|Designing Courses and Programs|
When faced with the challenge of designing a course, you may find yourself having to build a totally new course from the ground up. This takes considerable research, planning and development. More often, though, we are faced with the challenge of revising an existing course. Although the curriculum development processes are similar for the two tasks, the steps involved can differ.
Designing a brand new course
Steps in New Course Design
There is no definitive sequence that must be followed in course design; however, there are certain steps that one can take that seem to build logically from each other.
1. If you are designing a vocational course, the first thing you will want to do is review the list of Vocational Learning Outcomes for your program. You must ensure that your new course validates at least one of your program's outcomes. Most program coordinators will have a list of the vocational learning outcomes for their program. You can also access the program standards, which will include the vocational learning outcomes, from the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities website.
2. When you first propose a new course, usually a course description is required, so this will often be where your writing begins. A good course description includes the following characteristics:
Click here for more information about writing strong course descriptions.
3. Once you have the course description, you are ready to develop the course learning requirements. These are statements, beginning with an action verb that let students know what they will be able to demonstrate when they have successfully completed the course. In order to be demonstrable, the learning requirements must be measurable, durable, transferable and significant. For each course learning requirement, decide what key concepts and skills students will need to be able to demonstrate that outcome; this will lead to a list of Embedded Knowledge and Skills. The course learning requirements and the embedded knowledge and skills now form the content of your course. Your knowledge of the subject matter will help you to develop and sequence the material in a natural, logical manner. Learners need to be able to make connections between existing concepts and new learning, so the sequencing of material is a crucial part of the course design.
4. Once you have your content, you are ready to plan your course delivery. Lifesaver #10 - Planning Your Course Delivery will help you to get going on this part of the process. When developing your course learning materials, in-class activities, on-line activities (if necessary) and assignments, a key point to remember is to try to find material that will appeal to a variety of learning styles; this way all students can find something that works for them. This website gives one simple description of different learning styles. This website provides more theoretical information on learning styles and includes an interactive learning style test.
The following sections of the Professors' Resource Site may also be helpful for this stage in the process:
5. Once your course has been developed, in most cases, you will need to identify which of the 11 Essential Employability Skills are addressed in this course. See the Essential Employability Skills Lifesaver for more information. Click HERE for the Essential Employability Skills representative for your school
Revising an existing course
Revising an existing course is usually a simpler process than building a course from the ground; however, it still can require significant curriculum development. Keep in mind that if changes to your course are significant, it may be necessary to request a new course number.
Use the following checklist to review a course that requires revision:
Algonquin Course Design Resources
You may find some of the following resource materials helpful in your course design:
Lifesaver #2 - Writing Course Learning Requirements
Lifesaver #3 - Developing Course Outlines
Lifesaver #5 - Guidelines for General Education Courses
Lifesaver #10 - Planning Your Course Delivery
Directive E1 - Evaluation of Student Learning
Directive E11 - Grading System
Directive E33 - Course Outlines and Course Section Information
Directive E38 - Course Assessment
Other Course Design Resources
You can find lots of useful information on course design here at the University of Guelph’s Teaching Support Services.
Dr. L. Dee Fink, from the University of Oklahoma, lists Fink's Five Principles of Good Course Design.
Barbara Gross Davis, at the University of California at Berkley, offers some great tips for both developing and revising courses at this website.
Terry Doyle, from Ferris State University's Center for Teaching and Learning, leads readers through a step by step description (with examples) here of how to plan and design an effective college course.