Welcome to the Cutting Edge Course Design Tutorial

Developed by Barbara J. Tewksbury (Hamilton College) and R. Heather Macdonald (College of William and Mary)

course design workshop participant in thought

Is it time to really shake the tree and do something about one of your courses? This tutorial will give you a way to get your arms around what is typically a daunting task and will guide you through a practical, effective strategy for designing or redesigning a course.

[If you are involved in professional development for faculty and would like information on how we run our course design workshops, plus suggestions for how to use this tutorial with faculty, visit the faculty professional development page for more information.]

What is this tutorial designed to help you do?

  • Articulate goals for a course or portion of a course.
  • Build a course or portion of a course that meets those goals and assesses student learning.
  • Explore a variety of teaching techniques that emphasize student engagement and that place responsibility for learning on the students.
  • Develop a plan for a rigorous, effective, and innovative course.

Why use our tutorial?

  • This tutorial provides a pathway through what can look like a big, amorphous, overwhelming task and presents a logical way to proceed from the glimmer of a good idea toward a new course while avoiding too much blundering in the dark. Read a short synopsis of our approach.
  • Using this tutorial lets you avoid wasting energy on reinventing the wheel. We provide links to hundreds of activities that can be used either directly or indirectly as templates, plus examples of goals and syllabi that can be used as catalysts for your own work and that were developed by other faculty.
  • We know that the design strategy in this tutorial works.
    • This tutorial is an on-line version of a face-to-face course design workshop run successfully by us for undergraduate geoscience faculty through On the Cutting Edge. Workshop participants comment that our course design process helped them to develop rigorous, effective, and innovative courses and to make thoughtful choices about what and how to teach.
    • In a follow-up survey of workshop participants, 90% of respondents followed through to teach the rigorous, goals-based, innovative course that they had begun to develop at the workshop. Furthermore, 80% of respondents found our course design process so useful that they followed it again when designing or redesigning another course.

Who is this tutorial for?

  • Most of the examples in this tutorial come from undergraduate courses in the geosciences, although some portions have links to examples from undergraduate courses in other disciplines.
  • Despite the focus on geoscience, the process is generic, and we've used simple examples. If you are interested in designing a course outside the geosciences, you should have little trouble using the tutorial.

Go to the tutorial :: About the developers

This tutorial is part of On the Cutting Edge, a professional development program for current and future geoscience faculty. On the Cutting Edge is sponsored by the National Association of Geoscience Teachers with funding provided by a grant from the National Science Foundation-Division of Undergraduate Education .


©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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