Creating Engaged Learning

Course Design Institute

Stanford faculty and lecturers discuss teaching practices at the annual Course Design Institute.

Our globally-connected and rapidly-changing world has deeply affected the way today’s students learn. Research shows that students increasingly expect to be actively engaged in learning both in the classroom and throughout campus. Designing a course to meet changing student needs presents both challenges and opportunities.

What critical information do students need to learn? What is the most engaging way to impart that information? What are the latest technology tools used to evaluate learning? And how can faculty create a compelling and inclusive experience for students?

Gloriana Trujillo, the director of faculty and lecturer programs and the organizer of Stanford’s Course Design Institute, suggests, “Start from the end! Develop course goals and then map those back to a class structure, exercises, and even textbooks.”

This is one of many strategies shared in the Course Design Institute (CDI), hosted by the Center for Teaching and Learning out of the Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning. CDI is an intensive, hands-on seminar designed for faculty and instructors who wish to optimize their courses for student engagement and learning. The program is open to all Stanford faculty and lecturers across academic disciplines and is especially helpful for early-career faculty and those designing new courses.

Run annually in September, the seminar helps participants work collaboratively to achieve the following outcomes:

  • Articulate overarching course learning goals.
  • Generate course components including syllabi, assignments and assessments, rubrics, learning activities and agenda for in-class implementation.
  • Integrate research-based practices from learning science into course components.
  • Reflect on teaching practices and receive and give feedback on teaching.

Following the seminar, CTL hosts quarterly lunches and provides participants with continued support, exploring topics including student feedback, peer teaching observations, and more.

Tobias Gerstenberg

“I had never taught a class before participating in the Course Design Institute. The program helped me to think deeply about what I want my students to learn and how I can best make that happen.”

Tobias Gerstenberg, Assistant Professor of Psychology

CDI was originally developed in 2011 by Robyn Dunbar, associate dean for educational affairs in the School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences, and Sheri Sheppard, professor of mechanical engineering in the School of Engineering. Robyn and Sheri wanted a way to share the latest in pedagogy and educational theory with Stanford faculty to help Stanford students get the most out of their educational experiences. The program builds off of evidence-based and inclusive learning and teaching practices including a learner-centered approach.

Faculty and lecturer participants enjoy an immersive environment in which to design a new class or improve a class they are currently teaching. The program builds community among Stanford academic staff, facilitating a network of peers with whom to brainstorm and collaborate. Gloriana describes the end result as, “better organized courses, backed up by a community of Stanford professors and staff willing to provide advice and support.” 

Roanne Kantor

“I used CDI to develop a required survey course and ended up turning it into a show piece that I’m really proud of. The biggest takeaway was help developing big picture goals and then clarifying how they should manifest in all aspects of the course.

Roanne Kantor, Assistant Professor of English

Guosong Hong

“I decided to join CDI just two weeks after starting at Stanford. I learned many useful teaching strategies, became aware of on­-campus resources available to Stanford instructors, and met colleagues across the university who became my friends and collaborators. I recommend other interested faculty join the CDI in the future.”

Guosong Hong, Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering

The 2019 Course Design Institute, open to all faculty and lecturers, is scheduled for September 4-6. CTL, in partnership with the School of Humanities and Sciences, is offering a separate session for new H&S faculty September 11-13. Both programs are offered on campus.

Interested participants should complete the short online application by July 30, 2019.  Get details at

Questions? Contact Gloriana Trujillo at or Kritika Yegnashankaran at