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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. Make an appointment with for a consult or email a question to [email protected].

Here you will find: 

  • Strategies and techniques to prepare for a short term course.
  • The Estimator Guide and Schedule Generator templates to help ensure your course is comparable in rigor and compliant with the Federal credit hour regulations.

Effective Practices

Keep an Eye on the 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. For more information on federal regulations read Credit Hours and Regulations Review.

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 Goals

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.

Try out the Assessment Planner (Word) 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.

Set the Expectations Early

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, work expected between classes, late work policy, and plan for potentially missed class time.

Using a consistent layout and course organization can also support students moving quickly into the learning environment. The CCRI Blackboard template provides spaces to place your materials and links to important student resources. For more information on using a template, check out the micro-learning guide Use Blackboard Course Templates.

Plan to Connect

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 class community building into existing course activities.

  • 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 a welcome introduction in the course that is open, warm and welcoming.
  • Introduce yourself by creating a post or short video sharing your background, research and passion about the course.
  •  Create an Ask a Question discussion forum where students can post questions.
  • Send announcements each week, which introduces the students to the upcoming week and outlines what they will be doing.  Use this opportunity to make connects to the previous week's material and to the course overall.
  • Post frequent reminders about your virtual office hours and what you will be covering for that session.

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

Set Everyone Up for Time Management Success

Pay attention to your own time when considering cycles of feedback and grading. For example, can rubrics make grading more consistent and focused on assignment goals? Can peers provide initial review and feedback? Can you provide feedback that applies to the whole class to minimize repeating feedback? Similarly, are there particularly challenging tasks or content that students may struggle to complete from one class meeting to the next? How might that impact your schedule? Have you given yourself enough time to give meaningful feedback and for students to incorporate it into upcoming work?

Watch a recent webinar on Creating and Using Rubrics to learn more about structuring rubrics to help you streamline your grading.

Watch Out for the ‘Fire Hose'

Combining long lectures from multiple classes into one super lecture leads to cognitive overload and missed opportunities for practice and reflection. Breaking up topics into chunks, creating sharing/peer-teaching opportunities, providing content prior to class, and bringing in quick activities can break up the class time and deepen student understanding.

Learn more about chunking from the micro-learning guide Chunk Your Content.

Maximize Online for Flexibility

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.

Read more about planning for a disruption in Guidelines for Planning for a Disruption.