Module 1
Lecture Notes


Understanding Backward Design and "Quality Matters"

A. Introduction

Following up on our introduction to DOTS, we will now
i) concretely lay down the goals of the DOTS workshops,
ii) identify the theoretical principles underlying Backward Design, the course-design process we will be exploring throughout DOTS, and
iii) discuss the scope and value of the "Quality Matters" standards for online course design.
Start by watching a short introductory presentation by Dr. Guan (5'20").

Backward Design Presentation

Introduction to DOTS and Backward Design

This is a narrated slide presentation, created and optimized for online delivery with Adobe Presenter.
Unlike PowerPoint, Adobe Presenter provides functionality that makes it easier to produce materials that are compliant with Section 508 of the American Disabilities Act.
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More on issues of accessibility is available within the resources accompanying Assignment 1.

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B. Backward Design

Introduced in the late 1980s by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, and part of their larger Understanding by Design framework, backward design emphasizes assessment as a means of evaluating student capacity to apply newly acquired knowledge in a variety of contexts. 
Backward design involves three progressive stages:

Watch a short clip (3':00") with
Carol Ann Tomlinson on
  Differentiated Instruction
Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins on
  Understanding by Design, and
Robert J. Marzano on
  What Works in School
Montage from the
2008 ASCD Summer Conference DVD.
(no transcript available)
Listen to Grant Wiggins's and
Jay McTighe's 1-minute description
of backward design

Beginning with the end in mind (i.e. "what exactly do I want my students to know at the end of this class/module/course?"), teaching for understanding, and requiring students to apply and demonstrate their learning are not new concepts. What is new is the development, fine-tuning, formalization, and rigorous testing of specific design steps, which are also particularly well suited to address the structural and assessment challenges introduced in online learning.

To successfully implement the Backward Design process, instructors must first decide on what is essential for students to know--what is at the core or "heart" of a given topic--and then decide how they will know when students have reached that goal. The designing of assessments must therefore occur in the beginning, to give both the instructor and the students a clear destination for each course module. Once the destination is clear, the instructor is ideally equipped to create the best roadmap to get there.

Self-test: Do you understand DOTS & Backward Design?
Take this self-test to see!
Note: After you submit your responses and review the results, close the survey window.
This test focuses less on improving your understanding of the DOTS program and more on demonstrating Blackboard’s test features (such as types of questions and feedback automation) in low-stakes learning contexts.
For an online self-test to be effective, it must include numerous questions of multiple types, introduced by increasing complexity. More importantly, the feedback must be extensive enough to address correct responses with leading, follow-up questions and to offer customized feedback to each wrong response. You will be consulting a list of feedback tips when working on the third and last assignment for Module 1.


C. Quality Matters (QM)

The QM project develops and makes available an online course-design enhancement instrument that includes 40 quality elements. These are distributed across eight broad standards, are derived from an extensive review of relevant research literature, and are described in detail in the Course Design Review Rubrics document. As a QM subscriber, DePaul has access to this document and will be sharing portions of it with you throughout DOTS. For example, the portion describing the Accessibility Standard elements is included in the resources accompanying Assignment 1.

Quality Matters Standards List

Quality Matters standards list

For Assignment 2, you will review a sample blended course, using the short QM review form with only the eight broad standards. A list of all 40 quality elements, grouped by standard and including a point value, is available to the left.

The main objective of the QM review process is neither to evaluate the instructor, nor to just give a "design" grade to the reviewed course. Rather, it is to assist the instructor in satisfying the most quality elements possible, improving her course design, and receiving the QM stamp of approval. In other words, rather than being a course evaluation process, the QM review is a course enhancement process, providing instructors with an opportunity to re-examine their course design based on solid standards.

Designing and delivering quality online courses is both challenging and necessary, as the demand for such courses keeps increasing exponentially. Projects like Quality Matters are much needed, welcomed, and overdue, and ultimately benefit our students.
You can visit Quality Matters at: