Curious to learn more about c3Design?

If you’re eager to start designing your course, feel free to skip this FAQ page. But if you’re curious, we provide intriguing answers to the equally intriguing questions we’ve received over the years. Simply click the question to expand the answer.

Not entirely obvious, but c3Design is pronounced “see", "three," "design.”

The long-term vision for c3Design is to create a tool capable of helping instructors design classes (i.e. lesson plans), courses, and curricula. Hence the three Cs. Since we believe systematic, evidence-based design is the best way to improve teaching and learning, we’ve raised the Cs to the 3rd power. In other words, design is exponentially important compared to other activities instructors might undertake to improve teaching and learning. Plus, c3Design looks way cooler than 3cDesign.

TurboTax™. Seriously. After years of helping lead face-to-face course design institutes at the University of Virginia, Michael Palmer, the Director of UVA’s Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE), was doing his taxes. He became intrigued by the ability of TurboTax™ to ask straightforward questions and fill out complex tax forms for the user based on their responses. He wondered, “What if a program could ask instructors simple course design questions and fill out a syllabus and other course-related materials for them behind the scenes?” Five years later, c3Design was launched. (We promise that c3Design is a lot more fun than doing your taxes.)

Michael Palmer—yes, the same person who got the crazy idea for c3Design when doing his taxes—spearheads the project, but most of the creative ideas are shaped by former and current members of the CTE team, as well as other educational development friends around the country. Full Tilt Ahead is the developer behind all the cool tools you’ll be using.

If you’re asking this question, you’re already way ahead of the game. Goals and objectives are at the heart of any meaningful learning experience, including c3Design. In short, we hope c3Design helps instructors become the teachers they dream of being. We also hope they design or redesign a course—and future courses—grounded in learning-focused, evidenced-based principles. Concretely, after completing c3Design, participants will...

  • recognize how and why certain features of learning environments impact student motivation;
  • define the characteristics of content- and learning-focused courses;
  • describe the range of situational factors influencing the design of their course<;/li>
  • articulate a robust set of long-range, high-level learning goals;
  • define epistemologically-based learning objectives derived from the instructor’s learning goals that are 1) well-defined, 2) measurable, and 3) span the six dimensions of Fink’s Taxonomy;
  • describe a set of course-level assessments aligned with the learning objectives to creatively and authentically assess student learning;
  • draft a detailed, transparent assignment description for one of the major assessments;
  • develop a series of learning activities to support the assessment of the most challenging learning objective;
  • scaffold and space learning activities appropriately to support and maximize learning;
  • align learning objectives, major assessments, and learning activities so they support and reinforce each other;
  • develop a learning-focused syllabus which represents the (re)designed course in written form; and
  • intentionally attend to issues of equity and inclusivity throughout the process.

A lot. c3Design is grounded in the literature of backward-integrated design and Fink’s Taxonomy of Significant Learning; theoretical frameworks of motivation theory, learning theory, and the science of learning; and principles of transparency, Universal Design for Learning, and equitable learning practices. It is also informed by the CTE’s own research efforts to understand the impact of its face-to-face course design institute on instructors’ beliefs and practices. Check out the references page for a few examples of our influences. We’re always on the lookout for newer research that informs and improves our work. Have an idea? Let us know.

Why yes, thanks for asking. c3Design won the POD Network’s Innovation award in 2016. The CTE’s syllabus rubric, which is embedded in the program, also won the POD Network’s Innovation award in 2015. Two related research projects were awarded the POD Network’s Robert J. Menges Award for Outstanding Research in Educational Development: Not Your Granddaddy’s Syllabus: Investigating Student Perceptions of Course Syllabi (winner) and Making Assessment Matter (honorable mention).

Absolutely. c3Design was designed to support instructors who wish to take a more independent approach to developing knowledge and expertise around course design. If you’re one of these people, simply start when you’re ready and finish when you can. If you want a little more support and accountability (like us), join a cohort with other instructors or a group facilitated by your institution’s teaching and learning center. Our pacing guide on the previous page should help you create some structure and a timeline.

No. While we store everything you create in c3Design, we do not sell or share any of your information for any purpose. We let you share parts of your designs, but it’s your choice and you always opt in. Because we are continually improving c3Design, however, we reserve the right to analyze pieces of your designs as part of our research efforts. If we do so, we’ll include your data anonymously and aggregated.


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