Thursday, January 27, 2011

Setting Up a College Class

I have no idea if anyone even cares about hearing about all the work it takes to get a college class up and running.  But our household has been turned upside down the past few weeks getting me ready for school. I thought I'd share a little bit about how I go about setting up a class.

Professors have a variety of ways to organize themselves when it comes to teaching college.  I've seen teachers put all the files on CD-Roms which you can borrow, copy and then return.  I've seen teachers insist on you reading large amounts of the textbook which you have to buy, only to never refer to it in class or on a test.  I've seen teachers use binders with sleeves stuffed with topics, example's and notes to use.  I've seen powerpoints that are very cut and dry, read from word for word, and classes spent entirely with presentation from the class on each chapter with no additions from the instructor.  The thing I've learned in the 6 years teaching college at 6 different colleges with over 60 different courses is that usually you are given your course, sometimes given the required text, sometimes asked to choose one from the hundreds out there, and then told, "Go."

I kind of like it that way.  I like to have the freedom to use my own style, a variety of resources and then be left alone to just teach.  Like any teacher, you'll know that a good teacher is a good planner.  With balancing family, church and other responsibilities, I have found that I like to be completely planned out before the class begins, then each class session, just grab my stuff and go with very little prep.

So this time around, here is how I've planned the three new courses I'm teaching with Utah Valley University right now.

1.  Get the basic course objectives, course description, and an example of syllabi from who ever is willing to share.

2.  If the text is required, get the text book and read it, looking for how you want to plan out the course according to the number of weeks.

3.  If the text is not required, get desk copies from various publishers to review and after reading them all, choose one that matches the kind of course you are creating.  You get to keep the desk copies, so I have quite a collection of texts to use as additional resources.  I always tell the students whether the text we are using is a "keeper" or not.  I remember the days of selling back books and am pretty good at judging if it's something a teacher would want on their shelf later rather than getting a few bucks back now.

4.  Create the syllabus.  Most colleges don't have a standardized format, so I make mine look nice with added logos, charts, and the college's mission statement.  I also add in a page about professionalism for those students out there that eventually bother me with their texting in class and showing up in their pajama's.  Syllabii are considered legal contracts that bind the college to it's contents and so I include things that might come up as a grievance later like class attendance, participation guidelines, and professionalism.

5.  Create a course schedule including assignment ideas, due dates, any assessments that I want to do, and the topics for each session.  One thing I always add to each course is one long term project that has the objective of practicality...something they can take and use in a classroom right away.  The long term project involves choice also so they have a bit more freedom.  Projects in the past have been things like a menu, a bingo board, a tic tac toe board, a timeline, etc.  which choices within to complete by a deadline. 
I like these also because the creativity of the student shines through.


  1. This post is something I am sure I will refer back to. I think I would enjoy teaching on a college level some day. I think I'll give it a shot when I get back from France. I have officially resigned in Alpine School District, and it feels weird to be officially unemployed after 13 years of service there. My Principal sent me an email saying that if I ever wanted to teach again to let him know, but I honestly don't know if I'll ever go back to teaching Junior High. For some reason, I just don't see it happening.

    Anyway, thanks for the post. I found it helpful, and I'll file it away in my memory as a good resource for the future.

  2. Love this one too, just like Tiff. :)