Good Course Design Makes All The Difference

Start with the end in mind. It seems like pretty straightforward advice for a lot of things in life. And, although it isn’t always considered Faculty member speaking with three strudentswhen creating a new course, or modifying an existing one, it can create a very useful framework for course design.

Often this approach to course design is called “backward design”. The process starts with identifying the course learning goals. Next, you determine the best ways to assess and evaluate if students are achieving these goals. Then after the goals and evaluation strategies are established the course content is considered. Designing and teaching courses this way puts learning first and content coverage second. It can help students achieve higher levels of cognitive development (i.e. higher order learning as described in the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy) than classes that have content coverage as a primary focus.

The CELT website has a set of resources available to help with your course design:

Additionally, CELT is offering a 5-part workshop series- Best Practices in Online Course Design starting January 31st (registration is now closed for the spring series – CELT will be offering this series again in the near future – if you are interested email CELT). The workshop series is based on the research-based Quality Matters (QM) framework. You may learn more about this framework through CELT’s Quality Matters Tracks for Faculty Development website.

(On a personal note, last fall semester I worked with a graduate student in my program to develop a non-credit online course using the Quality Matters framework. It was a big undertaking, but the QM framework provided a fantastic guide and ensured we implemented a number of best practices for online learning. We’ve had great response from many of the participants as well.)

Ann Marie VanDerZanden, Director
Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching


Don’t Give Me a Paper Syllabus with Hyperlinks ‘Cuz I Can’t Click on Them!

Now that we are mostly through Fall Semester’s Dead Week, it is time to really start thinking about Spring Semester. And, that brings me to the syllabus for your spring course.

The syllabus is the ‘first impression’ students have of our course. Because we only have one chance to make a first impression, I believe it is important to think carefully about what message a syllabus conveys. It certainly needs to include some of the standard content: your contact information, the course description, learning objectives, course schedule, and recommended ISU syllabus statements. These components may all be found via the How to Create Effective Syllabus website. But, beyond these items, what message do you want to convey to your students? Do you want to inspire curiosity about your field? Encourage class discussion and dialog about the content? Expect them to engage in meaningful teamwork? Apply new knowledge to problem-based learning? Whatever your plans for the semester, use the syllabus to set the stage for the students.

In addition, CELT has created a Mindful and Learner Centered Syllabus Checklist (PDF) that provides a useful framework for creating a new syllabus, or reworking an existing one.

If you haven’t done so in the past, consider creating a brief (3-5 minutes) video that highlights key elements in your syllabus. For example describe your expectations particularly if the course is in a blended or flipped format. Everyone will be more satisfied with the course if expectations are clear up front. Post the video in your course Blackboard space so students can access it even before the first class meeting. Making course content, including the syllabus, available in multiple modes (print, audio, video) will make the course more accessible to a broader group of students.

Ann Marie VanDerZanden, Director
Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching

*The title of this Teaching Tip comes from a student who expressed frustration when the received a printed course syllabus with hyperlinks, but the professor did not make an electronic copy of the syllabus available. The class never could access the hyperlinks!


Welcome Back

Welcome Back!
As a kick-off to the new semester, I wanted to share a recent article from The Chronicle about Syllabus Day titled, The Absolute Worst Way to Start the Semester.
It got me thinking how to maximize time with my students on the first day of class this fall. It is a quick read and gives a number of easy to implement ideas that can really help set the tone for the rest of the semester. Like the old adage says “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”.
I also wanted to provide a couple of teaching technology updates.
In collaboration with Information Technology Services we are continuing the transition to Top Hat as the new audience response system (clickers). An ISU Top Hat website is available, which includes transition tips, information on how students can purchase a license, and how instructors can request user support. View ISU Top Hat website.
Blackboard technical help continues to be available through the IT Solution Center and will include evening and weekend service hours. CELT will continue to address questions that are pedagogical in nature, such as course design or instructional practices. View ISU Blackboard Support website.
CELT is offering walk-in support for instructional design (Blackboard, Top Hat and classroom technologies) Monday through Friday during the weeks of August 15 and 22 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the CELT Online Learning Innovation Hub located in 281 Parks Library. No registration is needed just stop by when it is convenient. Beginning August 29, walk-in support returns to its regular time, Tuesdays 1-3 p.m.
We have a great line up of professional development programs in place for the semester. The full list of programs is available online and you can register for the programs through Learn@ISU. View CELT Events & Registration website.
Best wishes for a successful semester,
Ann Marie VanDerZanden, Director
Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching