Friday, 20 April 2012 16:47

Course Design Terminology

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When you’re designing a course, especially when it is your first time, there can be a lot of new terminology to learn. Here’s a quick list to get you started.

Asynchronous instruction:

This is instruction that does not happen at predetermined or regular intervals. Most fully online courses are asynchronous, meaning students and instructors communicate at different times using tools such as the discussion board. For tips on facilitating an asynchronous class see the article “Teaching Presence.”

Blended instruction:

When a class has a mix of online and face-to-face components it is called blended. There is a wide spectrum of classes that fall under this umbrella and they can all look very different from each other. To learn more about blended learning see “What is Blended Learning?”

Constructive alignment:

This is when course assessments and learning activities are designed to address the course outcomes. Read “Mapping Out Your Course.” to learn more about aligning your course.

Course outcome(s):

The course outline contains the course outcomes; in other words, the list of all the things students will be able to do once they pass the course. They are what guide you in the design of your course. To learn more about writing outcomes see the article “Outcomes.”


This is a traditional classroom setting, in which the instruction happens in a designated time and place with the all participants present.

Formative assessment:

These assessments are used to guide student learning through instructor or peer feedback and often do not have a grade attached to them. To understand more read “Formative vs Summative Assessment.”

Module outcome(s):

These are the list of things students should be able to do when they complete a module in a course. They address the course outcomes. In other words, they are the specific things a student must do to achieve the more general course outcome(s). To learn more about writing outcomes see “Outcomes.”

Online instruction:

A class that is entirely online is called online instruction. Learning activities, assessments, and student-student and teacher-student interaction and collaboration takes place online, usually in a learning management system. It can be conducted asynchronously or synchronously.

Summative assessment:

This method of assessment is a means to gauge or summarize, student learning. They are given periodically throughout a course and typically have marks attached to them. Examples are a unit exam or project, mid-term paper or test, and final project or exam. To learn more of the differences between summative and formative assessments, read “Formative vs Summative Assessment.”

Synchronous instruction:

Synchronous means to occur at the same time. In terms of instruction this means students and instructor meet at a set time and place. It can happen face-to-face in a classroom on online in an online classroom/webinar/chat room.

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Christie Robertson

I remember what it was like being a new instructor: too many questions and too many resources to sift through. My goal as a writer for Learning Connections is to help instructors with common teaching issues, whether they are f-2-f, blended or online. I want answers to those frequently asked question to be easy to find!