the needed knowledge seeped into their learner's brains simply because they taught the material. 

6. Keep in tune with current design standards and industry changes

Backward design is more than just a one-and-done process. When professionals think about how to design a course, they should consider that course design constantly evolves. This model leaves room for reviewing units and the curriculum. In addition, it looks at the field of knowledge at large. It asks: are the learning objectives preparing learners for their roles and adapting to a changing workforce? 

7. Putting learners first is the name of the game

A teacher sits on his desk and talks with his class.

By learning to analyze student performance, course design professionals find ways to modify curriculum and instruction to maximize learning.

Backward design answers the question of how to design a course. Start with the outcomes. Then, plan and assess based on objectives. This practical approach helps with creating courses at a higher level. But what strategies are best to use within the course itself?

Course creation and Bloom's Taxonomy

The best course creation software provides an all-in-one place for course designers to use video as a powerful teaching and assessment tool. Video is a powerful tool that meets the principles of the backward design framework and can be utilized with another cornerstone tool used in course creation: Bloom's Taxonomy.

Bloom's Taxonomy is a cognitive-based learning model that classifies and organizes learning objectives and outcomes. It helps assess learners' current level of knowledge, creates rigorous courses tailored to advance learning, and helps course creators measure learning and objectives by providing a set language around course activities. 

Course designers can use Bloom's Taxonomy to guide them as they use course creation software like WeVideo's interactive video design studio, PlayPosit

Bloom's helps learners progress toward mastery — starting from the most foundational levels of learning and working up to higher-order thinking. In 2001, the taxonomy was revised, including some cognitive process levels that help course creators better utilize video within a course.

EXPLORE MORE: Auto-generate interactive video questions with WeVideo's new feature, AI Interactions

How to design a course with video

When a marketing agency hires a new content writer, an employee's onboarding learning objective may be "I can use WordPress to upload and publish branded blog articles. From the lens of Bloom's, how will the new hire master that objective? 

Start the first lessons with the most basic information. Create informational videos. Then, move toward procedures. Take publishing a post, for example. The steps are the same each time. Log on. Navigate to the posts section. Create a new post and add all the necessary data. Schedule for review. Final edits made by a proofreader. Publish. 

A video alleviates the pressure of the employee having to ask someone time and again about what to do. They watch. They learn, and eventually, the process is etched in their minds. (Even better — they can rewatch as much as needed!).

WATCH: How to get started with video creation in WeVideo.

Moving to the next Bloom's level, let's stick with our new content writer. The next step is understanding. (Keep in mind that Bloom's levels are flexible. This example merely shows how video functions within levels). 

Now that the new hire can post a blog, how well are they beginning to understand the WordPress dashboard and the larger purposes of a content management system (CMS)? A video at this level may help the employee understand the larger picture. A video may include branched learning pathways that allow the employee to learn the different components of a CMS: posts, pages, media libraries, themes, backups, and more. 

A video with branched learning provides more autonomy to learners and increases learner engagement. The content writer could view information on pages, for example, and move to the media library section if their knowledge and understanding are growing to understand the purpose of the media library.

Instructors can create a branched learning environment to accommodate learners with different prior knowledge and provide diverse levels of scaffolding to learners. This way, the content writer can classify different parts of the website. 

WATCH: How branched learning works in WeVideo.

At the application level, a video can help an interactive video can help a learner put their newfound knowledge to use. They may role-play with a trainer by flipping roles. The content writer would take on the trainee role, pretending to be a novice and providing advice on best using the CMS.

As the content writer progresses toward mastery of the learning objective, the video helps them at the final two levels of Bloom's — evaluate and create. To truly master something, a learner must use their knowledge to make something. Having videos to lean on to relearn concepts is vital to mastering content. 

There's no question: learning how to design a course is hard work. Break it down. Utilize backward design. This framework answers what learners should know by course completion. Then, help them get there using powerful video lessons aligned with Bloom's Taxonomy. 

Successful course design is possible. Always work with the end in mind.

Tyler Agnew.
Tyler Agnew
Tyler Agnew is a writer, TEFL-certified educator, and web designer. He has contributed sports stories to USA Today and reviewed restaurants for Traveling and Living in Peru. Tyler now puts his M.Ed. in Administration to use by helping K-12 schools and higher education institutions develop microcredentials and adopt Open Educational Resources (OER).