Cutting Edge > Course Design > Course Design Tutorial > Table of contents > Part 2 index > Course plan

If you have dropped into this Course Design Tutorial from somewhere else, you might wish to start at the introduction, overview, or table of contents. If you are working through the tutorial, you should have completed Part 1.4 before beginning this section.

Part 2.1 Developing a course plan in the context of goals and content topics

Now it's time to develop a plan for your course. In this section of the tutorial, you will consider how to merge the goals that you've set for your course with the content topics to develop a course plan that makes it possible for students to achieve the goals. In order to achieve the goal(s), students must have practice throughout the course. Developing a course plan in the context of the content, both broad and specific, means thinking not only about having students learn content but also about how to give students practice in the tasks that are important in the goals.


Start by downloading the worksheet (Microsoft Word 77kB Jun10 05) that goes with this part, and use it as you work through the sections below.


A course plan includes not only the goals and the content topics, but also how the topics will be taught and what the students will do during the course. In order to achieve end-of-semester goals, students must have practice during the semester. If goals focus solely on mastery of content, then practice in reiterating and explaining what students have learned is appropriate. Many courses do this, of course, and demonstration of achievement of these content mastery goals typically involves a series of midterm and final exams focused largely on lower order thinking skills such as identifying, listing, explaining, describing, summarizing, and so on.

In this tutorial, we have asked you to set goals that go beyond mastery of content and that focus on enabling students to do higher order thinking skills tasks with that content knowledge by the end of the semester. Practice in content mastery alone will get students only part of the way to the goals. Practice in the required higher order thinking skills articulated in the goal is what's needed to get students all of the way there.

Sometimes it's easier to understand by examining bad examples rather than good ones. So, let's start with examples of two courses in which the course plan falls short of successfully merging goals and content, making it very difficult for students to achieve the goals.

Example I:A Driver Education Course


Example II:An Introductory Environmental Geology Course


The message here is that you can't just fill students up with content, bing them over the head at the end of the semester with a magic wand, and have them be good at something they haven't practiced. As you develop your course plan, the crucial question to ask is, "What are the opportunities in this section of the course for my students to practice something related to the goal?"



Let's consider the environmental geology course described above:



Task 2.1: Your course plan

In order to achieve the goal(s), students must have practice throughout the course. Developing a course plan in the context of the content, both broad and specific, means thinking not only about having students learn content but also about how to give students practice in the tasks that are important in the goals. What do your students need practice in during the semester in order to achieve the goals? What will be the order of content and concepts in each broad content topic, and how will you give students goal-related practice as they encounter content and concepts? How does the practice that you plan to include in the course build independence over time? What ancillary skills goals have you set for your students? How will you provide students with practice and timely feedback so that they can improve?

Use the worksheet that you downloaded earlier to draft your course plan.

Realize that this course draft will likely go through many iterations as you develop your course and change your mind about various aspects, particularly as you consider teaching strategies, which is the next section of the tutorial. So, view this as a draft!



Once you have developed a draft of your course plan, Go to Part 2.2: Choosing Teaching Strategies




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©2005 On-line Course Design Tutorial developed by Dr. Barbara J. Tewksbury (Hamilton College) and Dr. R. Heather Macdonald (College of William and Mary) as part of the program On the Cutting Edge, funded by NSF grant DUE-0127310.


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