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General Recommendations

Planning and designing a course can be a daunting process, especially for educators who are teaching for the first time. Although there is much work to be done, the steps below provide a high-level overview of the process. In addition to these guidelines, the Center for Teaching & Learning Innovation offers guidance and recommendations regarding the use of evidence-based practices and encourages collaboration by offering a wide array of programs and services, including consultations.

Begin the process early. Course design and planning can be a time-consuming process and it is recommended that time be taken to consult with the CTLI as well as faculty colleagues, especially those who have experience teaching the same course or within the same program of study.

Review materials that can be impactful. In addition to subject matter information, gaining an understanding of Vermont State University’s recommendations for designing a course and learning best practices related to inclusive and anti-oppressive pedagogy, the implementation of active learning strategies, and the development of significant learning experiences is highly encouraged.

Learn about VTSU course modalities. Classes at Vermont State University can be facilitated in ten different formats. Although there are some areas of overlap, it is recommended that faculty remain cognizant of the factors that make each of them unique and learn course delivery best practices by reviewing the VTSU course modality guides.

Determine course goals and outcomes. Prior to writing a syllabus, developing content, and selecting course materials, the goals of the course and associated learning outcomes should be established. Outcomes should be specific and measurable, and in determining them, consider the skills and competencies students should obtain and effectively demonstrate by the end of the class.

Determine course content and teaching methods. Before assessments and assignments are developed, it is important to reflect on the main topics that best suit the course and the order in which they will be covered. The topics should be relevant to the field of study and mapped to the course goals and outcomes that have been established. In addition, organizing the course into units and planning work that will be completed outside and inside of class is a recommended practice. Determining the teaching methods that will be most effective in advancing student learning and meeting course goals is also an important part of the process. In doing so, the adoption of active learning strategies as well as the use of teaching technologies are highly encouraged with the caveat that their purposes are thought out and tied to the goals and learning outcomes of the course.

Select class resources and materials. There are a myriad of class resources that can be chosen, such as textbooks, open educational resources, websites, journals, online labs, and videos. During the selection process, it is a best practice to consider how the materials support course goals and assessments. In addition, resources must be accessible to all students in the class.

Develop course assessments. Course assessment can come in many forms. There are traditional assignments, such as exams and papers, and alternative assessments, such as case-based scenarios, presentations, and debates. In developing assessments, it is vital for them to be aligned with course goals and be accessible and inclusive. Providing students with multiple options can be an effective strategy as the practice can reach students with varying learning styles and elevate student interest and creativity.

Write the course syllabus. Begin by downloading a copy of the Vermont State University as well as the Title IX and diversity statements from the guides & templates page. In addition to these statements, all syllabi should include a course description, student learning outcomes, instructor contact information and office hours, a list of required and supplemental course materials, classroom policies, and a course outline.

Update the course in the learning management system. This is an important, but sometimes overlooked process. All courses should have content posted in Canvas, which is the university’s learning management system. Vital components include the instructor’s contact information, the course syllabus, class materials and resources, and assignment descriptions and requirements. Two of the most important design recommendations, however, are setting assignment due dates within the system and creating a gradebook that is updated frequently. With regards to grading, the inclusion of assignment rubrics is highly recommended. The university has Canvas templates available to assist in the design process. Both Canvas Support and the Center for Teaching & Learning are well positioned to provide guidance on template adoption. In addition, the CTLI offers Canvas workshops and other professional development opportunities that faculty are highly encouraged to attend.