Michelle Troberg

M. Troberg COURSE: English Grammar, LIN204
DEPARTMENT: Language Studies
INSTRUCTOR: Michelle Troberg
LEAD DEVELOPERS: Michelle Troberg, with assistance from Simone Laughton, Laurie Harrison


The Course Design Institute hosted by the Centre for Teaching Support and Innovation at the University introduces principles of course design to faculty members who are developing a new course or who would like to hone their course design skills and refresh a course they’ve already taught. Over two days participants will learn how to design
or re-design a course of their choosing in order to enhance students’ learning experiences. The integrated and structured approach of the Institute encourages participants to consider and include accessible design within their course development. One course put through the Institute is LIN204 on English grammar. This UTM course is offered online to students from all over the world. As part of the development process for the course, the instructor and project team members have worked together to ensure that the course is more accessible to a wider range of learners. The course has been carefully structured so that each of the 461 students is a member of a smaller learning community of approximately 30 students to better support students’ individual learning requirements. Video lecturettes and ‘how-to’ instructional videos include captioning that can be helpful for students who have hearing disabilities, for those who are trying to learn in environments with high ambient noise levels, as well as for students whose first language is not English. The online format of this course provides students with flexibility in terms of location, timing, and convenience.

SYNOPSIS OF COURSE: LIN 204 (and its continuation, LIN205) approaches English grammar from a scientific point of view. It is designed for students who wish to build a solid base of grammatical knowledge that enables them to recognize regular patterns in language and to explore and analyze the exceptions and inconsistencies that also characterize real language use. Possessing a strong focal knowledge of English and achieving a permanent ability to think critically and analytically about the English language are particularly suitable for students who seek to teach English or who wish to improve their academic writing skills.

The course goals are to teach students how to think analytically about English and how to write brief linguistic analyses in an organized and register appropriate way (as part of the Writing Development Initiative at UTM). The course also aims to inspire students to pursue a program in linguistics.

Upon successful completion of LIN204, the student should be able to (i) recognize and justify examples of the main grammatical categories, (ii) identify specific nonstandard usage and grammatical errors, (iii) categorize and analyze distribution patterns, (iv) analyze nonstandard usage or grammatical errors using basic concepts and terminology, and (v) produce a short essay that evaluates a (prescriptive) article from a prominent newspaper, identifying claims, and interpreting them in terms of the concepts and terminology discussed in the course.


I faced three big challenges when designing this course:

  1. Properly formulating my goals and intended learning outcomes and linking them up with meaningful learning activities and assessments. That is to say, I was asked to think about the logic of my course starting with the big ideas.
  2. The shortage of instructor and TA availability that I thought would be required to properly assess student performance.
  3. Designing the course for online delivery. I knew nothing about this approach, the most common practices, or the best practices.


  1. I was able to link my goals and intended outcomes to meaningful assessments.
  2. I learned about ways to integrate more formative assessment into the course
  3. I worked with Simone Laughton, who helped me arrive at the simplest way to design the course for online learning, using strategies that were suited to me as an instructor.

YOUR BIGGEST “TAKE AWAY” FROM THE COURSE DESIGN INSTITUTE? I learned about the importance of formative assessment and I gained some good ideas about how to implement it in my course.

DID YOU SEEK ANY ADDITIONAL SUPPORT (e.g. CONSULTATION, PRINT OR ONLINE CTSI RESOURCES) IN TERMS OF DESIGNING YOUR COURSE? WHAT HELPED YOU? Simone Laughton (UTM Library, IT liaison) was by far my most valuable resource in designing this course.

YOUR NEXT STEPS: I am currently working out how I will assess my students using low stakes online quizzes (formative), scaffolded writing assignments, and traditional tests. I am also developing how the course content will be delivered and have decided on posting a series of three 5-10 minute pre-recorded lecturettes (with reading assignments) that will effectively replace the traditional 2-hour lecture. The lecturette was another revelation from the Course Design Institute.