Have you ever realized halfway through a semester that something about your course just isn’t working the way you planned? Or have you inherited a syllabus from another professor but have no idea what comes next in terms of actually teaching the course? Today’s post is here to help! At STLI, we use a process called course mapping to develop new courses or refresh existing ones. Here’s the general process we follow:
- Divide your course into modules, or chunks, based on learning objectives at the course and module level.
- Create course-level learning objectives. These are the big ideas that your course is all about. What will students know or be able to do when they finish your course? Check the verbs in your learning objectives to match what you’ll ask students to learn and do in your class.
- Identify course modules. Modules are chunks of content, organized around a central concept. The idea is to divide your course into manageable pieces that are easier for you to plan and for students to understand. If the semester is a novel, modules are the chapters within that module. You might organize your course chronologically, with different time periods determining the modules. Or thematically, with big ideas like justice, religion, and conflict providing structure. Create modules based on what makes sense to you and your students.
- Plan module-level learning objectives. For each module, write specific and measurable learning objectives. For each theme, topic, or week of instruction, what will students know or be able to do at the end of the module? Consider how each module-level objective aligns with, or supports, course-level objectives.
- Choose learning experiences to support each learning objective. Course readings, discussions, projects, and presentations should clearly align with module and course-level objectives. What kinds of experiences will allow students to develop the knowledge and skills you want them to learn? When aligned, learning activities also prepare students for the types of assessments they’ll be expected to complete.
- Develop assessments aligned with those experiences and objectives. Assessments provide feedback and data on student knowledge and skill development. As you plan assessments, remember to align them with learning experiences–if learning activities ask students to “recall” and “memorize,” but the midterm asks students to “evaluate” and “analyze,” results might reflect that mismatch.
- Make a plan for your own presence in the course. Make a plan for how you’ll build relationships and community with your students; consider things like when you’ll provide feedback, host office hours, and be available for questions about the course. Add this plan to your syllabus and tell students about it in class.
Remember: course mapping is a process. No course is ever “finished.” Thoughtful instructors revisit learning objectives, learning experiences, assessments, and their own presence in the course with each new group of students, each new semester, and with developments in the field or their curricula that call for adjustments. The good news is, once you know the basic steps, that iterative process gets easier and faster. And if you get stuck, STLI is always here to help. Reach out anytime to schedule a consultation.
Want to learn more? Check out our catalog of free micro-courses, including our Course Design Series.
© 2022 Diana Theisinger. The text of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License.
Meet the Author
Digital Learning Program Manager
Diana works with faculty and STLI partners to design online and hybrid courses offered at William & Mary. She also designs online professional learning micro-courses and consults with faculty about course design and other teaching and learning topics.