Curriculum design: introducing something new to your course


Inspiration can sometimes be hard to find. So, how do you go about updating your course to support student learning? Sometimes you just need a plan or a guide to point you in the right direction.

This Guide supports you with getting started on the design (or redesign) and development of an element in your course. The main goal of this Guide is to save you time and effort when bringing change to fruition

The process of innovating your teaching has many parallels with other research experiences you may have had – involving strategic planning, budgets and deliverables, implementation and evaluation. You will need to be mindful of your key stakeholders – your students and the University - and take appropriate steps to minimise their risk. If you would like to share your work beyond the University, you will often need to get human ethics approval.

This Guide describes ADDIE as one example of a systematic design process that can inform and guide you in planning and developing a new element for your course so that it meets the University’s focus on learners, learning outcomes, learning activity, and learning experience.

ADDIE involves the analysis of learning needs and outcomes, and the development of a delivery system to meet those needs. It is a five-stage development process that offers a streamlined, and focused approach that provides feedback for continuous improvement (Morrison, 2010).





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For the purposes of this Guide, we will be looking at these aspects of ADDIE:

Analysis–determine the needs of learners.

Design–establish intended outcomes, the sequencing and structuring of learning, methods of assessment, and technologies to be employed

Development–work out the details, draft, and build the course component (for example, within learnonline), ensuring that it all is in alignment with the results of the analysis and design.

Implementation–the actual teaching of the course

Evaluation–review learning to determine the effectiveness of the course component you’ve added; revising and redesigning as needed.

In this Guide we’ll provide you with a detailed example of the ADDIE process in action, using as a model, the introduction of a new online formative assessment activity into a hypothetical course, Business Maths 101.

Firstly, let’s review a number of key strategies you should keep in mind.

When redesigning an existing course element, you have an opportunity to gather information from previous course offerings to inform the process. You might start with the evaluation phase of the ADDIE cycle – to review what information you already have on your course as well as what you know about your course. For example, the ineffectiveness of a course element might be demonstrated by poor student performance, lower grades or pass rates, negative comments on student course evaluations, peer input on your curriculum or learnonline site, or frequent questions and confusion on the part of students.

Such information helps you develop a rationale for the change you are proposing – change based on evidence, rather than change for the sake of change!

You might consult some of the following sources of information about your course:

Student evaluations: It may be confronting but take note of less positive scores and comments left by students in their course evaluations to help you rethink your design.

Peer observations: Pay attention to comments and suggestions provided by your peers in observations of your course (for example, via UniSA's Peer Partnerships scheme, or the Summative Peer Review of Teaching [SPRT]).

Student grades (individual and/or final assessments): Evaluate student grades for individual assignments and for the overall course. Consider whether an assignment may have been too easy or difficult, has instructions that need clarifying, or whether it needs a formative element.

Your own notes and records from your previous experience teaching the course: Keeping detailed notes while teaching is valuable for the review process; you can keep track of ideas you may want to try later, tweaks that you added to the course while you were teaching and intended integrating in future offerings, unexpected issues that came up, etc. Did you get many questions about the wording of your Course Outline or about the Reading List, for example? Did an assignment not go according to plan? Are there discussion questions that worked well, or not so well?

It is important to consider data from more than one source. Multiple data sources will help you to clarify, confirm, or even challenge what you have learned from an initial analysis of a single set of data. The use of multiple sources can assist you in identifying patterns and inconsistencies across the student evaluation feedback on your course. It can increase your confidence in the soundness of one set of findings by referring to other, different pieces of information regarding your course element and help you to develop a more comprehensive picture of the component you wish to change or add.

Many initial ideas have a large vision that will be unmanageable for the average time-poor academic and therefore risky. To make the addition of the new component easier, instead of making large scale additions, see if a smaller subset of the idea can be trialled in a safe and efficient manner. This not only makes it less risky to the course overall, it makes it quicker to implement and with the data that you gain from the pilot trial, you can adjust the next phase of using the component.

Start with your broad idea and then see if you can break it down. Is there a way that a smaller aspect of the initial idea can be introduced? How can you break the big idea into small actions that you can enact, using iterative cycles of development?

The next step would to be talk to a ‘critical friend’. This could be a colleague in your Unit, or someone from the Teaching Innovation Unit. Their role would be to hear your ideas while they are still forming and help shape them into something that is manageable and sustainable for you and your students. Be clear on the amount of time that you are prepared to put into the development before you start.

An Example:  Modelling the ADDIE process

The table below describes the prompting questions and actions undertaken in response, while following an ADDIE process to introduce a new online formative assessment activity in a hypothetical course, Business Maths 101.

1. Analysis &planning

Understand the BIG picture and identify what you want to preserve and transform in your course element redesign



What would you like to transform? You may find evidence or direction from myCourseExperience or learning analytics data, peer feedback etc.

I have looked at the MyCourseExperience survey results for last study period and the data indicates room for improvement in the area of feedback and clarity about the assessment. Come to think of it, when I was marking the assessment, I found it an area that students consistently performed poorly in. I know this because I had to write the same feedback over and over!

If you are putting a new course component in, what are you taking out?

Nothing – perhaps I’ll review the assessment instructions

What do you want to preserve from your existing course component?  (e.g. learning outcomes, assessment, site, media, resources etc)?

All of the instructions, marking criteria, and the rubric

What are the characteristics of your students? (number of students, year level, demographics)

There are 250 students enrolled in the course; 40% male and 60 % female; last year 50% of the students were International

Analysis of the course context: where does it fit in the program sequence, is it delivered F2F, online or in blended mode?

It’s a 2nd year course which is taught in blended mode (F2F and online)

Do you need specific skills, learning design advice or support to help achieve the new component?

