Course Design Institute

The Course Design Institute is a signature program of the Drake Institute for Teaching and Learning. In it, Ohio State instructors are introduced to a “backward design” process and strategies that support significant learning. Participants learn about the evidence-based instructional practices and resources to build effective, student-centered courses. Most important, the CDI creates the time and space for instructors to concentrate on design work in the company of colleagues and educational developers  

Participants who successfully complete this program earn a Course Design teaching endorsement. 

Our Process

CDI introduces participants to a process called “Backward Design,” a framework outlined in Understanding by Design. While it is tempting to organize a course by deciding what content to cover, “Backward Design” suggests instructors begin by identifying specific, student-centered goals and outcomes before they choose any other elements of the course. The CDI was developed using this process and comprises the following broad topics:

  • Designing with learning goals and outcomes in mind
  • Developing assignments and grading rubrics
  • Organizing teaching strategies and content
  • Planning for assessment and evaluation


Evidence-based Instruction 

During the CDI participants review and apply selected materials from the institute’s reading list. Our reading list comprises texts instructors might find valuable whether designing a new course, redesigning a course or considering how to better support students using evidence-based instructional approaches. 


During a Course Design Institute, participants gain an understanding of how to design a course based on a foundation of goals and outcomes; begin the actual work of course planning, working with a community of peers; and leave with the basic structure for a course and the beginnings of course materials such as a syllabus, assignment drafts, assessment tools and a course outline.  

Learning Outcomes 

Participants who successfully complete a CDI will be able to:

  • Articulate and align course goals and learning outcomes in a given course.
  • Design appropriate and effective evaluation and assessment tools for select learning outcomes.   
  • Make discipline specific decisions regarding course content.
  • Organize content to support student achievement of learning outcomes.  
  • Evaluate which pedagogical tools and teaching styles will be most appropriate for the context, goals and outcomes of an individual course.  

Upcoming CDIs 

A list of upcoming Course Design Institutes can be found on the Events page of the Drake Institute website and on the Teaching and Learning Resource Center events listing. 

​Types of CDIs

The Institute for Teaching and Learning provides several versions of the CDI to meet the needs of instructors, programs and units. 

Type of CDI 


Number of sessions 

TheTraditional CDI  is a four-part workshop in which instructors, with hands-on guidance from Drake Institute staff, focus on designing or redesigning a specific course, workshop, training or seminar. 



College, departments, or units can arrange for a Program-Based CDI during which their educators can participate in a CDI focused on their unique discipline and courses.   



Joining a CDI

Enrollment in a CDI is limited in order to provide each participant substantive feedback and build a sense of community. A short application, required to be considered to participate, gathers information about the course the instructor will be designing or redesigning during the CDI (which is usually an actual course that you plan to teach, but in some cases, might be a course you hope to teach in the future). The application also asks about motivation and goals for attending. 

What participants are saying...

“I have learned so much from the expertise and experiences from faculty of other disciplines, and that a course should be developed with structure.”

“I am taking with me a real course, that didn’t exist before, that I actually really want to teach!”

“Now I will not get overwhelmed with course design because I know how to break things down into manageable units.” 

Frequently Asked Questions

How much time outside of the CDI will I need to spend?

Each session, you will have time to get started on your work “in class,” and then we will ask that you continue your work at home and respond to others’ work. Your level of participation will directly affect what you take away from the CDI, as well as the other participants’ community experience. Our most successful participants put in about 1-2 extra hour(s) of work between sessions, but ultimately, the amount of time you spend outside the CDI is determined by you.

Do I need to have a specific course I will be working on? 

Yes. The course can be one that you have taught before or never taught before. It can be one that currently exists or that you’ve only imagined. But you will only be able to participate in the CDI if you have a course to work on designing using the skills you’ll be learning. 

May I work on two courses at the same time? 

We strongly recommend that you concentrate on only one course so that you do not feel overwhelmed. Furthermore, we will only provide you the Wiki space to work through one course design. However, the skills you learn from the CDI will be directly applicable to any course you will design or redesign from here on out. If you feel you need support and guidance as you work on another course design, Drake Institute consultants would be happy to meet with you one-on-one after you finish the CDI. 

May I take the CDI again for another course I want to (re)design? 

You may repeat the CDI for another course you want to (re)design. However, if the CDI fills, we prioritize those who have not been through a CDI before.

Do I need to bring the texts for the course I want to work on? 

No. In fact, we encourage you to leave all texts and course materials at home! The CDI provides a space to re-imagine your course from a fresh perspective. 

What if I don’t know what the content will actually be yet? 

That’s fine! We prefer when our participants are not thinking about content when they arrive. As long as you have an idea of the purpose of the course and what you hope students will be able to know and do by the end of it, you will be successful. Content should naturally flow from there. 

May I take this for a course I may not ever teach here at Ohio State? 

Yes, you may. We do not offer top priority to candidates who are proposing to work on non-Ohio State courses, but we do accept such candidates on a regular basis. We believe it’s important for educators to learn this method and these skills no matter what or where they will be teaching! 

I am a staff member – may I take the CDI? 

Yes, the CDI is open to anyone who teaches in any capacity at Ohio State. In addition to traditional courses, participants have used the CDI to design workshops, trainings, and seminars. 

Will I leave with a completed syllabus? 

No, but you will leave with plans for and components of a syllabus. Writing a syllabus should be much easier after having completed the CDI. 

I’m designing a class with someone else. Can we work as a pair in the CDI or do we each have to work independently? 

Yes, you can work as a pair. Please indicate in the “Additional Notes” section of your application your partner’s name and the nature of your work together. 

What if I can’t attend all sessions? 

We require that every participant commit to attending all sessions for two reasons. First, the material builds on itself over the five sessions, so missing one session will set you back for the others. Second, it is hard to develop community when we do not have the same people present at each meeting. However, we do understand that unforeseen circumstances may arise and prevent you from attending one of the five sessions. We do our best to meet individually with participants who unexpectedly have to miss a session to help them catch up on the material. If you have to miss more than that, you are probably better off applying for a later CDI. Do note that if you know in advance that you will not make all five meeting times for a particular institute, your application will receive a lower priority level.