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Course Planning Guide

  • Before the semester begins

  • Developing & Planning Courses

  • Designing Learning Assessments (and Alternatives to Multiple Choice Exams)

  • Building Relationships & Developing Rapport

Before the semester begins 

Developing & Planning Courses

  • First day of class (Engage students with more than “syllabus day”); the first day matters!

The first day of class provides an opportunity to make students feel welcome, inspiring them with interesting aspects of course content, and create a collaborative environment for learning. What you do on the first day of class makes a difference. No class period is more critical to forming students’ attitudes towards learning than the first day of the semester. 

Introduce and engage students: 

  • Learn each other's names.

  • Reduce anxiety.

  • Create positive first impressions.

  • Establish community among students.

  • Begin to create commitment to the class.

  • Identify and break down barriers to learning and success.

  • Stimulate curiosity in the course and motivation.

What you can do:

  • Arrive early and greet students as they arrive.

  • Engage in an interactive activity that involves students right away in course content.

  • Consider adding a surprising fact or a current event that demonstrates why the content in this course matters. Establishing relevance and promoting intrigue can help motivate student learning right from the start.

  • Highlight campus resources. 

    • Connect students with academic and support resources from the first days of class. 

    • Design syllabi and assignments that incorporate academic resources. 

  • Set up clear communication strategies for the students. 

  • Let your students see the enthusiasm you have for your subject and your love of teaching.

  • Use the whole class period.

  • Planning for 4th-week progress reports:

    • Provide substantial feedback to students early in the course (by week two)

    • Incorporate a meaningful assignment early (within the first three weeks) of the semester so that you can deliver significant feedback to students in advance of fourth-week progress reports. 

Designing Learning Assessments (and Alternatives to Multiple Choice Exams)

  • Consider alternative to multiple-choice exams and quizzes (access the toolkit

    • Writing assignments

    • Presentation assignments

    • Poster 

    • A series of critical reading assignments

    • Critical reading journal

    • Video or multimodal project

    • Annotated portfolio of work throughout the semester

    • Student-proposed project

Building Relationships & Developing Rapport

First two weeks (Student check-ins, feedback, and relationships)

  • Do regular check-ins with students

  • Administer mini (one or two-question) surveys early on in the course

  • Hold Student Hours online or in person

  • Follow up with students who are absent or not responsive during the first week

  • Schedule individual meetings with students if possible

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