Create Your Course Framework
“Good design is crucial in education because much of the learning that students undertake is without direct supervision, meaning that learners only have designed instructions, artifacts, and scaffolding to guide their activity”
Bower, M. (2017)
The organization and flow of your face to face course probably happens pretty organically. Students arrive at a specified date and time, you settle the room with some “housekeeping” announcements, introduce the topics for the day and launch into the course materials as you understand them. We need another way to do this in an online or remote environment. Without organized navigation students will be spending much of their cognitive energy on understanding what to do instead of developing the competencies you’ve set out. We recommend a two level approach to organizing your course.
Develop a Course Design Plan (CDP) – The Thousand Foot View
Organize your Inventories into Weekly Lessons
Similar to the class schedule in your class syllabus, organize your inventoried course learning materials, lecture material, and learning activities into a 12 week schedule to reflect a standard term. This process helps you identify gaps in the course materials and can help you see where the weighting of work from week to week may be disproportionate. You’ll also be able to see how your assessments line up with what you’re teaching.
Use the provided MS Word Template and related documents below to build out your Course Design Plan.
Align your Objectives, Content and Assessments
The other important task that this process facilitates is working through your class outcomes and module objectives. This is a great place to create and align module objectives, with content and assessments to ensure that what you’re teaching is what you’re assessing.
If you’ve never written Learning Objectives before or need a refresher on writing effective and measurable ones, here’s a link to a quick guide.
A verb list can help you determine the correct level of competency for your module learning objectives.
Develop a Prototype Module – Weekly View
The pieces are coming together. You have ideas for Learning Materials, Lecture Materials, and Learning Activities organized into weekly chunks on your CDP. But what does this LOOK like in an online environment? The following MS Word Template will provide a pedagogically sound foundation for building out weekly online learning modules.
Develop Front Material as Advanced Organizers
Not to be overlooked, the headings at the front of the template provide students with the basic instructions and information they’ll need to proceed with the course content as well as a quick reference point when they’re looking back through modules to re-read material. This section includes:
- Overview (what will I learn this week?)
- Learning Objectives (what will I be expected to do by the end?)
- Module Instructions (how should I proceed through the materials provided?)
- Required Readings (what additional readings are required this week?)
- Key Terms and Concepts (what should I be keeping an eye out for in the module?)
These headings will give your students the grounding they need to begin working independently through the module content. Explanations of the headings and their purpose are included inside the template document.
Develop Learning Material for your Prototype Module
This is what you’ve been waiting for! We recommend building just ONE weekly module as a prototype, from start to finish. This will let you get a sense of how your course will look and feel on a week to week basis. But to do that you’ll need to create all the pieces identified in your CDP. For this you’ll need to:
- Write your Front Material content pieces
- Write or record your Lecture Material sections
- Embed or link your selected Learning Material (articles, YouTube videos, other resources)
- Write clear instructions (including any required technical notes for students) for your designed Learning Activities.
- Build any 3rd party embeddable interactions required for Learning Activities (i.e. Padlet, Quizlet, Timeline JS, etc.)
- Build question banks for any quizzes or self-tests you plan to include
- Write review questions and answers for simple self-checking exercises
- Write discussion questions and build forums for them using the Discussions tool
Putting your Prototype Module together
Here you’ll organize the Front Material, Learning Materials, Lecture Materials, and the Learning Activities into one cohesive learning experience. The MS Word Module Template is a great place to draft this if you’re new to Learning Management Systems, but you could just dive in and begin developing your module directly in the pages of your LMS.
Examples of our Module Template in action
It’s difficult to imagine what this looks like and it’s where most faculty and instructors hit a mental roadblock. Here’s some examples of this completed module template inside various learning management systems.
Complete Module Developments
Continue Developing Modules
Once your Prototype Module is complete it’s a great idea to have colleagues, family and friends review your online learning module and provide you feedback about the navigation, organization and weight of the module. From this feedback you can make some adjustments and dive into full development of the remaining modules.
Some instructors find it easiest to do this development linearly from Module 1 through to Module 12. Other’s find writing all the front material for each module first and then returning to the lecture materials after that is a better approach. The workflow is entirely up to you, but make sure you’re following the Course Design Plan to avoid having to rewrite overlapping content and other time consuming mistakes.
Don’t forget your syllabus! Most departments and colleges have someone awesome who reminds you to get your syllabus in, but just in case… Your syllabus will probably need some new edits based on the new teaching and learning format.
For some tips and guidelines for writing a syllabus that meets or exceeds the University’s syllabus policies please see the following link.
Feature Image by Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels CC0