Course redesign benefits instructors and students

Helping instructors build engaging Canvas courses is the idea behind the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching's (CELT) Course Design Institute (CDI).

The institute takes place during the summer and winter sessions and provides instructors a redesign roadmap in Canvas aided by Quality Matters guidelines. Instructors work with the CELT instructional designers to focus on improvements around course content, learner interaction, instructional technology and accessibility.

Winter CDI

The winter session Course Design Institute begins in December. Interested instructors can apply from Oct. 26 to Nov. 15.

The outcome is well-organized courses where students can easily locate, engage with and complete coursework. Instructors also gain an understanding of how to plan a quality course with clear learning objectives.

"Often, it is about small improvements that take place over time," said CELT course design and quality senior manager Lesya Hassall. "The institute gives instructors time and room to build measurable learning objectives and to think about how their assessments and activities motivate the students."

The institute lasts about a month with the intention that the process continues beyond it. Courses -- in person and online -- are chosen for redesign either by instructors through a CDI application process or associate deans, who prioritize strategic courses in their colleges.

Structured redesign

CDI participation includes:

  • Attendance at four online synchronous check-in sessions facilitated by accounting associate professor Christine Denison
  • Completion of the asynchronous Canvas course
  • Work with the assigned CELT instructional designers to redesign the course
  • Completion of a Quality Matters self-review of their course to plan further improvements

Throughout CDI, instructors learn the basics of the backward and accessible course design process as they revisit their course content, activities, assessments and engagement strategies. Backward design starts by identifying the objectives before planning the course. After instructors complet each module in the CDI asynchronous Canvas course, they take a quiz and plan enhancements for their courses.

"This is a chance for instructors to walk in the students' shoes," said CELT instructional design manager Angi Karthik. "They're able to experience learning in the online course as students would."

CDI synchronous check-in sessions bring instructors together to share best practices and learn from each other.


During the summer institute, instructors redesigned 26 courses. They also completed pre- and post-institute assessments of their courses. Results indicated a significant improvement in instructors' ability to create learning objectives and plan for meaningful learning in their courses. 

Joyce Carnevale, veterinary clinical sciences clinical associate professor, used the summer institute to redesign BMS 399 Clinical Foundations, a core course for first-year veterinary students. 

"What I was glad to apply to the course was a real fundamental understanding of backwards design where I was able to take my information and make it easier to find, understand and move through in Canvas," she said. "I really benefited from hearing from other faculty on accessibility and how they approach it."

Carnevale said the interaction with other instructors and assistance from the CELT instructional designers from start to finish were key in completing the redesign. She said she examined and applied lessons to update other courses.

Quality Matters certification

Instructors have the option to have their course meet Quality Matters certification standards. The external certification ensures that the course meets rigorous, research-based standards for quality online course design -- something Carnevale plans to begin next summer.