I. Course Design Principles > B. Course Content

I.B.3 The content and activities are appropriately targeted to the level of the learners.

Values Supported



Instructors should take into account any prerequisite requirements in designing course materials. The materials in a given unit should take into account prior material within the same course.

This element supports Transparency, because the activities should make sense to learners with appropriate prior knowledge, and Responsibility, because learners should understand how to apply their prior knowledge to new activities.


For some courses, it may be desirable to include a pre-test of student preparation and the ability to adjust the level for the entire course or a specific unit. This does not mean “dumbing down” the class – instead, it means providing foundational materials so that students who need help in specific areas can be enabled to reach your high expectations. Likewise, if your students are well-prepared, providing supplementary enrichment materials will help them reach your highest level of expectations or even exceed your expectations.

If you anticipate having students in your class who are under-prepared, you should also include foundational materials or suggestions for assistance that they may require. You may also choose to provide tools to help the students self-identify that they require these foundational materials.


Applying prior knowledge is an important step in Robert Gagné’s design model based on “Nine Steps of Instruction”: http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/learning/development.html#Gagne