Course design

The following principles and frameworks provide best practices for universal learning, course design and development.

  • Universal Design for Learning

    Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an approach to designing your course which is based on principles that enable instructors to design and teach their courses in ways that make learning accessible to all learners.  The National Center on Universal Design for Learning has identified three primary principles that provide a framework to assist instructors with designing instruction. 

    The three key principles are:

    1. Multiple Means of Representation - provide options for perception, language, expressions, and symbols and comprehension.
    2. Multiple Means of Action and Expression - provide options for physical action, expression and communication, and executive function.
    3. Multiple Means of Engagement - provide options for recruiting interest, sustaining effort and persistence and self-regulation.
  • Accessibility

    Wayne State University's Accessibility Statement

    Wayne State University (WSU) has an institutional commitment to provide equitable educational and employment opportunities for all members of the university community, and to making all programs and activities accessible. Inclusive education, services and facilities at Wayne State University promote an exceptional learning and work experience for all members of the university community and demonstrate our commitment to supporting and advancing the diverse communities that are part of our university culture.

    Wayne State University accessibility resources

    Other accessibility resources


    The University of Washington has created a comprehensive checklist to achieve the success criteria of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG ) 2.0 at Level AA, which is the level that WSU adheres to. WCAG 2.0 is the de facto standard for web accessibility developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).  This check list can be particularly helpful to instructors working in Canvas and also in online courses to assess how perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust content and controls for all users.   


    Why Accessibility Matters

    Ernie Perez, Director of Instructional Technology at California State University, explains how incorporating accessibility and universal design principles into your course is good for all students.

    Captions: Improving Access to Postsecondary Education

    Professors, students, and IT administrators share the benefits of using captions for videos in postsecondary education.


  • Learning outcomes

    Learning outcomes

    Learning outcomes are goals for student learning that you, as the instructor, set for your course.  They essentially answer the question "What will students learn?"  Course-level or semester-long learning outcomes are usually shared with students in the syllabus.

    You can also write learning outcomes for each unit or chapter, or even each class meeting; use them as a guide as you design the course, and share them with students to guide their studying.  

    Over all, learning outcomes:

    • Allow us to demonstrate that learning has occurred in our students in an objective, measurable way
    • Focus on learning and student success, supporting the university mission and provost charge
    • Are an integral part of accreditation standards
    • Empower students to become more involved with their learning experiences
    • Allow us to assess students' learning and use the results as a tool for improvement
    • Create a common language that crosses all departments within a university

    Bloom's TaxonomyBloom's Taxonomy pyramid

    Bloom's Taxonomy is a tool to help you to assess the level of rigor and challenge your students are experiencing in your course.  To consciously and intentionally address the level of cognitive complexity and challenge in a course, Bloom's Taxonomy is an excellent framework, providing multiple points of entry. This Bloom's Taxonomy resource show the cognitive levels of the pyramid with sample verbs associated with each level for easily creating learning outcomes or exam questions.


    Our Teaching Handbook provides many resources on constructing learning outcomes using Bloom's Taxonomy. 

  • Frameworks for course design

    The following frameworks are best practices for creating and sustaining inclusive classrooms geared for the success of all of our students.  We recommend using these as you design your learning outcome goals, assessments (i.e., tests, papers, projects, etc.), and class activities.  Each framework describes a fundamental principle of course design and addresses learning across all three domains (i.e., cognitive, affective and psychomotor). 

    Backward Course Design

    Backward Course Design (BCD) is a course design framework that embeds learning outcomes and assessment.

    • What do you want to be certain students learn from your course?  
    • How does taking your course contribute to students' learning?

    When creating a new course or modifying an existing one, BCD begins with articulating the end goals of the course.  
    Constructing these learning outcomes shows students how your course contributes to their development.  It's explicitly stating what successful students can expect to gain as a result of taking it.

    Ask yourself the following questions:

    1. At the end of my course, what do I want my students to know, do, and value?
    2. How will I determine how well a student achieves the learning outcomes?
    3. How will I engage the students to learn the material?

    Designing Courses for Significant Learning

    The Designing Courses for Significant Learning (DCSL) model assembles the components into a relational, integrated model. To guide you through the process, it outlines the course design tasks in a systematic way in five steps: 

    1. Assess the situational factors
    2. Learning goals
    3. Feedback and assessment procedures
    4. Teaching and learning activities 
    5. Check for integration

    Our Teaching Handbook provides more information on Backward Course Design and Designing Courses for Significant Learning.

  • Wayne State University guidelines


    The Wayne State University (WSU) Council of Undergraduate Administrators and Wayne State University Academic Senate Curriculum and Instruction Committee have developed sample language, which can be found in the Syllabus Guidelines (click and scroll down to the bottom), for statements on:

    • Academic Integrity
    • Religious Holidays
    • Student Success
    • Student Disability Services
    • Course Drops & Withdrawals
    • Class Recording
    • Online Courses

    In addition, consider a statement on diversity and inclusion in your syllabus.


    WSU grading policies can be found on the Office of the Registrar's website. The site also includes information about:

    Academic Integrity

    The Dean of Students Office has resources available to promote academic integrity and campus civility.  Read more about the Student Code of Conduct, including campus-wide definitions, guidelines and sanctions in the case of violations of university regulations, and support offered by the Dean of Students Office.