If you’ve inherited a course or need to refresh one you taught a few years ago here’s a guide to getting started.

First steps

Actions to take:

Balled up piece of paper.

  1. Print the syllabus
  2. Print the course calendar

Why print? Do we use paper anymore? Yes. You need to write all over these two documents. They are your roadmap to determining how this course was put together and how you’d like to update it to make it yours. Not only that, but you can fold it up and carry it around in your pocket for a while. Since you’ll be spending plenty of time on it when the term comes up, let’s make something you really want to invest in.

Low-hanging fruit

Change the things that obviously need updating first but don’t spend too much time on it. This is just to whet your appetite. Where you really need to spend some time is creating an inventory.

Inventory what you have:

  1. List out the course objectives
    • Create a sublist for unit objectives
  2. Map the course activities and assignments to specific objectives
    • Create a list of any specific tools required by the assignments
      • Online service? Is there now a cost associated?
      • Web tool? Has it been purchased by a different company?

Do your unit objectives support the course objectives? Did you end up with extra unattached objectives? Circle those. You need to determine what course materials and assessments are attached to them and decide what to do. You can spend a lot of time here. Use a mindmapping online tool like Coggle or Mindmeister if you’re into beautiful digital graphics. You can use parts of these later as illustrations inside your course to help students see how units fit into the course flow and what outcomes are supported by the materials presented. Do you want help writing course objectives? Check out this resource which includes the “Objective Builder.”

Don’t dig in too deep unless you notice you are missing a course objective. Step back and start there. If you’re not digitally minded grab a piece of paper and a pen or turn over that syllabus you printed out. Have at it. What matters most is your results. Are you ready for the next step?

Sit down and read

Reading and refreshing yourself allows you to deliver the most salient, up-to-date, relevant materials to your students. This takes the most time but it is time you are investing in yourself and your students.

If you’ve been teaching this course for six or seven years you most likely used materials that were two or three years old at that time. Those materials were built off of older research articles. That means you have 10 to 15 years of newer research, articles, textbooks and potential technology to include or decide against including. It’s up to you. This will take the most time. You are teaching someone who is either in the workforce now or on the way. They need current information to give them the edge.

Resources

A bit of assistance to guide you through:

Download the PDF for this Teaching Tip.

Janene McMahan

Janene McMahan, M.Ed., is an instructional designer, Google Certified Educator, and adjunct faculty with 25 years of teaching expertise.  

vjmcmahan@alaska.edu