Introduction to Backward Design

This video lesson uses comprehension checks and simple analogies to teach an instructional design model.

In spring 2020, I met Dr. Cristina Alvarez, an independent instructional designer who helps business owners convert their expertise into e-learning courses. Dr. Alvarez contracted me to design a video that would teach learners how to create courses using the Backward Design process. Initially, the video was intended to be a work sample that Dr. Alvarez could show to potential clients. Later, it also became the focal point of a marketing pipeline created to generate sales for her Course Creation Crash Course.

Throughout this video, I used the example of a party planner to help learners connect with the three stages of the Backward Design model. Thinking backward is a counter-intuitive process for many people, so we wanted learners to see an example of how this approach plays out in a simpler task, like planning a birthday party.

Tasks performed

  • Created a custom Instructional Design Process document to guide the planning, conceptualizing, design, development and implementation of the finished module.
  • Developed a storyboard in PowerPoint that demonstrated how on-screen text and images would be animated.
  • Sourced stock photos that represented people of diverse ages, ethnicities, genders and abilities.
  • Designed slide animations and transitions to accentuate key points and maintain learners’ interest.
  • Created comprehension questions and designed a culminating scenario that allowed learners to assess and apply their own understanding.
  • Edited narration files in Audacity and synchronized them to animations in PowerPoint.
  • Tested the finished product on the client’s pipeline page in Kajabi.

Interactive Version: Articulate Storyline 360

With Dr. Alvarez’s permission, I converted the core of this module into an interactive course using Articulate Storyline 360. The interactive version grants learners the freedom to explore the three stages of Backward Design at their own pace. In the culminating activity, learners also must choose the correct activities and place them into the corresponding spaces in the Backward Design process diagram.

Sales Training

This interactive e-learning course uses a real-life scenario to test learners’ product knowledge.

In 2020, I designed a one-module online course to train sales partners on a new line of CBD-infused products. I wrote the storyboard and designed the course using Captivate 2019. At the end of the module, learners applied their knowledge by answering a customer’s questions about the products and choosing which product would be right for her. I created click-to-reveal, multiple choice and matching interactions to assess learners’ knowledge of the product specifications that were most applicable to customers’ needs and concerns.

This was the first project I developed all the way through from storyboard to build-out. It was also the first time I developed a module on my own in Captivate.


Due to organizational changes, I was not able to see this project through to implementation. However, my direct supervisor was impressed by how quickly I learned Captivate while completing this project.

Cannabis and the Human Body

This module equips cannabis retailers with the scientific understanding they need to answer customers’ questions about THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis.

As the curriculum manager for Clear Cannabis, Inc., a company that licenses intellectual property to state-legal cannabis companies across the U.S., I developed online training that taught dispensary sales staff about the company’s flagship brand.

“The Clear Essentials: Selling THC Products” was not only designed to prepare cannabis retailers to sell our products; it was also designed to give them a thorough understanding of the science and laws behind cannabis-infused products, which would enable them to better serve their customers and stay compliant with state regulatory agencies.

Scaffolding for Understanding

In designing this module of the course, our department strove to go beyond the surface-level understanding that most cannabis retailers have about the biochemistry of cannabis. We wanted to not only explain how THC reacts with the body but also explain why those reactions occur. 

I wanted to scaffold learners’ understanding by comparing new ideas with familiar concepts. So, instead of simply telling learners that THC bonds with receptors in the human endocannabinoid system, I used the analogy of a car to explain how THC “fits” into the CB1 receptor and activates it, much the same way a car key fits into a car’s ignition and starts the engine. This analogy was useful later for explaining how CBD inhibits the psychoactive effects of THC.


Due to organizational changes, I was not able to see this project through to completion. However, all key stakeholders, including the Chief Revenue Officer, were impressed with the course and were eager to see it introduced to their sales partners.

Video Demo: High Reliability Organzing

This video shows how leadership training for
health care workers can be developed as interactive e-learning

The idea for this portfolio sample came from a course I helped develop in 2017 while subcontracting for Zipline Performance Group. I made the concept my own by creating a new module that focuses on the five characteristics of High Reliability Organizing and their application in a hospital.

