Things to consider when developing a course

Published September 18, 2018

By Melissa Wagner, Triton College

Melissa Wagner

I have multiple jobs throughout the academic year. In one of my jobs, I work for McGraw-Hill (Life Sciences) and talk to faculty about course needs, implementation and everything in between. This is fun and I enjoy it because we have so many tools to positively impact student learning like LearnSmart Prep, Anatomy & Physiology Revealed, the Practice Atlas and I could go on and on! My second professional job is as an adjunct faculty member teaching business courses using Connect. In a previous life, I worked on McGraw-Hill's world-class implementation team, so I have seen a ton of methods of using Connect. This aspect of the academic calendar is all two phases: one phase is all about finishing Spring and starting your Summer courses while the second is about planning and setting up your Fall coursework, my two favorites!

Whether you are developing a new course or updating an existing one, the task can seem daunting; but it doesn’t have to be! In this article I will highlight areas to think about when constructing your Connect course, while outlining best practices I have incorporated into my business courses. All of these ideas will apply to any course in the life sciences too! Keep in mind, there is no wrong way to build a course. Find what works for you and your students and run with it.

In order to develop an effective course, it is critical to plan and prepare before jumping right in. I recommend considering the following elements: identify your course goals, the features within Connect that will improve your course, and what you want your course to look like. If a course does not have a vision or identified goals, you may find yourself spending more time rebuilding content or even worse, not having enough time to develop what you envisioned.

Once you have a identified the items, the fun begins! McGraw-Hill offers quality content, with options that fit everyone's needs. I recommend starting simple. As you become more comfortable with the platform, develop more. The four courses that I teach vary slightly, but I do incorporate the following three items in every course: Connect syllabus review quiz, consistent dates, and pooling.

Connect Syllabus Review Quiz
There are two times during the term that an influx of emails is almost guaranteed, the beginning and the end. Although the end of term emails are almost inevitable, I felt as though there was a more proactive way to address the inquiries I received from students at the beginning. Identifying the trends in student emails, I built a quiz within Connect using original questions, containing the most commonly asked questions I received. Attaching points and making it required, enforces the importance of the quiz. As a result, my goal was reached and now receive fewer emails at the beginning of the term. A surprising result, I now have the ability to see which questions students answered and how they performed. This allows me to hold students accountable for due dates and things students say ­­they “didn’t know” on the syllabus.

Consistent Due Dates
Although I see value in assigning a variety of assessment types within Connect, my students sometimes find it confusing. To reduce the confusion and eliminate surprises for my students, I have spread out assignment due dates throughout the week and created a consistent schedule, with recurring due dates. In doing so, I can control the sequence of assignments. In addition, student’s expectations are clear and they don’t get as overwhelmed with the sheer volume of content.

I strongly believe student’s performance on the exam is a true representation of the their knowledge on the assessed content. With limited proctoring resources, an early goal of mine was to develop an online exam environment, that I could feel confident placing my students in. I have found the pooling feature within Connect has truly been a game changer in the quality of exams that I deliver.

What is pooling? When building an assignment in Connect, instructors have the ability to filter through content. Every question is identified by many things that include, but are not limited to: type of question, topic, competency and objective. As an Instructor, you have the ability to pull out specific questions using these filters and place these questions into a pool. You then select the number of questions from that pool you want each student to receive. When you create an exam with multiple pools, you develop a unique exam for each student. It has become apparent why pooling has been a game changer: the average time I expect my students to take in the exam has been consistent, the grading curve is not skewed and term after term I can use the same exam. I am confident that throughout the life of the book edition, very rarely, if ever, will two students ever have the same exam.

As a result of implementing Connect into my classes, I strongly believe my student’s learning experience has been enhanced and I have become a better instructor. I wouldn’t be the active user I am today if it wasn’t for the excellent support McGraw-Hill has provided me. If at any point you need assistance, just ask! They have been there to help me every step of the way. I couldn't be happier with their partnership and the quality platform they provide.

For additional information regarding building your own questions, click here
For additional information regarding policies, click here
For additional information regarding pooling, click here

Melissa Wagner
Adjunct Faculty | Business Department Triton College