This course planning page covers the following topics:
- Getting Started
- Setting Learning Goals
- Course Syllabus
- Course Template
The first step in planning your course is to ask yourself, "How do I want my students to be different as a result of taking this class?" Answering that question will be a good start toward setting your student learning goals. Such goals must also be informed by the situational factors of your course. Some of the most important situational factors are:
- General context of the course: what learning expectations are placed on the course by the university, college and/or department?
- Learning situation: how many students are in the course? Is the course undergraduate level or graduate level? How long and frequent are the class meetings? Is the course online, hybrid or face-to-face?
- Nature of the subject: is the subject primarily theoretical, practical, or a combination? Are there important changes or controversies occurring within the field?
- Characteristics of the learners: what prior knowledge, experiences, and initial feelings do students usually have about the subject? What are their expectations for the course?
- Characteristics of the teacher: what are my beliefs and values about teaching and learning? Am I ready to teach online or hybrid? What are my teaching strengths and weaknesses? What is my knowledge or familiarity with the course subject?
To determine the situational factors at play in your course, you can talk with instructors who previously taught the course, request your class roster, and email or set up a discussion post asking students about their expectations of the course and their interests.
Setting Learning Goals
First, what is a goal? A goal is a concrete and measurable desired result. In the classroom, learning goals are the things we want the students to be able to do or know at the end of the course, module or chapter. Your learning goals might ask students to remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, or create. Here are some examples of goals:
- By the end of this module, you will be able to conjugate the verb "to eat" in French in the present tense.
- By the end of this chapter, you will be able to evaluate policies/procedures in relation to diversity issues utilizing conceptual frameworks and new knowledge gained through the course.
As you think about learning goals for your own course, try to:
- Make your goals learner-centered: make sure your goals are written about what the student will do, not what you as the instructor will do. It may help to introduce them with the phrase, "Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:"
- Use Bloom's taxonomy verbs: they are specific and active verbs. Verbs like "create," "compare," or "describe" are much more descriptive than "learn about" or "be exposed to."
- Make your goals measurable: you'll need to assess whether students have met the learning goals. Consider whether the goals you've set lend themselves to assessment.
- Make your goals challenging but attainable: most courses can meaningfully address 3-4 learning goals. If you have more than that, you may be thinking too specifically or too ambitiously about your course.
For more information about writing learning objectives, please read Kathy V. Waller's article: "Writing Instructional Objectives"
- Online Course Syllabus Template (Word)
- Face-to-Face Course Syllabus Template (Word)
- Graphic Syllabus (PDF); Alternate Version of Graphic Syllabus (Word)
Usually, the syllabus is your student’s first impression of you and your course. Providing students with a clear and well-organized syllabus sets the tone for the semester and suggests you are well prepared for the course.
While both face-to-face and online syllabi have the same aim, there are some nuances in their tenor. Online syllabi typically need to be more detailed than those in face-to-face classes. A clear and well-written syllabus results in fewer questions and confusion and creates a more positive and productive experience for the students and instructors.
You could also design a graphic syllabus, also known as an engaging syllabus, a digital syllabus, or a visual syllabus. A graphic is visually appealing, less intimidating, and easy to read. But it still contains all the key elements of the traditional syllabus. It can serve as the only syllabus or can be a supplement to the traditional syllabus. If you were to provide a graphic syllabus, please make sure that it is accessible or provide an alternative version accessible to students with disabilities.
Lastly, consider making your design more inclusive. These videos will provide you with some tips to design more inclusive syllabi.
- A syllabus as a pathway of learning (5:36)
- Using essential questions and big themes to organize your course (3:57)
- Applying Universal Design for Learning in your course (10:03)
- The importance of inclusive language in your syllabus (6:55)
- Designing supportive course policies to help students be successful (6:57)
- Designing an accessible syllabus (7:10)
Here are two downloadable course templates (zipped package) that you can use to design your courses in Brightspace. They provide a simple navigation sidebar to help students quickly find the course content.
The video below describes the content of the template.
The video contains instructions on how to copy the template into your course