Course planning means different things to different people. Here, you can match your needs to our resources.
No matter what your circumstances are, you are always welcome to meet with a CLT staff member to discuss any phase of designing your course. Learn more about staff expertise and how to make an appointment.
Designing from Scratch
These resources may be useful to you if you are:
- designing a brand-new course from scratch
- (re)designing a course based on curriculum taught by a previous instructor or curriculum you taught several years ago
- interested in making major changes in an existing course and/or adopting a new teaching and learning model, such as redesigning your course around experiential learning, flipping your classroom, or converting to project-based learning
We recommend you consider a Backward Design approach to your course. In Backward Design, you focus on outcomes first, then determine how you will measure those outcomes, and finally tailor your assignments, content, and course schedule. Making decisions about how to meet your outcomes first helps focus on student achievement and growth. It also provides an opportunity to think more about the relevance of your content.
Our Course Design Form walks you through the Backward Design process, from College-required course outcomes all the way to a week-by-week plan.
Learn more about Backward Design in this video from the Centre for Learning, Teaching, and Technology at the University of British Columbia, and from our article on Backwards Design.
You may also want to consider the Flipped Learning (or Flipped Classroom) model. Flipping the classroom means inverting the traditional model of in-class lecture or demonstration and after-class homework or practice. In a flipped class, content that might otherwise be part of a lecture is pre-class preparation, freeing up in-class time for practice, discussion, experimentation, and other forms of interaction. (Note that flipping your class doesn’t mean asking students to teach themselves!) Learn more about Flipped Learning from Champlain’s math faculty:
As we look forward, Champlain College is encouraging faculty to incorporate experiential learning (XL) into their classes. Experiential learning can be an integral component of study in any discipline! Training in XL and course design is currently being developed. In the meantime, the CLT staff welcomes conversations with faculty about how to incorporate experiential learning in your classes. Please feel free to make an appointment (and since collaboration is a key element of XL, we are happy to work with groups of faculty who wish to design experiential activities and courses together). Learn more about experiential learning.
Revamping an Existing Course
Does your course have a case of the blahs? You may want to increase engagement, add experiential activities, move toward flipping your classroom, or redesign your assessments — but you also know many components of the course are working well. If things are generally running smoothly and students are responding well, consider revamping one aspect at a time. This helps with your workload and also allows you to observe how one change affects the course as a whole. You might consider focusing on one of the following:
Level Up Your Syllabus
The design and clarity of your syllabus document can make a huge difference in your students’ understanding of and engagement with your course at the beginning of the semester. Learn more about creating an engaging syllabus.
(Re)designing Your Assessments
Are the assessments you’re using accurately and equitably measuring learning? Do they work with your teaching style? Do you feel changing your assessments could encourage further student growth? Changing your assessment strategies can be a good way to revamp your course. Depending on your course, you might consider:
- More lower-stakes assessments if your grading currently relies on just a few major tests or papers
- Different types of assessments that help students engage with content and skills in more varied ways — may provide opportunities for students to demonstrate competence even if they struggle with one common assessment method (testing, writing, etc)
- Incorporating very low-stakes assessments to gauge student learning and engagement in real-time; for example, iterative assignments that are not graded individually, check-in surveys that are part of weekly participation
- Assessments that require applying content and skills to learning experiences
Scaffolding Your Assignments
“Scaffolding” assignments means ensuring that assignments build upon each other, typically towards a significant final product or skill mastery. This may mean that individual assignments are part of a larger project; for example, a research project might include individually graded assignments like a proposal, annotated bibliography, draft or storyboard, final product, and reflection, all of which contribute to both deep understanding of a topic and improved skills with composition. A set of scaffolded assignments could also include more separate assignments that build toward skill mastery.
CLT Faculty lead Dr. Miriam Horne produced some slides on how scaffolding can support critical thinking skills, which are also useful if you are considering how to scaffold your assignments for other reasons.
Enhancing Your Use of Educational Technology
Educational technology — including the Canvas learning management system — is not the primary tool for good teaching, but judicious and creative use of technology can really help! Canvas in particular helps students stay organized. Due to the increasing prevalence of learning management systems in K-12 school, students tend to expect that they can turn to Canvas for essential information.
Champlain does require some uses of Canvas, like posting your syllabus and using the gradebook (learn more about gradebook setup). However, you can adopt some other tools in Canvas to enhance your course.
- Give all Canvas items a due date and watch the “when is it due?” questions disappear.
- Try using Modules to organize assignments, recordings, and readings by week, and try framing each week’s module with a quick statement about what the week will entail. Learn more about how to use modules effectively.
You can also try creating your own course media, like lecture videos. These can help students work ahead or review important content. You can use them semester after semester–and if you decide to move toward a Flipped Learning model in the future, they will become great assets! Panopto is a great option for recording and distributing your videos (learn more about Panopto). Contact the CLT to learn about using our “lightboard,” a tool that allows you to “write on” the screen while you lecture.
Designing a Course Fast
Have you just been hired or assigned a new or new-to-you course? You probably do not have time to spend engaging with new pedagogies and design methods as you plan your course (at least not this time). Try these quick steps:
- Consult the documentation available for your course at curriculum.champlain.edu to ensure you meet the requirements (faculty/staff Champlain login required). You can find previous syllabi as well as the official course proposal.
- You may find the Course Design Form useful as a way of organizing your thoughts even if you do not have time to consider every part of it fully.
- Make sure you meet the College’s syllabus requirements.
- Consider using one of the Canvas templates to put your Canvas shell together quickly. Learn more about the templates and how to import them.
- Book a consultation with a CLT staff member as soon as possible to talk about how to get your course up and running quickly. We are happy to help you set a schedule and to-do list to move through this process efficiently.