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Preparing for a Short Term

Courses in a condensed term intensify the learning experience for students. Condensed courses present new challenges to faculty to make sure that assessments, activities and content are distributed in a way that maintains academic rigor and meets the same outcomes of a 15- week course. Faculty must take time to intentionally plan thoughtful engagements, while balancing the workload for students, and themselves, in a way that supports student success. This guide will help you create a plan for condensed courses, regardless of length.

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Keep an Eye on the Time

Credit Hours and Contact Time

It is not the number of days or weeks in a course, it's engagement hours that matter. Engagement hours include in-class time + assigned work out of class. Learn more about Federal Regulations in the video below.

The Course Workload Estimator from RICE University can be a useful tool to help you feel confident that your course remains equivalent in its new condensed format. We have adapted the information in an Estimator Guide for those who prefer to work from print.

The Schedule Generator (Excel) will help you build a schedule for your condensed course, with an option to incorporate the estimated workload. Just delete the weeks you don't need. There is an example of a typical week in the green highlighted box to help you get started. The total number of hours for each week and the course overall will sum automatically for your convenience.

If you prefer to build in MS Word, we have the Course Planning and Development Matrix.

Focus on your Outcomes

Align Your Course

By clearly understanding your course outcomes and reviewing your current course content, activities, and assessments against those outcomes, you can ensure the most important information and relevant learning activities are in the center of the course. Not matter how short the semester, students must meet all stated course outcomes. Start with these Course Builders to help you align your course and objectives. 

Try out the Course Assessment Map to map your assessments against the course outcomes. By mapping assessments, both formative and summative, you will quickly identify assessment that are not tied directly to outcomes and can remove it from the condensed course. Additionally, map your activities for the course. Remove activities that are not directly tied to hands-on application or practice of the objective skills and/or knowledge. Review the below guides to check that your activities are at the right Bloom's level.

Set the Expectations Early

Be Clear

Share the syllabus & schedule early with encouragement to students to plan and schedule out their available time. Provide students with the Weekly Schedule Grid mapped out to visually show how many hours a week and on what day you expect them to be in a virtual session or working on coursework.

On day one, discuss the course approach, pace, and expectations, including discussions on attendance, communication preferences, coursework expected, late work policy, and plan for potentially missed class time.

Using a consistent layout and course organization in Blackboard can also support students moving quickly into the learning environment. The Blackboard Universal Default template provides spaces to place your materials and links to important student resources. For more information on using a template, check out the Online Teaching Readiness Guide.

Placing course materials, supplemental materials, assignments, and practice activities on Blackboard will support students with varying backgrounds and needs, mitigate the impact of disruptions (e.g., weather), and focus class time on interpersonal work – Q&A, discussions, group work, demonstrations, and activities.

Watch Out for the ‘Fire Hose'

Chunk Content

Combining long lectures from multiple classes into one super lecture leads to cognitive overload and missed opportunities for practice and reflection. Break up lecture topics into chunks of about 10-15 mins. Intersperse activities in between new content delivery. Create sharing/peer-teaching opportunities, provide an advance organizer, or having paired or small group activities can break up class time and deepen student understanding.

Learn more about chunking from the Chunk Your Content infographic.

Plan to Connect

Create Community

Building connections with and between students takes time – time you may not have if you wait for it happen to naturally. Consider opportunities, particularly early on, to incorporate social community into existing course activities. These activities below fulfill the DOE Regular and Substantive Interactions requirement for online courses.

  • Add an icebreaker activity in the discussion board where students can introduce themselves.
  • Offer an optional Collaborate or Zoom welcome session the first week or day of the semester.
  • Include an inclusive welcome introduction in the course that is open, warm and welcoming.
  • Introduce yourself by creating a short video sharing your background, research and passion for the course.
  •  Create an Ask a Question discussion forum where students can post questions and design an activity that onboards the use of the forum.
  • Send announcements each week which make connects to the previous week's material, the present week and to the course overall.
  • Post frequent reminders about your virtual office hours and what you will be covering for that session. Onboard office hours by creating an activity which normalizes its use.
  • Learn students' names and pronouns through a pre-assessment survey.  Using names and pronouns is a powerful way to show the student that you value you them.

Watch a video from ACUE and Flower Darby talk about how to build presence in your courses and engage students.