Tag Archives: course design


Estimating Student Workload for Your Courses


As the start of the fall term approaches, many ProfHacker readers are designing or revising course syllabi. Among the challenging decisions that instructors face in creating syllabi is the question of how much reading, writing, and other work to assign each week.

The federal definition of course credit hours assumes a minimum of “two hours of out-of-class student work per week for a semester hour.” According to this metric, a student should assume at least six hours of out-of-class work per wee…


Scaling Up Courses

With the new semester upon us, many people are getting ready to try out new course preps or revisit familiar classes. The too-brief break of the holiday season doesn’t provide much time for preparation, so I find the last days before the semester begins can be a frantic time for revision and planning. I’ve previously addressed strategies for revising a past course, which can be particularly helpful if the dynamics of the course remain generally the same. However, increasing demands on universit…


Give (and Get) Some Good Advice

So how’s your middle-of-the-semester going? Some of you might be on spring break right now, or have just returned from break, or perhaps are looking forward to one next week. The vagaries of the spring calendar mean that start and end dates vary widely, along with spring breaks. Your midterm season might be over, or just beginning.

But no matter what week of the term it is for you, chances are that you know some things now that you didn’t know at the beginning — things about the particular stud…


From the Archives: New Semester, New Year

classroom The start of each new semester and academic year offers lots of new possibilities, as well as memories and echoes of past events and experiments.

ProfHacker’s series of open letter posts are multi-authored posts that offer advice to people taking on certain roles in academe, like new graduate students or first time tenure track faculty. If you’re not new in your current role, it’s worthwhile to reflect on what you’d like to do differently this year, and what you’d like to retain from your past h…


Planning a Class with Backward Design

A BlueprintIt’s easy to switch into automatic pilot mode when it comes to planning a course. It goes something like this: (1) we look at the topic of the course we’re assigned to teach, (2) we select enough essential/canonical/anti-canonical reading material to fill out fifteen or so weeks, and then (3) we plot that reading onto a calendar. Instant Syllabus!

I found myself falling into this very mode of course design recently, as I began planning an upper-level science fiction class for Fall 2011. I’ve nev…