Planning a new Course

Sun 10 June 2018 by Dr. Dirk Colbry

This post describes a technique I use to plan an organize a course from scratch. I learned this technique from Dr. Brian O'Shea.

At Michigan State University (MSU) my official title is curriculum specialist. I have the unique opportunity to help develop entirely new courses for a brand new department (Computational Mathematics, Science and Engineering CMSE, EST 2015).

My colleague (Dr. Brian O'Shea) showed me a nice trick to organize my semester and brainstorm ideas to do a better job with backward design and matching up my lessons to my learning goals. I make a grid of 3 rows with 5 columns on a whiteboard. Each box represents one week of the semester (15 total). I then use post-it notes to write down ideas and place them on the board. This is a brainstorming stage where all ideas are equal. If I do this early enough I can leave the board up and move the sticky notes around as I think about my learning goals.

MarkerBoard Grid

I recently moved away from the whiteboard and use a blank wall in my office. I created the grid with painters tape. This leaves my whiteboard open for other ideas and lets me put up a board really early. For example, it is June and I have a board up for my Spring Course on Parallel programming.

Painters Tape Wall

Since I have been desinging many courses I may just leave the painters tape up.