Pace University students looking at their laptop computers

Best Practices for Course Design

The first step in designing your course is to create a clear course syllabus. The syllabus will be the guide students use to navigate their way through your course. They should know from the syllabus what the expectations are, what they will learn each week, how their grades will be computed and vital course and University policies. The student learning objectives in the syllabus should be aligned with the course goals. The course content can then be designed to meet those student learning objectives (see the section on Blooms Taxonomy for help writing student learning objectives.)

Engagement – Courses should be designed to keep students engaged. One way to accomplish this is to deliver the content in manageable chunks. If your videos, lecture notes etc. run too long your students will likely tune out. You want to provide opportunities for active learning e.g. virtual labs. Also be sure to include activities that ensure three forms of interaction:

  • Student/content – readings, video, research projects
  • Student/instructor – Q&A sessions, discussion boards, synchronous meetings, feedback on assignments
  • Student/student – discussion boards, synchronous class meetings, group projects, peer reviewed assignments

ADA compliance – Some things to keep in mind when developing course materials is that different students have different needs. Including closed captioning for your videos not only helps the hearing impaired students it may also help other students in the class such as those for whom English is not their first language. If you upload your videos to Panopto they will automatically be closed captioned. Some other accessibility concerns include font size, background colors, alternative text for graphics/images and links.

Consistency – if your program, department or school has a template use it. It helps students to easily find what they need in each class and reduces their frustration of having to relearn where each instructor in their program keeps their materials.

Communication – Students need to feel connected to their instructor, their school/program as well as the University. Communicate with your students often and in a variety of methods to ensure they received the information that is important to them. Classes provides easy access to your students’ Pace email addresses. In addition to weekly emails, announcements should be posted weekly letting the students know what to expect for each week as well as an introduction to the week’s topics.

Community- As the instructor you want to create a sense of community among your students. It is important for you to be an active member of that community as well. Synchronous meetings via Zoom help create the sense of community as does a robust discussion board. “How-to Facilitate Robust Online Discussions” is a helpful article to assist you in the creation of good discussion board questions. Be sure to participate in the discussions as well. Sharing personal/professional anecdotes will help your students not only remember and understand the concepts better but will provide a richer experience for the students.