This demo was created in Microsoft PowerPoint. It includes animations that show how the learner would navigate through the interactive knowledge check. This module could easily be developed in Adobe Captivate 2019.


As I would with any e-learning project, I began by creating a storyboard. In this case, I used a storyboard template created by Adam Beardslee.

Then, I built out the module in PowerPoint using backgrounds designed in Canva. I sourced photos from a variety of free stock photo sites, including Pexels and Unsplash. Using the Select and Mask feature in Photoshop, I removed the backgrounds from some of the photos to make the subjects stand out better against the slide.

Because High Reliability Organizing is such an abstract concept, I wanted to create visual cues to make it more concrete and memorable. To do this, I created icons to represent each of five characteristics of High Reliability Organizations. These icons appear in different contexts throughout the module to establish consistency and make the concepts “stickier.”

To keep the viewer engaged, I made sure there was something happening on the screen every 20 seconds or so. To do this, I included animations for that highlight key text, images and graphics.

The last part of the module includes a branching scenario that requires learners to help Chantel, a pediatrician, avoid making a misdiagnosis in a real-life scenario. Once learners select their answer, they’re shown the consequences of their choice. If they answered incorrectly, they have a chance to try again. Both correct and incorrect answers prompt the learner to reflect on which principle of High Reliability Organizing the character did or did not apply correctly.

Compliance Software Training

This four-hour training provides step-by-step guidance on how to properly use Metrc, a cannabis seed-to-sale tracking program mandated in multiple state markets.

In 2019, I helped develop a second version of this software training course for Cannabis Industry Institute. In addition to an overview that introduced learners to the basic organization and navigational features of the software, the training also included sections specific to cultivations, processing facilities and retail shops. Each of these three sections included step-by-step instructions for performing essential functions in the software. This curriculum has since been adapted for use in online webinars and in-person training. 

Tasks performed

  • Designed curriculum outline using source material from Metrc user guide
  • Wrote on-screen text and presenter notes
  • Worked with subject matter experts to include tips and tricks used by experienced Metrc users
  • Provided material and technical assistance to presenter before, during and after online webinar
  • Designed a post-test aligned with learning objectives

Student Guide

 After finishing the PowerPoint presentation, I created a document that synthesized the four sections into a single easy-to-use guide that learners could use during the training and, later, as a reference in their operations. The guide includes activities that allow learners to apply their knowledge using real-life scenarios. The document below is a sample from the student guide.


I and my team offered this training to multiple clients during online webinars, and each client said it was a valuable resource. We also provided a live version of the training in September 2019 as part of the Infused Products Conference in Los Angeles. Post-training surveys showed that a majority of learners found the class informative, applicable and engaging.

TESOL Certification

In December 2018, I enrolled in “Teach English Now!”, Arizona State University’s two-part TESOL certification program offered through Coursera. This 150-hour program adheres to the TESOL International Association’s standards for short-term certificate programs. The program includes six courses covering fundamental teaching practices; second language acquisition theory; lesson planning; writing, reading, and grammar instruction; listening, speaking, and pronunciation instruction; and teaching with technology. It includes a peer-reviewed capstone project and an expert-reviewed capstone project.

Below are the artifacts I produced for an expert-reviewed teaching portfolio, which I submitted in August 2019. Arizona State University reviewers chose this portfolio as an exemplary model for future students in the “Teach English Now” program.

Bridget Manley: TESOL Teaching Portfolio

Teaching Philosophy

  1. Edited Reading/Writing Lesson Plan with Technology
  2. Technology-Enriched Reading/Writing Lesson Plan
  3. Edited Listening/Speaking Lesson Plan with Technology
  4. Technology-Enriched Listening/Speaking Lesson Plan
  5. Grammar Lesson Plan
  6. Pronunciation Lesson Plan
  7. Capstone 1 Lesson Plan
  8. Original Reading/Writing/Grammar Lesson Plan
  9. Original Listening/Speaking/Pronunciation Lesson Plan
  10. Technology-Enriched Lesson Plan

Toolbox Tip 1

Toolbox Tip 2