Design Your Fall 2020 Course(s) in 4 Weeks

This planner outlines a process for thinking through options to meet your course goals in a high quality and engaging way for you and your students using the Flexible Teaching website. 

The planner includes a suggested timeline for self-directed Fall 2020 flexible course design, which you can alter to fit your needs and schedule. Generally, the listed tasks should take about 1-2 hours per day, although some tasks may take more or less time depending on what related work you have already done. 

To prepare your courses for the upcoming academic year, focus first on designing the best possible online course, including appropriate asynchronous and synchronous activities. With that course design in mind, consider the locations and intentions of your students for Fall, and decide whether you might safely add any effective in-person component (without inequity for students who can’t attend). Any in-person activities should be considered a bonus, and not required for your course to be a success. Be sure you are prepared to pivot back to online-only in the event that an increase in cases in the fall alters the University’s plans to allow some face-to-face course activities. 

Tip: Form a small working group with other colleagues from your department, or those teaching similar classes, to productively engage in the course design process together. Your group could review the activities suggested below, and set a schedule to work on these with periodic Zoom check-ins, discussions and idea-sharing. We recommend a group size of 3-5 colleagues. Different members of the group can take responsibility for attending various workshops, watching tutorials, and attending DLI office hours to get answers to questions, and each member can share information and resources with the others. 

Scroll down this page to view the planner, or download a Word doc version of the planner with the content organized into tables with columns for taking notes and checking items off as you complete them.

Week 1: Basic Course Design

Throughout the week, make notes about what topics you or your TAs need to learn more about; research what opportunities such as upcoming or recorded workshops there are, register for workshops, note websites to review, visit our office hours for brief Q&A or consultation.

Day 1

  • Download the online course planning worksheet. The worksheet will help you organize plans for your course as you think about the unique needs of your students and the course goals. On the worksheet, fill in the “Student Information and Course Context” and “Course Description” sections.
  • Meet with working group colleagues. Introduce yourselves, describe your course(s), explain your current thinking about teaching your course(s). Confirm how you will communicate between meetings (MS Teams site? Slack? Email group?) and set up the next group meeting for 3 days in the future.

Day 2

  • Read the home page of the Flexible Teaching Guide to Course Design and the sub-page “What will my students learn?” (and the resources linked from that sub-page).
  • On the course planning worksheet, draft your course learning outcomes (or revise your pre-existing learning outcomes), based on information from the Guide to Course Design.

Day 3

  • Read, in the Guide to Course Design, “How will I know what my students have learned?” and “What will we do in my course?” and the resources linked from them.
  • On the course planning worksheet, fill in the “Assessments, Activities & Grading Scheme” table.
    • What final products will students create which will demonstrate to you and to them, that they have mastered the learning outcomes? What steps or stages will you ask them to produce and get feedback on during the course, leading up to the final products?

Day 4

  • Meet with working group colleagues. Share and get feedback on your drafted course learning outcomes, assessments and activities. Use their feedback to revise and adjust your materials so far.

Day 5

  • Read, in the Guide to Course Design, “How will we communicate?” and “What will my syllabus look like?” and the resources linked from them.
  • On the course planning worksheet, fill in the “Course Structure,” “Student Engagement Strategies” and “Course Communication Plan” sections.

Day 6

  • Start a Plan B: Write one or several alternate plans for assignments or activities you originally had in mind, as necessary to account for the scenarios below. Begin to implement co-teaching plans if you haven’t already. 
    • If you plan to teach your class from a physical classroom at Duke, consider the scenario that none of your students are in the classroom with you (due to preference or updated Duke policy) and make notes about what would have to change in your course in that case. 
    • If you plan to teach your class online but with regular scheduled synchronous sessions online in Zoom, consider the scenario that more than 50% of your students are unable to join live due to their time zone, illness, family care responsibilities or other factors; make notes about what would have to change in your course in that case. 
    • Circumstances arise that prevent you from continuing to teach your course after the fourth week of the term (e.g., illness); decide how you will mitigate that possibility (by co-teaching with another colleague or other method), and make notes about what you will need to do to accomplish that.
  • Revise and Adjust: Now that you have completed all Week 1 readings, review your course plans so far and make any needed adjustments.

Week 2: Course Development

Once you have the outline of your course, continue to plan the specific units and activities, and design your syllabus. Then plan and build your course website. Note that in an online or hybrid course, the course website is of critical importance – the site must be thorough, extremely well-organized, internally consistent, welcoming, and clear. It is the gateway through which students access you, their peers and their course materials, and significant time should be devoted to planning and building it, either in Sakai or in some other tool. 

Don’t forget to make notes about what topics you or your TAs need to learn more about; research what opportunities such as upcoming or recorded workshops there are, register for workshops, note websites to review, visit our office hours for brief Q&A or consultation.

Day 1

  • Meet with working group colleagues. Discuss the last several days of activities.
  • On the course planning worksheet, transfer the information from the sections of the sheet you worked on earlier into the “Course Outline” section, adding unit blocks as needed. 
    • Make notes in each unit about what materials will be needed, remembering the recommendation that all initial content delivery occur asynchronously. This means that if you normally lecture, you should plan to find or create analogous video or text materials that can substitute for lectures, which students will watch or read prior to any related live class session. Live (in-person or online) class sessions should be designed as interactive sessions for further exploration of the content, Q&A, discussion, problem-solving, case studies, etc.

