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Part One: Getting Started

As with any learning situation, it can be useful to begin with a reflection activity or other exercise to gauge prior knowledge. This is important, since new knowledge builds on prior knowledge (even when that prior knowledge is inaccurate). It's also important because it helps to uncover hidden assumptions and expectations that can either help or hinder students' learning.

EXERCISE: Opening Reflection on Course Design

Before we get started introducing new information, let's uncover what you already know or think about designing courses. Listen to the following podcast. You will need: either paper and pen or a blank electronic document - some space for recording your thoughts and completing the activities described in the podcast.

Click here for a transcript (PDF) of the podcast.

Seminar Overview

The general structure of the seminar is as follows:

The seminar has been designed as a series of carefully sequenced steps. The content and exercises within each part of the seminar build on one another. If you are taking the seminar for the first time, we recommend that you move through the sections in order. Each section contains instructional material (usually in the form of short videos, text, and images), exercises to prompt action on your part, and a few select resources to prompt further learning. At the end of the seminar, we will suggest possible Next Steps and prompt a final reflection.

Before you begin, let's consider some of the general assumptions and guiding principles that inform this seminar, along with the goals and learning objectives for the seminar.

Guiding Assumptions and Principles

There are different models for course design. The approach we've chosen to emphasize in this seminar is rooted in the following core beliefs and assumptions about teaching, learning, and effective course design:


  • Is relational. It is about the relationships created between teachers and students, among students, and between teachers, students, and course content.
  • Is a situated act. It occurs in a particular context - with particular instructors and students and within particular departments and institutions - even though the content of courses may be similar across contexts.
  • Demands engagement from both the teacher and the learners.

Effective Course Design...

  • Privileges learning over content coverage.
  • Considers student engagement at the design phase, not just the course delivery phase.
  • Asks you to inhabit multiple perspectives, thinking like both a teacher and a student.
  • Finally, the last assumption we make is that you already know something about effective courses – either because you’ve designed and taught them yourself or because you’ve taken them during your educational journey.
  • An important element of designing courses effectively is identifying and articulating what works and why, then adapting it to suit your own context. In this way, we seek to help you move from intuition to intention in your own pedagogical practice.

Seminar Goals and Objectives

Essential to designing effective courses is articulating the goals and learning objectives for any learning situation. To that end, we offer the following goals and objectives for this seminar:

seminar goals objectives