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Course Design Elements Part I

Elements of course design described
© Wellcome Connecting Science

Designing training follows set of elements from justification, defining goals and objectives, design to developing a delivery and evaluation plan. As described in 1.16 training design models follow similar principles.

  • Define context, goals and justification for training – What do I want to achieve and why?
  • Design and development – How will I get there?
  • Deliver and Evaluate your training – collect feedback and inform future development How will I know I have achieved the goals?

diagram of course design elements showing connection between different elements and iterative process of design. Headings are Needs Analysis, Training Goal, Learning Outcomes, Activities, Assessment, Delivery methods, Feedback and Evaluation

Building on this, the course design elements will be described within themes. More detailed notes about each element will be provided in the Course design check list at the end of this week.

Context and goals

Justification of the training activity is important to define the goals. Initially a specific problem is identified, for example a growing need for data analysis due to large scale whole genome sequencing which could inform public health emergencies. Defining the goal requires understanding to what extent you wish to address the problem and envisioning a specific outcome. Determining who should be trained identifies the target audience. Therefore, the broad objective may be to train laboratory scientists in data analysis skills at your institution or in your country. Running a needs assessment survey will then provide details regarding training needs or interests, based on expertise and knowledge level, capacity issues, institutional policies and resources. It is also an opportunity to assess feasibility and issues which need to be addressed or adapted for the context or local situation.

Design and Development

Curriculum plan

Development of training requires a well-planned curriculum. Aligning to well-articulated LOs, a curriculum provides a theoretical background, planned content, skills, work habits, means of assessment, evaluation techniques, approaches and instructional strategies.

Determining the expected outcome level or competency is important in accurately formulating the learning outcomes, thereby developing appropriate activities and teaching strategies. Writing learning outcomes is a key step which provides a point of reference for measuring success of training. You have covered Writing learning outcome sin Step 1.17. When LOs have been described, training objectives, aligning to the LOs, can be formulated which describe what the trainer will provide in terms of content, and practical demonstrations. This is also a plan for how you will break down the content into modules or sections or by topic and how this will be spread over contact hours. At this stage, develop a course plan or curriculum overview with key information which can be shared with prospective learners detailing the LOs, content overview, pre-requisites, a timetable outline, format for training, logistics and training team. This can serve as an advert to market the course and bring awareness to potential audiences.

Learning outcomes are useful in focusing and breaking down content, so that learning builds towards higher level outcomes. For example if learners are expected to be able to design a sequencing pipeline, lower level outcomes could include understanding and recalling facts about sequencing techniques and comparing various methods. Remember learning outcomes have to be SMART and also allow for content and activities to be broken down to manageable components.

Determining the best strategy for achieving the expected LOs will guide the following steps aligning content and assessments. Tractenberg describes learning experiences which will achieve the highest Bloom’s level. For example lectures will at most support “remember” and “comprehend”, and enable explaining or summarising of concepts. Whereas practical hands on exercises will support application of knowledge and help learners to solve problems or analyse tools, data or resources. Lecture or theoretical-based activities should be balanced with activities which require hands-on practice. As mentioned in Steps 1.8 and 1.9 activities should be aimed at being interactive, practical and relevant. For example Linderman et al, 20; Weitzel et al, 2016 and Salari et al, 2013 showed that interactive and practical activities, including extracting own DNA, sequencing or genotyping and analysing own results of personal genomic variants, enhanced learning very much.

Focusing on learner needs and using backward design or outcome-based approaches to designing the activities that will achieve the required outcomes, requires adaptation to target audience, training format and expected outcomes or competencies. Making a clear plan will help you to provide a coherent ordering of the content in order to improve the learners’ understanding to achieve expected learning outcomes (Morrison, Ross & Kemp, 2007). In this course we ordered the content to start with theoretical concepts, in Week 1, followed by demonstrations of how to apply the concepts in Week 2 and finally design your own training and review others’ projects in Week 3. A typical example of a well-ordered course aimed to train biologist learners in skills for data analysis starts from hypothesis development, sampling, DNA extraction, PCR, sequencing and then data analysis using various tools and software. Read more about this approach and types of activities by Krutchen, 2020.

When designing activities, include a description of resources required and factor in time for preparatory steps by the learners. In addition it is important to ensure that activities requiring tools or databases have the appropriate software or data sets available and accessible. You may need to build in time to prepare reagents and testing equipment.

We will continue with the rest of the course design elements in the next step.

Note that the references mentioned in this step are listed in a bibliography at the end of the next step.

© Wellcome Connecting Science
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Train the Trainer: Design Genomics and Bioinformatics Training

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