Guide To Teaching and Learning

Plan Student Learning Experiences

Once you’ve decided what students should accomplish and produce during the course, consider how they will achieve this learning. What reading assignments, lectures, quizzes, group activities, ‘in-class’ activities, and more will aid them in learning?

In selecting reading, listening and viewing assignments, prune and prioritize:

  • Select materials that will advance the learning goals you’ve established.
  • Less is usually more: resist the desire to include materials. Especially in the online environment, students can quickly experience cognitive overload.
  • Be sure to include multiple ‘ways in’: visual, audio, written text.
  • Contextualize your chosen ‘texts’: explain their value to students, particularly in terms of how they assist students in achieving the learning outcomes.
  • Define what’s essential, what’s recommended, and what’s supplemental.

Put It All Together

Once you’ve determined what you want students to learn, how they will demonstrate what they’ve learned, and what learning activities and assignments will help them accomplish that learning, you can then put your course together. Determine your conceptual framework, organize your content into conceptual units, and sequence it appropriately. We recommend organizing your online course in modules that correspond to those conceptual units.

In each module: 

  • Provide a brief description that introduces the module’s content, describe what students will be doing, and why
  • The four-six learning goals of the module
  • The assignments and activities and their purpose
  • How they are expected to do them
  • How they will be assessed on activities

Additional considerations:

  • Consider how the building blocks fit together, the interrelationships between particular topics, activities, and assignments.
  • Determine how and why each major idea or subject fits into the broader conceptual framework of the course. Provide “signposts” throughout the semester so students can see where they are in relation to the whole, so they understand the logic of the course design.
  • Include metacognitive practices at multiple points throughout the semester, asking students to reflect on what they’re learning, how they’re learning it and what they might change to improve their learning. Metacognitive approaches to teaching and learning have been demonstrated to significantly impact learning.
  • The most difficult part of planning a course is usually deciding what to leave out. New teachers in particular are likely to pack a course too full of topics, readings, and assignments, and overwhelmed students may learn less than they would in a more streamlined course.

Tips from Small Teaching Online, p 24-25:

  • Get students working on the final project/assessment in the first week. Create a low-stakes task that requires them to actually read the assignment and think about what they might do.
  • Assign tasks that foster self-reflection on learning as it is related to your course objectives, e.g., at the beginning or middle of the class session, ask to ‘read, think about, and respond to learning goals and their progress toward or achievement of them’.
  • Bookend the course: at the beginning, have them look to the final project; at the end, ‘have students reflect on where they’ve come so far and what they intend to do to continue their learning.’

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