Part 3.1: Tips for successful follow-through
If you have worked your way through this tutorial, you have invested a considerable amount of effort in thinking about designing or redesigning a course or a portion of a course. You undoubtedly have terrific ideas, and you are excited (and probably a bit nervous) about teaching the course itself. What can you do to make sure that you follow through on your good intentions? This short section of the tutorial offers suggestions for following through.
Start by downloading the worksheet (Microsoft Word 60kB Jun20 05) that goes with this part of the tutorial.
Tips for successful follow-through
Develop a plan of action: Take the time to lay out what you have to accomplish and when in order to make your course successful. A plan of action will help you avoid biting off more than you can chew and help you maximize your effort between now and the first day of classes.
Join the Course Design email list: This email list is a place where you can float course design questions and get answers from people who are struggling with the same things that you are, or just lurk and read ideas from colleagues.
Don't reinvent the wheel: Borrow and adapt good ideas and resources from others. The Cutting Edge website has a collection of browsable and searchable resources for teaching selected topics in undergraduate geoscience, including assignments and activities that you can use or modify, ideas for teaching various topics, resources lists, lists of relevant URLs, syllabi from various courses, email lists on various topics, and more. Because the collection is growing daily, return often even if the collection doesn't have what you happen to be looking for today.
Don't be afraid to start small: Some people are perfectly comfortable with completely throwing out an old course and starting entirely from scratch. If this gives you the heebie jeebies, choose one goal to accomplish in one portion of your course and work up to more extensive revisions over time.
Be realistic, and know yourself: Don't set yourself up for failure by planning something that is unrealistic in terms of your own time and resources. If you are trying non-traditional teaching strategies for the first time, choose the ones that most appeal to you and that fit best with your personality.
Consider involving students in your design/redesign project: Students, both graduate and undergraduate, can offer a valuable perspective on what you are planning for your course. Students with a vested interest in the course can also be enthusiastic assistants in the classroom.
Watch out for mid-semester meltdown: The temptation to slip off the course design wagon hits most strongly mid-semester when the first blush of enthusiasm has faded a bit and the end of the semester isn't quite in sight. This is the time that it is easiest to go back to old course notes and old habits. It's not a terrible crisis if you do, but it's easier to avoid if you know that it might be coming.
Be up-front with your students: Make sure that your students know what the course will entail and, most especially, what will be expected of them both in and out of the classroom. This is particularly important if you have planned a non-traditional course. Don't hesitate to tell your students early and often what you are doing and why.
Don't be afraid to make mid-course corrections if something isn't going well: Listen to your students, be sure that you know how they think the course working for them, and be willing to make changes if they have valid complaints.
Be confident: Don't be tentative, and don't give the impression that you're experimenting on students with a new course. You don't have to be a cheerleader, but it helps to be confident and committed, rather than tentative and apologetic.
Task 3.1: Developing a plan of action
Using the worksheet that you downloaded at the start of this section, develop a plan for yourself of what needs to be done and when in order for you to carry through with the ideas that your have planned in this tutorial.
Once you have completed this portion on assessment, Go to Part 3.2: Final thoughts.
©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.