I might need to bounce some ideas around with an academic developer and ask an online educational developer for advice and/or training.

·       Advice on innovation - TIU Consultations


2. Design 

Identify the learning outcomes for the new component, teaching activities, assessment, key topics, and online components for your course



What do you want your students to know or do when they have engaged with or completed the new course component?


I will need to go back to the course objectives that are being assessed in the assessment and think about what could be done to ensure that this outcome is well-demonstrated in the new component. Looking at the course objectives will  reduce the likelihood that I will create irrelevant activities that aren’t related to the desired outcomes for the course.

Teaching involves developing challenging and engaging learning activities. What type of learning activity will you design for your new component?

I automate feedback by using online tools to introduce more feedback opportunities, and move beyond knowledge checking, or I could use peer feedback.

The next step is selecting a tool to support my design. In Moodle there are tools such as Moodle Quizzes, Moodle Lessons and a powerful group of tools called H5P interactive content. Not all H5P provide feedback – some provide excellent ways to present information using multimedia, which can also support learning.

·       Advice  on learnonline resources – H5P content types, quizzes etc TIU Consultations

·       Advice on innovation - TIU Consultations

What will count as evidence of learning once your students have completed the new component? How will the new component align with the learning outcomes? How will you provide feedback to students?

Students will act on the formative feedback, by identifying where they need to revise or improve on what they’ve done.

What are your expectations for student participation? What impact will your changes make on student workload?

Students will need to complete this activity before submitting their assignment and demonstrate in their assignment how they have acted on the formative feedback.

What tools in learnonline will you use (e.g. discussion form, quiz, journal, blog, wiki, etc) to enable interaction, collaboration, reflection and learning?

I’ll probably use an online quiz or H5P.

What resources and instructions will you need to provide in the site to enable students to engage with the new component?

I will need to make clear to students why the formative feedback activity has been included, how they’re meant to engage with it and that they will need to demonstrate that they have acted on the feedback.

Have you planned the structure of the new component to ensure ease-of-use for students?

The new component will be a learning activity titled ‘Formative feedback task’ the students will have a rationale for doing it, a learning outcome, instructions for how to engage with the component as well as a Q&A forum in case they need help/assistance

Have you applied backward design to the new course component?

Yes: I identified the:

·       learning outcome: acting on formative feedback

·       the activity will occur in H5P

·       the feedback they’ll get

·       what they need to do with the feedback


3. Development
Create the learning component (learning activity, assessment, content for your course)



What existing resources can you use for your new component (e.g. readings, exercises, websites, video resources)?

I will use the current resources on the site.

Have you developed the new component?

I have selected H5P as the tool to use and develop the formative feedback in it.

I have found help resources to learn the basics of the Moodle tools, and in addition, H5P have a great website with demonstrations of the capabilities of each of the content types in relation to feedback and multimedia, as well as tutorials on how to use each them.

I will put the activity/challenge into one field, have a way to collect the student performance, through a choice, decision or an extended response, and then I’ll need to populate the various feedback fields to represent what I would have said if I had been there in person.

I will work in the course that I’m teaching by creating a hidden section, or selecting the resource to be hidden, or I could organise for a course copy to be made and start working in the website for the next delivery of my course.

I will get IT to check that the H5P tool is displaying correctly in the student view.

Have you checked the settings and availability dates of any quizzes, assignment submissions, etc.?

I will make the settings/dates open so that students can do this anytime that suits them


4. Implement

The actual component delivery



Have you communicated the new course component design expectations to your students (e.g. learnonline, learning guide, in-class explanation, etc).

I will implement the formative assessment task that I designed by getting my students to work with it in learnonline. I will test it on the fly with current students to help me think about how it can be used with a future cohort.

I will write a narrative to introduce the activity and also send a course announcement closer to the activity. I could use the weekly overviews and schedules in the website to list what activities are happening each week (e.g. update the ‘to knows and to dos).

I may also need to adjust my teacher’s notes in relation to the new component to ensure that students know that the new formative assessment is there. The aim is to make sure that everything flows well together.

I will let students know it’s happening, based on previous feedback - as well as in the course outline.

What support do you have in place to help students engage with the new component?

A Q&A forum.

Some students may be unfamiliar with using technology. What steps can you take to assist students to become familiar with the technology used in the new component? If students need help with technology in your course, how will you provide support?

I am pretty good at using learnonline so I will advise my students and also point them at the learnonline Help for Students .


5. Evaluate & Improvement

Determine the effectiveness of the new component, make changes for yourself and your students, and disseminate the results



What kind of evaluation processes are you planning to use to evaluate the effectiveness of your new course component as well as any adjustments needed and inform its continuing improvement (e.g. survey questions embedded in myCourseExperience, peer review of materials used in learnonline, focus group, minute papers etc)?

To evaluate the impact of the new formative assessment component on my students I will take a few different approaches to evaluation:

I will use the:

·       Feedback tool in learnonline to collect information specifically about students’ experiences with the new the new formative assessment component, and I could use the  end-of-course feedback in case something was mentioned there.

·       the learning analytics associated with the new component (in the report section in Moodle) to see who engaged with it, when and in what way.

·       forum and create a thread asking for student’s impressions while interacting with the new formative assessment and ask for any suggestions about how it can be improved.

·       assessment results and see if students are getting better outcomes than previous cohorts for the concept I’m are addressing.

Once I’ve read through the evaluation data I will close the feedback loop by writing a paragraph in the Course Outline for next Study period’s cohort.

Human ethics approval

I will apply for Ethics approval before I start surveying students because I am contemplating publishing my results beyond UniSA.




Morrison, Gary R. Designing Effective Instruction, 6th Edition. John Wiley & Sons, 2010.