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Backward Design Step 7: Align and Debug Course Elements

Integrate the elements and modality of course into a clear flow.

Step 7: Align and debug course elements

An essential part of debugging your course is to review all course activities and map them to competencies, course learning outcomes, and module learning objectives. This provides a check to ensure some activities support the desired student outcomes. In mapping activities, remember that one activity might support more than one competency, course learning outcome, or module learning objectives. Additionally, a logical activity sequence that guides students from lower‑level Bloom's Taxonomy to the target level identified by the module learning outcome must be ensured. Below is an example of an integration plan for one module in a course.

Alignment of Activities Example
Learning Activity Course Learning Outcomes (CLO) Module Learning Objectives (MLO) AACN Essentials
Taxonomy Level
1: Reading 1 CLO1 MLO1, MLO2, MLO3, MLO4 2.4, 2.5 Remember
2: Textbook Chapter CLO1 MLO1, MLO2, MLO3, MLO4 2.4, 2.5 Remember
3: Micro-Lecture 1 CLO1, CLO2 MLO1, MLO2 2.4, 2.5, 9.1 Understand, Apply
4: Knowledge Check CLO1, CLO2 MLO1, MLO2 2.4, 2.5, 9.1 Understand, Apply
5: Content Review CLO1 MLO1, MLO2 9.1 Understand, Apply
6: Case Study CLO1, CLO2 MLO3, MLO4 2.4, 2.5, 9.1 Analyze, Evaluate, Create
7: Reflection CLO1, CLO2 MLO1, MLO2, MLO3, MLO4 2.4, 2.5, 9.1 Apply

example learning pathway

Checking Your Course Syllabus

A course syllabus should convey to students the course topics and course learning outcomes, the location of the course learning resources, how they will be evaluated and graded, expectations of students enrolled in the course, information about course content and depth, the textbooks being used, the number of credits awarded and how they can be achieved, and information about course instructor(s). In essence, it conveys course expectations, serves as a durable record of the learning experience, and is a tool to support student learning. The syllabus is in English. Every group instruction course should have a syllabus.

Information to Include in Syllabus

Key Course Offering Information

  • Institution Name: University of Wisconsin­­–Madison
  • Course Subject, Number, and Title: Special topics title, if applicable.
  • Credits: Find course credits in Guide.
  • Course Designations and AttributesFind course designations in Guide (e.g., honors, general education, graduate attribute, etc.), as approved through governance.
  • Course Description: Find course descriptions in Guide, as approved through governance.
  • Requisites: Find course requisites in Guide, as approved through governance.
  • Meeting Time and Location: Include information on field trips or other special activities, if applicable.
  • Instructional Modality: In-person, online, or hybrid. View the university’s mode of instruction course section descriptors.
  • Instructor Contact Info: Title, name, office hours, and email.
  • Teaching Assistant Contact Info (if applicable): Name, office hours, and email.

Outcomes & Competencies

  • Course learning outcomes — Course learning outcomes are statements about the knowledge and skills that students are expected to know, be able to do, or value by the end of the course. Use the course learning outcomes previously approved in the course approval process. Distinguish learning outcomes for undergraduate vs. graduate vs. variable credit activity. Include which competencies are supported by each course learning outcome.
  • Competencies — List the various competencies that are supported through this course.
  • Number of credits associated with the course — The number of credits associated with each course can be found at

Credit Information

  • How the course meets credit hours — A course syllabus should show how the course offering and learning expectations are consistent with the course credits and the UW‑Madison Credit Hour Policy. Follow these recommendations for how to describe course credit information. UW-Madison's definitions of the credit hour are as follows:
    • Traditional Carnegie Definition — One hour (i.e., 50 minutes) of classroom or direct faculty/instructor instruction and a minimum of two hours of outofclass student work each week over approximately 15 weeks, or an equivalent amount of engagement over a different number of weeks. This status quo represents the traditional college credit format used for decades. Instructors with regular classroom meetings and assigned homework, reading, writing, and preparation for quizzes and exams should use this definition.
    • 45 Hours per Credit — One credit is the learning that takes place in at least 45 hours of learning activities, which include time in lectures or class meetings, in person or online, labs, exams, presentations, tutorials, reading, writing, studying, preparation for any of these activities, and any other learning activities. Regular and substantive instructor/student interaction is required, and the syllabus should clarify how this happens. This option may be useful for nontraditional formats, “flipped” courses, lab courses, seminars, courses with substantial meeting time and little outofclass work, or any time this is a better fit for learning activities than the Carnegie definition.

Course Checklist


  • Module learning objectives support your course learning outcomes.
  • Activities communicate course learning outcomes and module learning objectives to students.

Learning Activities

  • Learning activities have been created and structured to support a clear learning pathway.
  • Learning activities are organized from lower-level to higher-level learning approaches.
  • You have checked learning activities to ensure they align with and support your course learning outcomes and module learning objectives.

Teaching Approaches

  • You have a variety of learning approaches planned (lecture, active learning, small group discussions, and/or individual work).
  • You know how you will provide students with a conceptual framework of the goals of the class session (topics to be covered, supported course learning outcome, supported module learning objectives, and activities that will take place.
  • You have identified ways of facilitating the connections between concepts.
  • You have scheduled time for students to reflect, digest, and apply content before moving to a new topic.
  • You have found various ways for students to ask questions and get clarification on concepts.
  • You have identified resources that provide evidence of students' performance and learning behaviors.

Course Materials

  • Learning materials are provided in multiple formats (print and digital).
  • PowerPoint slides limit the amount of text presented on the slide.
  • Font size is large enough to read, is sans serif, and colors provide adequate contrast.
  • Slides use diagrams, tables, and graphics to represent content when appropriate.
  • The course syllabus complies with campus standards and is published in Canvas.

Feedback and Assessment

  • Students are aware of what and how content and learning will be assessed.
  • Student feedback on their performance is planned (both formative and summative).
  • You have identified activities that allow you to intervene in students' learning challenges.

Technology Support

 Align and Debug Worksheet

Keywordsactivities, flow, modality, backward designDoc ID103375
OwnerTimmo D.GroupInstructional Resources
Created2020-06-25 13:23:58Updated2024-04-15 08:49:35
SitesCenter for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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