Day 2

Day 3

  • Adjust your course outline based on what you read in the Guide to Course Materials.
  • Locate course materials. For topics for which you do not have sufficient existing course materials for students to use asynchronously, research what exists already on relevant websites, from publishers, in blog posts, OER repositories, Khan Academy and other similar sources. 
    • Check with your subject librarian for help locating relevant sources of open access materials.

Day 4

  • Locate course materials (cont’d). Continue researching existing materials, tracking URLs and usage licenses so you can later find the materials again. 
    • If Duke has any relevant Coursera courses, review or have a TA review their materials (all Duke Coursera courses are freely-available to all Duke students, and are a great source of material and formative assessment materials, if the subject matter is related to your course).
  • Meet with working group colleagues. Compare notes on relevant sources of good teaching materials.

Day 5

  • Locate course materials (cont’d). Continue researching existing materials, make notes of where you think you may need to create materials.
  • Review video production guidelines. If considering creating videos, re-read topics 3-7 in the Guide to Course Materials, which focus on topics related to video creation. If you’re still not sure what to do, what type of video you want to make, or how to proceed, contact us for a video consultation session.

Day 6

  • (Optional) Video production plan. Make a detailed schedule for video production. 
    • Be sure to include a few days to make practice videos and become familiar with the recording (and editing, if applicable) interface. 
    • Make outlines or scripts for the videos you plan to make, including just one main topic per video and planning additional videos for other topics.
    • Practice recording until you feel comfortable speaking for the camera, and so that you understand how much “script” creates a 5-8 minute video (5-8 minutes, and certainly under 10 minutes, is the recommended length for individual videos).
    • For videos that will include handwriting/annotation, practice writing with your device and stylus. For videos that need slide decks, create the slides.

Week 3: Course Delivery Planning

Don’t forget to make notes about what topics you or your TAs need to learn more about; research what opportunities such as upcoming or recorded workshops there are, register for workshops, note websites to review, visit our office hours for brief Q&A or consultation.

As you move forward with the exercises in this part of the plan, to continue with materials creation (if any) or discovery, according to your schedule from Week 2.

Day 1

  • Meet with working group colleagues. Share progress so far.
  • Revise and adjust. Make any adjustments to your plans and course outline so far, based on feedback, new ideas, or changes in University/departmental policies or updates since you began your planning process.

Day 2

Day 3

  • Update your plans in light of any new information about available tools to support activities you planned, or new ideas for activities spurred by what you read.
    • Remember that planned course activities should be directly in alignment with course learning outcomes, and ideally should be designed to build to larger products for summative assessment (this is called “scaffolding.” Although we advocate for more, lower-stakes assessments rather than few, high-stakes assessments, beware of inundating your students with activities that might seem like “busywork.” Be sure you make clear the purpose of the activities, how they relate to the course goals, and how they scaffold to any larger project or assessment you plan.

Day 4

  • On the course planning worksheet, in the Course Outline section, begin to expand the details for each unit/week of the course with a better, more specific plan for the course activities, and even notes about what might be done on specific class days during the week. Make notes about live sessions vs asynchronous activities, and note “dependences” (tasks which must be completed first, before later work can begin).

Day 5

  • Meet with working group colleagues. Share current progress, compare ideas and resources.

Day 6

Week 4: Course Site Planning and Syllabus Creation

Don’t forget to make notes about what topics you or your TAs need to learn more about; research what opportunities such as upcoming or recorded workshops there are, register for workshops, note websites to review, visit our office hours for brief Q&A or consultation.

Day 1

  • Build an outline of your Sakai site content outside of Sakai. Review the new site created from your chosen course site template, make a chart for each section of the site, and outline what will need to go into each section. 
    • It is likely that your Fall 2020 Sakai site will be more expansive than the site you usually create, because for online and hybrid teaching, a comprehensive, clear, internally-consistent course website is a critical component for students. Via your course website, students will connect with needed content, with their peers, and with their TAs and instructors, accessing discussion forums, Piazza posts, announcements, Zoom sessions, videos and links to readings, online assignments, quizzes and tests and other activities. 
    • The site needs to include well-structured content for each week of the course, detailed explanations of activities, links to any needed documentation or tutorials, and a clear description of what each student should be doing each day of the course. Building an outline of what’s needed in the site before starting to build the site will aid you and your TAs in constructing the site itself, and we highly recommend this.

Day 2

  • Draft your syllabus using the course planning worksheet, the syllabus template and the Sakai site outline.

Day 3

  • Meet with working group colleagues. Together, talk through each course’s “Plan A” and “Plan B” related to different scenarios that might ensue regarding student location and course engagement plans. 
    • By this point, you may have more information about your students’ plans based on data from Duke Hub or other sources. Consider whether your primary course plans still fit the known student situation, and adjust as needed. Even if the student data seem in line with what you initially expected, still create a “Plan B” based on the scenario that all students end up learning remotely from different time zones.
    • Be sure your TAs are aware of and have input to this plan, so they can assist in implementing if required (also be sure you have planned communication paths to your TAs, and are aware of what their “Plan B” is, in case they also need to support your class remotely and in unexpected circumstances.)

Day 4

  • Build your course site. Working with your TAs, begin to build your Sakai site (or other website, if you choose not to use Sakai). Duke Kits is an alternative.

Day 5

  • Build your course site (cont’d). Continue to build your Sakai site. Optionally, add some or all of your working group members to your site temporarily to give you feedback.

Day 6

  • Review and finalize your syllabus. Verify that all information in the syllabus is reflected correctly in the course site, and vice versa. Upload to the course website.
  • Draft your initial course communications to your students in the Announcement tool (these can be edited later, but by drafting now you can take time to craft a welcoming, empathetic message.