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Course Design and Development

We have organized the Course Design and Development process into 8 major steps. Each of these steps is described briefly on this page, including a link to a key resource as well as a link to the Toolkit page that contains further detailed information and resources specific to the design step. Please also note the resources related to submissions to the Committee for Academic Standards (CAS) from the Office of Academic Affairs on the main Teaching Toolkit Resources page. As a course is developed, faculty should also keep the Course Approval Process in mind.

An interactive version of the Course Development steps is also available.

Key Steps:

  1. Identify Need
  2. Relate to Competencies
  3. Develop Objectives
  4. Create Assessments
  5. Design Learning Activities
  6. Align Objectives/Assessments/Activities
  7. Write Syllabus
  8. Clarify and Document relevant policies

1. Identify Need

Why are you creating this course? How does this course fit into your program's curriculum?

Before starting to design a course, it is important to think about why the course is being developed. Identify if there is some gap in the curriculum, or if it supports the interests of a specific audience. Perhaps it is an important element for a specialized certificate. This step helps you to think through the reasons why the course is needed, which will also help when you propose the course to Committee of Academic Standards (CAS).

During this step, you should be having important conversations with your department chair and/or curriculum committee chair, and you should identify your target term.  Keep in mind the various course formats available at JHSPH, as well as the CAS System Deadlines (requires JHSPH authentication) for course proposals.

Explore further: Identify Need

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2. Relate to Competencies

How does this course achieve (contribute to) department/degree competencies?

Each course should be designed to map to department or program competencies. This step includes thinking through which competencies will be addressed in the course, and how.

At this point, if this is for a fully online or blended course, you and/or your department chair should contact the Director and Deputy Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning to have a conversation about your plans and ideas, your proposed target term, and the CTL expected capacity to meet your needs. Once approved, an instructional designer will be assigned to work with you throughout the development and teaching of your course. (Your collaboration with CTL throughout your course design and development - from initial contact through the course start - is outlined on this procedural timeline: New Course Design/Development Process.)

Explore further: Competencies

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3. Develop Objectives

What will students know or be able to do at the end of the course – knowledge, skills, thoughts & ideas?

Defining objectives sets the foundational structure of your course. The objectives set the layout for what the content should be, the learning activities that are needed to achieve the objectives, and the assessments that ensure students have achieved the objectives. Key features of course learning objectives include:

  • Student-centered description
  • Use action verbs, e.g. apply, decide, calculate
  • Measurable
  • Aligned with learning activities and student performance

It is highly recommended to consult with a CTL instructional designer to assist with this (see step 2 and the New Course Design/Development Process).

Explore further: Objectives

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4. Create Assessments

How will you know what students have learned?

Assessments: As much for the student as they are for the instructor, this is the evidence that the learning objectives are being met, and that students are where you want them to be at each determined interval of the course. At the same time, assessments are a way to pinpoint misunderstandings and areas of potentially unanticipated importance to a particular cohort. Assessments may allow a course to evolve in small ways throughout the term to assure that the course meets the needs of the students.

Explore further: Assessments

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5.  Design Learning Activities

What will you do to facilitate learning?

A learning activity can be thought of as anything that helps your students learn the desired content. We often think of lectures as a way to present content that student should learn (and they are!) - but when designing learning activities, you should also consider other methods of engaging students with the content in a way that will help them learn the material that they need to learn. This section will give you tips on teaching techniques including lecture, case studies, problem based learning, discussion, and more.

In terms of lectures and designing for online and blended courses, your instructional designer (see step 2 if you do not have one yet!) will work with you throughout the process of CTL production and post-production.

Explore further: Teaching Techniques to Facilitate Learning  

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6.  Align Objectives/Assessments/Activities

Look back at the previous 3 steps. Do they match up? Is there at least one objective-driven purpose corresponding to each activity and assessment?

In the well-designed course, the learning objectives serve to guide and direct the other various course components. The selected assessments will measure the learning objectives. Learning activities will promote mastery of the objectives. All critical course components: learning objectives, assessments, activities, instructional resources and materials, learner engagement and interaction, learner support and even course technologies - work together to ensure that students achieve the desired learning outcomes. “When aligned, each of these course components is directly tied to and supports the learning objectives.” (Citation: http://www.qmprogram.org/rubric)

Explore further: Course Alignment

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7.  Write Syllabus

How do you communicate all of this course design to your students?

How can your syllabus stimulate deeper and more enthusiastic student learning? What kind of syllabus do the most highly effective teachers use? Taking the elements you've defined in previous steps and considering the resources provided, create a comprehensive and thought-provoking syllabus for your course.

Explore further: Syllabus

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8.  Clarify and Document relevant policies

What class and school policies do you want to draw to students' attention?

This may sound like the "dry" part of course design, but it's important to think about what policies you want to enforce in your class. Are laptops and cell phones allowed? If so, in what capacity? What's the late policy on assignments? Do you take attendance? Do you have additional thoughts on academic ethics beyond the school standard verbiage? All of these things should be part of course design, and should be included in your syllabus.

Explore further: Policies Page (coming soon!)

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With a well-designed course approved, you can also begin to think about Preparing Your Course Site.
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C. Greene,
Dec 7, 2015, 5:43 AM
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