Course Design

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Careful thought and planning are essential to a great course design. Whether designing a course from scratch or preparing to adapt educational theories and principles in your course, the steps below will help you to develop a course that is sure to maximize the student's learning.

Step 1: Define Course Goals

Determining the goals for the course will clarify what you want the students to learn and accomplish. Having these course goals in mind will then help you make decisions about which content to include, which teaching methods to use, and what kinds of assignments and exams are appropriate.  

Consider the questions below:

  • What is the most important information students should learn and /or remember from this course?
  • What skills should students gain in the course?
  • How does this course relate to other courses in the discipline? How, then, might you define the course goals accordingly (e.g., for an introductory, fundamental, or advanced course in the discipline)?

 Step 2: Determine Course Content

  • Select the main topics to be covered.
  • Pare down and refine your initial list of topics.
  • Determine the structure of the course; arrange the topics in a logical order.
  • Use modules to organize your information. Modules should include an overview page including an introduction, objectives, readings, lectures, activities and assignments.

Step 3: Developing Teaching Methods and Tools

  • Think about how you will present the content. 
  • Select teaching methods and strategies appropriate for the class size and class format (online/hybrid).
  • Decide whether or not you will incorporate technology in your course, identify the specific goals that technology will help you reach if incorporated.
  • Use a variety of teaching methods to accommodate students with different learning styles.
  • Plan to use teaching methods that will require and measure active student learning.

See Teaching Methods for a variety of teaching strategies instructors can use to improve student learning. 

Step 4: Determine How You Will Evaluate Student Learning

  • Plan assignments and exams that meet the course goals.
  • Consider assignments that will provide students with an opportunity to acquire and practice skills that are required for exams.

See Assessments for more information on what types of assessment to use in your course.

Step 5: Select Text(s) and Other Supplemental Materials

  • Select texts and materials that are clear, easy to read and to understand.
  • Once you have selected a textbook, check with the publisher to see if there are instructor resources available.
  • When adding supplemental materials remember to obey the copyright laws. You need to obtain permission to reprint or use published materials.

Learn more about copyright laws in the UT Copyright Crash Course.

Step 6: Define Course Policies

  • Be specific on grading including all assignments, papers, exams and class participation. Also, indicate the turnaround for the grading of all assignments and exams.
  • Decide in advance how you will handle issues such as late work, request for assignment extensions or missed exams.
  • Include all course policies on the syllabus (i.e. plagiarism and academic integrity) and plan to review them with students on the first day of class.

Step 7: Develop the Course Schedule

  • When preparing the schedule, consult the relevant academic calendars, and keep in mind major religious holidays and significant campus events (i.e. spring break).
  • Make sure to emphasize exam dates since in most cases, there is very little room to reschedule them due to room availability.
  • If you are teaching a hybrid course, make sure you properly designate days to meet in class and online. 

Step 8: Write the Course Syllabus

  • A good syllabus should contain (at a minimum) the following information: course title, prerequisites; required texts and other required materials (i.e. Microsoft Office); course topics, major assignments and exams; course policies on grading, academic integrity, class participation, and late work; and contact information for the instructor.
  • Make sure that the information within the syllabus aligns with the course content in Canvas. For example, there should be consistency in both the grade weight percentages and course schedule.  

See Syllabus Template for suggestions on what to include in your syllabus. 

Step 9: Refine the Course Design

  • Course design is an iterative process, meaning that you can always go back at any step in the process to refine or improve on areas that are lacking. When planning and revising courses, remember to abide by your course objectives. Your course objectives serve as your "North Star" that will always keep you on track throughout the course design process. As an additional reminder, make sure to implement higher-level thinking in your course objectives based on Bloom's Taxonomy.