Identify the Situational Constraints
Below is a list of questions you should ask yourself when planning a course. Your answers to these questions will have implications for the decisions you make about learning objectives, instructional activities and assessments, as well as the material you can reasonably cover.
- How big is your class?
- How many units are attached? At Carnegie Mellon, one unit equals one hour, so a nine-unit course means that students will spend an average of nine hours per week on the course, including both in and out of class time
- What time of day is the class scheduled for?
- How long and frequent are the class meetings?
- Is the course lower division, upper division, or graduate level?
- Is this course required or an elective?
- How many class meetings do you have over the course of a semester?
- Do you have TAs? How many? What functions can they serve?
- Can you choose the textbook(s) or are they pre-selected?
- To what extent are you in control of the course and syllabus design process?
- Is there certain material you must cover for courses downstream?
- What curricular goals does the institution or department have that affect this course or program?
- What kind of room are you teaching in, e.g., one with flexible seating?
- What technology is installed in the room (e.g., DVD players, document cameras, computers)?
- What other technologies are available from Media Technology Services (e.g., VCR)
- What software will you need?
- Does CMU have a campus license for that software?
- What can you assume about students’ prior knowledge?
- If you are teaching in a professional program, do students have other commitments (e.g., full time jobs) that will constrain the way in which they can engage in the course?
- How much time/flexibility do students have to fulfill the requirements of the course?
- What are their reasons for enrolling (e.g., requirement for credentialing, interest in the subject)?
- What experiences do students bring to the course (e.g., work experience, cultural background)?
- Is it reasonable to assume that students can all meet outside of class to work on group projects (if applicable)?