A guide to moving to a 12-week term
While reducing the number of weeks from your course might require some minor adjustments, please keep in mind these main points:
- A three-credit course is still a minimum of 135 hours of academic activity (course time, out-of-class work and exam prep), so when reducing face-to-face time, there may be a need to slightly increase the out-of-class work.
- There is usually no need to change your course goals and learning outcomes, but instructors may take this opportunity to review them.
- In general, there is no need to change the course assessments; however, instructors may wish to revise the timelines.
- The course should not require a major redesign.
- There should not be a need to cut a large portion of the course content.
The following four steps will guide you in adjusting your course to a twelve-week term.
Many courses are heavily grounded in pre-requisite knowledge and/or skills that students need to know in order to be able to move forward in a course. Sometimes review of such knowledge is necessary for students to succeed. However, sometimes duplication of content from one course to another does not add value and can, therefore, be removed.
One way of determining how much review students need is to administer an informal diagnostic quiz that tests students in prerequisite knowledge. This will provide both students and instructor information which areas they need to brush up on and how much guidance is required by the instructor.
When review is necessary, consider providing short topic-based lectures and activities online and point students towards them at the beginning of the course and relevant points during the term. This way, students will have access to what they need when they need it.
If your course relies on pre-requisite knowledge, it might be advisable to hold a curriculum mapping exercise in your department to identify where that knowledge is introduced and to what extent students ‘practice’ it. This will help all involved ensure essential course components are not trimmed and will help you set your expectations of students.
2 - Built-in course redundancies
Another possible way of trimming course content is to eliminate redundancies in your course by reviewing how closely your lectures match your readings and other materials. If your lectures repeat the content of the readings or what is discussed in labs or tutorials, you should consider cutting down the lectures to the most important and troublesome content. This can free up more in-class time for students to practice applying the new knowledge or skill and make room to address other important concepts in more depth in class.
3 - Course alignment
Aligning your course can be one of the most effective ways to trim some content from your course. The goal of alignment is to ensure that each of the three main course components, which are learning outcomes, assessments and learning activities, work together to support the student to meet the course outcomes. When a course is aligned, all assessments and learning activities, such as readings, lectures, homework, and other learning activities directly support the achievement of the learning outcomes. Topics or concepts not necessary in the achievement of the learning outcomes can be trimmed.
4 – Calculating workload
As you are adjusting your course, do keep in mind student workload, especially if you are shifting some activities to Moodle. It might be that in certain weeks there is a slight increase in student workload, but it should not be substantial as compared to that of the 13-week model.
If you are not sure about the amount of time it will take students to complete certain tasks, you can refer to the Enhanced Course Workload Estimator to give you a rough estimate. Keep in mind that a three-credit course is equivalent to 135 hours of work, which includes: class time, tutorials, labs, exams, assignments, readings, study time, and all other course-related activities.
Another approach to calculating workload is to estimate the amount of time it will take students to complete out-of-class work and validate your estimate with students, adjusting your calculations for the next time.
You may also want to keep in mind your own workload as you plan your course. Organizing your Moodle course with additional activities will require more planning time at the outset of the course for you. In addition, adding activities that require monitoring (graded or not), such as discussion forums, student presentations, etc., will mean additional grading time. The following tips may be helpful in reducing time spent grading.
- Use a pass/fail grading scheme for low-stakes activities like Discussion Forums.
- Use automated feedback and grading features whenever possible. For example, in Moodle Quiz it’s possible auto-grade and provide specific feedback based on student answers.
- Use grading rubrics to make the grading process more efficient. It is possible to add two different kinds of rubrics to Moodle to support grading.
If you need assistance in adapting your course to a 12-week term, the CTL can provide support.