What is the CNDLS learning design approach and methodology?

The CNDLS approach to online learning design connects the learning process and outcomes at multiple levels — institutional, curricular, course, and individual. This integrative approach enables students, faculty, and staff to explore intermediate process outcomes and to adjust the direction of the instructional and learning strategies during a course of study.

CNDLS follows an intentional learning design process for the development and redesign of online programs that offer students rigorous, reflective learning experiences. While CNDLS supports a range of types of online programs, they all engage with variations of this core process. We describe this dynamic, iterative process through five phases: envision, plan, create, teach, and re-envision.

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During this phase, the CNDLS team will help you imagine the online learning space you want to create. How will students interact with you, with the course material, and with each other? You will also begin defining the topics covered throughout the course and creating measurable course-level learning objectives.

Professor Mark Rom recounts his thinking during the Envision stage of course development. : : Transcript


CNDLS offers a collaborative, personalized experience when designing courses. A team of experienced instructional and media designers provide consultations with course teams and course faculty to design the most effective and engaging online learning experience for your students.

Professor Karen Shaup shares her experience developing course-level and module-level learning objectives during the Design phase. : : Transcript


At this stage, the CNDLS and course team will work together to develop a Canvas course site as well as course media such as videos and graphics. Elements from the "design" phase will come to life in prototypes that we collaboratively iterate on and refine.


When teaching a course online, faculty can experiment with a variety of new pedagogical methods for engaging students. Online courses require a significant investment of faculty time, and the delineation of “class time” may not be entirely analogous to your sense of this concept in a traditional face-to-face course. The CNDLS team will work with you to help refine your strategies for teaching online, providing resources and information on effective and innovative practices for this space.

Professor Meg Cohen shares her thoughts on the difference between teaching in the classroom and teaching online.


Learning design is an iterative, ever-evolving process that benefits from experimentation and reflection. Your CNDLS course team will help you evaluate and plan for making tweaks and adding new elements to your course.

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To learn more about how CNDLS can support you with any of the above services, email us at cndls@georgetown.edu.