Using Backwards Design in Brightspace

Peter.G.465 Posts: 6
edited February 2023 in Social Groups

What is Backwards Design?

Image by 愚木混株 Cdd20 from Pixabay 

Backwards design is a method for creating online courses that begins with the end goal in mind and works backwards to create a logical and effective curriculum. The method is based on the idea that, by defining the desired outcomes of a course and aligning the content and activities with those outcomes, the course will be more effective in achieving its intended purpose. This article will walk you through the process of Backwards Design and apply the theory to practice by indexing Brightspace tools against this process.

Step 1: Alignment and Assessment

The process of backwards design begins with defining the desired outcomes or "learning objectives" of the course. These objectives should be clear, measurable, and aligned with the overall goals of the program or institution. Once the objectives are defined, the next step is to determine the assessments or "evidence of learning" that will be used to measure whether or not students have achieved the objectives. This could include quizzes, exams, projects, or other types of assessments.

Brightspace allows instructors and designers to create, store, and manage learning outcomes and learning objectives within its system. Brightspace also provides a framework for mapping learning objectives to specific competencies. Brightspace provides a variety of tools for establishing performance standards, such as grading scales and rubrics. Brightspace tools that allow learners to show evidence of learning include assessment tools such as quizzes or assignments.



Step 2: Determine Content and Activities

With the objectives and assessments in place, the next step is to determine the content and activities that will be used to support the achievement of the objectives. This is often where the bulk of the course development takes place, as it involves determining the specific concepts, skills, and information that students need to learn in order to achieve the objectives. It is also important to consider how the content will be presented and what types of activities will be used to engage students and support their learning.

This is another step that can be completed within Brightspace. Use our Course Builder tool to outline your courses and modules at a high level. Then dive into the Content tool to start designing pages with content that aligns to your learning objectives, gradebooks, and assessments. Once the content is determined, use Creator + to add interactivity to your content pages, or gamify your courses with Awards and Badges. Brightspace also supports adaptive learning: create custom paths through your content by using Release Conditions. 

Content Creation:


Step 3: Review and Revise

Finally, the backwards design process concludes with a review and revision of the entire design. This involves examining the desired outcomes, evidence of learning, and learning activities to ensure that they are well-aligned, effective, and achieve the intended goals. This stage may also involve making adjustments to the design based on feedback from learners or instructors, as well as making changes based on the latest research or best practices in the field.

Analytics and data reporting within Brightspace gives your reliable information on how well your courses are performing. This data can help you identify strengths and weaknesses in your courses. Surveys and discussion forums allow learners to enter feedback directly to their instructor for the evaluation phase. Finally, the ability for instructors to revise and improve their materials allows them to respond to feedback and incorporate learner needs into the next iteration of their course.

Review and Revise:


Overall, backwards design offers a structured and effective approach to creating online courses. By focusing on the desired outcomes and aligning the content and activities with those outcomes, courses can be more effectively designed to meet the needs of students and to achieve the goals of the program or institution. Brightspace has tools that can support you throughout the process of backwards design. Leverage the full power of Brightspace and make the most of your eLearning platform!


  • Paul.H.936

    A great refresher on backward design, Peter! And I appreciate that you've provided links to all the useful Brightpsace tools in this process. Another tool I would highly recommend and is aligned with backward design is the Instructional Design Wizard. I recently helped a client setup their course on Brightspace and the ID Wizard made that process so much easier.

  • dzmitry17
    dzmitry17 Posts: 4 🔍

    Thanks for the post, Peter. It is great to realize that Brightspace offers so many tools for a course design, including the backward planning approach. This approach recently came to my attention when I was reading McMillan’s book on classroom assessment. The book highlighted the importance of having a set of evidence to evaluate student learning. This evidence is identified before
    developing instructional plans, which is an example of using the backward approach in curriculum planning. McMillan suggests that the instructional designer should adopt a mindset of an assessor, which helps achieve a true integration of assessment and instruction.

    Here is the link to the book: