1. Home
  2. Resources
  3. Standards


5.1 Introduction

In the previous chapter, we looked at the recommendations for CEPHEI courses as well as outlining how to identify courses at your institution that may be suitable to be adapted for the CEPHEI learning platform. This was Phase One – Analysis. In the next chapter, we move on to Phase Two – Design. However, before we go into details about course design, first we look into some key learning frameworks that underpin effective blended learning design.

The starting point for effective learning design is understanding the interrelationship between course design, assessment and instruction. Effective learning only happens when course design, assessment and instruction (teaching and learning) are aligned through cohesive planning based on learning outcomes.

In addition, effective learning only takes place if courses are underpinned by tried and tested learning frameworks. These frameworks take into consideration the cognitive processes involved in effective learning. Thus, in this chapter, four learning frameworks are presented that underpin each stage of course design: Bloom’s Taxonomy for learning outcomes; Backward Design for course design Assessment For, As, and Of Learning for assessment; Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction for instructional activities.

5.2 Bloom’s Taxonomy (for Designing Learning Outcomes)

One of the key learning frameworks that supports effective learning is Bloom’s Taxonomy (Bloom, Engelhart, Furst, Hill, & Krathwohl, 1956). This framework categorizes educational goals. In this framework, each category represents a higher cognitive level of functioning than the category below and each lower category is considered to be a precondition for achieving the next level up. The cognitive processes are presented as the actions through which learners encounter and use knowledge. An example of some of these are given in Table 2. To support Bloom’s taxonomy of cognitive learning processes, a further taxonomy of domains of knowledge exists to support the types of learning (Table 3).

Bloom’s taxonomy provides a useful framework for course design. First, the action verbs and levels of cognition can be used to write learning outcomes for the course. Second, by organizing these learning outcomes, the instructor can clarify the course outcomes for themselves and their students. Third, once an organized set of learning outcomes has been designed, this supports instructors to: design valid assessments; design appropriate instruction; and ensure assessments and instruction are aligned with the learning outcomes. 

Further information on Bloom’s taxonomy can be found here: https://slcc.instructure.com/courses/339717/pages/interactive-blooms-taxonomy

Learning outcomes for master’s level courses should use the top half of Bloom’s taxonomy. Learning outcomes for company courses should use the middle range of Bloom’s taxonomy. Learning outcomes for online courses for the general public should be based on the lower half of Bloom’s taxonomy. Further information can be found here: https://ec.europa.eu/ploteus/en/content/descriptors-page

5.3 Backward Design (for Course Design)

Backward Design was developed by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins (Wiggins & McTighe, 1998). It is a commonly used framework for designing blended learning courses. Backward Design aims for students to achieve deep understanding and show this through authentic performance tasks. In Backward Design, students: are actively involved in the learning process; gain deep understanding of concepts; demonstrate understanding through small formative tasks and an authentic summative performance task; and get continuous feedback throughout the course. When designing a course or module following Backward Design, instructors go through the following stages:

Stage One

Stage Two

  • G – Goal (What task do I want the students to achieve?)
  • R – Role (What is the student’s role in the task?)
  • A – Audience (Who is the student’s target audience?)
  • S – Situation (What is the context? The challenge?)
  • P – Performance (What will students create/develop?)
  • S – Standards (On what criteria will they be judged?)

(Wiggins & McTighe, 1998)

Figure 9: GRASPS

The standards are presented in a rubric for assessment. A rubric for assessments is generally presented as a matrix. Rubrics are useful for students as they make the assessment criteria and expected performance standards clear before students embark on the project, and useful for instructors, as they enable the instructor to interpret and grade students’ work against the pre-determined criteria and standards, rather than assigning a single, subjective score. 

Stage Three

Table 4 shows the stages that instructors go through when planning following Backward Design. An example end-of-course performance task and rubric is given in Appendix 1.

Table 4: Stages of Backward Design

Stage One

Identify desired results

What is it that I want the students to understand and know and be able to do?

Write learning outcomes using Bloom’s taxonomy.

Stage Two

Determine acceptable evidence

How will I know that the students know what I want them to know?

Write an end-of-course summative performance task following GRASPS. The performance task should be based on an authentic industry problem.

Stage Three

Plan learning experiences & instruction

What do I need to do online and in the class to prepare the students for the assessment?

Create modules, formative learning activities, and small ongoing formative assessments to lead students to the desired results.

5.4 Assessment for, as, and of Learning (for Designing Assessments)

Ideally, assessments assess what instructors teach and value and should involve real learning. Gollub et al. (2002) propose a framework in which assessment is used in three ways: for learning, as learning, and of learning. They serve different purposes.

Assessment of learning is the model we all know. It is the mid-term or final exam; the summative assessment of what students have learnt. Blended learning does not reject the entire notion of assessment of learning, but the problem is that by the time it reveals to students (and instructors) where there are gaps in learning, it is too late to do anything about them. For this reason, in blended learning, more focus is put on assessment for learning and assessment as learning.

Blended and digital learning start with assessment for learning. It is where the students and instructor find out what they already know through prior-knowledge activities and pre-class quizzes; it grabs students’ attention and helps to guide the course. Assessment for learning is formative, focusing on gathering information to inform both teaching and learning. In digital and blended learning, it happens in the online environment via small quizzes which students are required to complete after watching videos or reading texts.

Assessment as learning makes assessment part of the learning process itself. This model of assessment often makes students their own assessors and can take many forms including demonstrations, investigations, presentations, projects, case studies, building prototypes, etc.

 Figure 10 shows where each assessment is placed on a blended learning course. 

Figure 10: Recommended Placement of Types of Assessment (for, as, of) in Blended Learning

(Şahin & Fell Kurban, 2019)

5.5 Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction (for Instructional Activities)

Robert Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction provide a strong framework for planning instructional activities. Gagne believes certain mental conditions must be met for learning to be effective (Gagne, 1965). This is “based on the information processing model of the mental events that occur when adults are presented with various stimuli” (Gagne’s 9 Events of Instruction, 2016). From this model, Gagne created nine events of instruction. This is a useful framework for designing instructional activities. However, to be effective for blended learning, it is reordered (Table 5).

Table 5: Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction Reorganized in for Blended learning

Gagne's 9 Events

Reorganized in the Order of Blended learning

  • Gain attention.
  • Inform learners of outcomes.
  • Stimulate recall of prior learning.
  • Present the content.
  • Provide “learning guidance”
  • Elicit performance (practice)
  • Provide feedback.
  • Assess performance.
  • Enhance retention and transfer to the job.


  • Introduction to the Module
  • Introduction to key terms
  • Prior knowledge activity
  • Introduction to concepts (via video, article)
  • Hold students accountable for their learning

In Class

  • Review pre-class concept/Start-of-class activity
  • Student-centred activities to practice the concept
  • Formative assessment – collaborative

After Class

  • Self-reflection

(Fell Kurban, 2018) 

Next Chapter - COURSE DESIGN