Long before the first day of class, professors are planning their courses. From textbook adoption to syllabi preparation to assessment planning, there is a lot of effort taking place in designing a class that is engaging and meaningful for students.
This webpage is designed to give you some ideas about how to prepare with links to practical and (hopefully) inspirational information.
- Who are our students?
- What do I teach?
- How do I construct my syllabus?
- How far ahead should I begin planning my course?
Who are our students?
Institutional Research publishes an annual Quick Facts brochure about our students' profiles. What can you do with that information? Here are some ideas:
CSUSB is a Hispanic-Serving Institution. In Fall 2016, 60% of our students are of Hispanic origin. This means that faculty and students benefit from the grants, scholarships and conferences offered by HACU (Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities). There are also special opportunities offered through the U.S. Department of Education, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Institute of Food & Agriculture.
- 81% of our students are First Generation college students (i.e. their parents do not have a Bachelor's degree). CSU Fullerton has a tip sheet for teaching First Generation students. Vanderbilt University also has Guide for Teaching First Generation students. And, you may want to read this article on Assumptions about First Generation Students in the Atlantic magazine (although most CSUSB students do qualify for financial aid, indicating lower incomes, the points made in the article are nonetheless interesting).
- Only 12% of our students graduate within four years and 55% graduate within six years. These statistics are part of the Student Success Measures research. We do a good job of retaining students from year 1 to year 2 (85%) but that number falls off between years 2 and 3 (about 75%) and years 3 and 4 (12%). These issues of persistence and retention are often related to ideas about students' resilience (ability to bounce back in the face of adversity). Faculty might find this article "How Kids Learn Resilience" interesting. Although the article addresses the K-12 environment, most seasoned CSUSB faculty will find that the themes resonate with issues faced by our students.
What do I teach?
Depending on the culture within your college and department, you might be provided with a set syllabus, required student learning outcomes and/or specific goals for your class. In some cases, a very detailed program is established. It is more likely, however, that faculty will be told the course number and title only-- perhaps with some student learning outcomes. Here are some strategies for deciding what content, skills and activities to add to your course.
- Talk to colleagues who have taught the course in the past. They may be willing to share their syllabi and/or discuss their experiences. Even if your teaching approach is different, you can learn a lot by what they say (and don't say) about the course's content, challenges and presentation.
- Ask how this course fits into the curriculum. For example, if students are expected to master specific concepts in order to be successful in future courses, it will be important to address those concepts in your course. If the course is part of the General Education program, there may be specific GE goals and/or Institutional goals that factor in.
- Consider using the principles of Backward Design. Backward Design is a process where you first consider the end goals for your course then build in the content, skills and activities students will need to achieve those goals. Understanding by Design (UBD) by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins (Pearson) is an oft-cited resource (copies are available at the TRC for loan to CSUSB faculty). The ACSD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) provides a white paper outlining UBD Framework.
- Consider using the principles of Universal Design. Universal Design is often confused with accessibility but it is more than just making sure that students can read your materials using assistive technologies: universal design is a way of thinking about creating materials in different kinds of modalities in order to reach a broader range of learning styles.
How do I construct my syllabus?
Please see the TRC Course Syllabi webpage. It might also be helpful to consult the campus calendar for information regarding holidays, final exam dates, etc.
Note that faculty are required to distribute a syllabus in each course by no later than the second class session. Fully online courses should have the syllabus available from Day 1. All syllabi are expected to be in an accessible format.
Faculty are also required to submit copies of their syllabus to the department office. Check with your department to determine who receives the syllabus and what the appropriate format should be. Syllabi are used for:
- faculty evaluations (keep a copy for yourself!)
- program reviews
- accreditation reviews
How far ahead should I begin planning my course?
There's no good answer for this one! We've outlined a few considerations below:
Ordering Textbooks and Academic Calendar
Per the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA), textbooks must be ordered by the time the schedule is published. (You place your textbook orders online at the Coyote Bookstore.)
Why are textbook orders due so early? The HEOA terms are designed to provide adequate notice to students regarding the price of their course materials. The Bookstore has to research the textbook's availability, find used copies (where available) and provide for textbook rentals. The university also has an obligation to provide for accessible materials for students who may need them. All of these tasks take time but are expected to be completed prior to course registration.
Faculty may want to consider using Open Educational Resources to increase the affordability of their course materials. See the Affordable Learning Initiative page for information about resources.
The Academic Calendar site has valuable dates to consider regarding when classes begin and end, as well as final exams, for each academic year.
2. Teaching Online
There are a number of campus and Chancellor's Office resources to help support faculty in teaching online:
- Blackboard: our CSUSB learning management system
- ATI offers regular Workshops and Faculty Resources
- ATI also offers Quality Assurance training and more information can be found from the ATI's Quality Assurance web page
- CSU Quality Assurance for blended & online courses: the CSU offers several online courses to support faculty. You can see the schedule and register for the online courses on the CSU-QA website.
- Please visit the CSUSB Accessible Technology Initiative page for information about tools available on campus.