3 Steps to Better Course Planning

Today's Learner | Classroom Dynamics
Classroom Dynamics, Teaching Hacks, Teaching Methods
Reading Time: 3 minutes

As an instructor, you work hard to empower your students and help them succeed. When it comes to prepping for your courses, however, it can be an overwhelming—albeit exciting—process. To help you take back your time while optimizing your impact on students, we asked your peers for their take on course planning.

Read on for three tips you can use to master your course planning and start each semester with your best foot forward.

Get to Know Your Students

It’s no surprise that each semester brings new students, learning styles and challenges to overcome. You do your best to prepare for these new challenges while planning your course. With this in mind, getting to know your students throughout the semester not only helps better align your teaching to their unique needs and interests, but also provides invaluable insights that can be directly applied to your course prep.

Instructor Tip

Leveraging digital tools like SurveyMonkey, CrowdSignal and Poll Everywhere makes it easier to understand both your students’ needs and the information that will help you optimize your course prep for future semesters. Consider engaging with your students before, during and at the end of your course—asking the questions you feel are pertinent to your course-prep success, for example:

  • How can I help address course-related challenges you’ve experienced throughout the semester?
  • What would you like to see your instructors do more of? What would you like to see your instructors do less of?
  • Were there any assignments or lessons that helped you in particular?

2.  Identify Course Materials and Logistics

Overpreparing is as detrimental to course planning as underpreparing. With only so many hours in the day, it’s virtually impossible to lay out everything you’ll need for a successful semester. One of the most effective ways to ensure a strong semester, however, is to get the prep work done well in advance.

Course materials like textbooks and online learning tools are an integral part of any class. Identifying the materials that provide your students with quality content—and you with ease-of-use—can make all the difference. Consider Sociology Instructor at the University of Buffalo, Chris Mele’s thoughts.

Instructor Tip

“When I look for course materials, I try to find the best instructional materials that are up to date and consistently revised, affordable for students and able to integrate digital learning techniques alongside the lectures and materials I provide.”

3. Build a Rock-Solid Syllabus

Acting as the contract and roadmap for your class, a well-crafted syllabus can provide all the necessary information students need for your course, while setting the tone for a successful semester. By dedicating time during your course prep to focus on your syllabus, you’re making it easier for your students to navigate your course and access the information they need.

Instructor Tip

When building your syllabus, keep the three L’s of syllabus writing in mind:

Language: How you write a document can be just as important as the content you decide to include. There are several plain-language best practices that can help make your syllabus easier to read and retain, including:

  • Ordering information from most important to least important
  • Keeping sentences and paragraphs short and concise
  • Keeping acronyms and “letter soup” to a minimum
  • Using lists, headings, tables etc. to make information easily navigable

Layout: Structure plays an integral role in the effectiveness of your syllabus. From basic details like contact information and classroom locations to assignment lists and grading rubrics, the easier it is for students to access important information, the easier it will be for them to use it for course success.

Links and Resources: As digital learning continues to reshape the modern classroom, including links and resources in your syllabus can turn passive text into an invaluable student resource.

Want More Where That Came From?

Take a look at our recent ebook, 5 Steps for Course Planning Success, where we dive into even more course-prep tips you can use to master course planning. Plus, we include a FREE course planning checklist you can use to ensure you make the biggest impact on your course prep and your students.