Curriculum Development Guidelines
When writing curriculum for web-based delivery there are a number of things to keep in mind.
A) Overall curriculum re-design for web-based delivery
- note that your Learning Outcomes must be maintained regardless of delivery platform
- consider what's important to YOU as an instructor: developing scientific inquiry? engaging students in scientific debate? encouraging
interaction with the world outside the classroom? Then start to think about ways to support those goals at a distance.
- keep in mind that the computer can feel like a rather 'cold' interface, especially to students who are not accustomed to
learning in this way. Keep your curriculum writing friendly & inviting. Don't use your formal written voice; try to use your
more welcoming and informal classroom voice when writing online curriculum.
B) Organization of your material
- is your course semesterized/paced or open/self-paced? Distance-delivered courses with some degree of 'bookending'
(start & finish dates) tend to have better completion rates. However since your curriculum will be offered many
times use 'Week 1', 'Week 2', etc. or something like this instead of specific dates. The specific dates can be
added at the beginning of each semester, by the instructor who is teaching the course.
- divide your content into reasonable units. If your course is to be offered in semesterized format, consider
a standard 15 week organization.
- have a relatively consistent collection of resources for each unit. For example, every week may include a
welcome message, a reading assignment, a lab assignment, some sample calculations, a quiz on the reading assignment,
an outside link (e.g. YouTube) and a wrap-up/summary.
- devise a schedule of midterm(s), final exam(s), major assignments or labs, deadlines for participation grades.
C) Building in interactivity
- research shows that prompt response from the instructor greatly increases success. Ensure that you have scheduled
in activities & assignments that will promote student-instructor interaction, especially in the first weeks of the course
- whenever possible, encourage student-student interaction. Group assignments, debates, collaborative lab work are all possible online.
- Although we don't require you to put your curriculum into a Course Management System (CMS), you must keep in mind that it is
going to be used in one. (NIC uses WebCT/Blackboard, COTR uses Moodle, and other institutions use other CMSs.) Therefore make
component documents relatively short to minimize students having to scroll excessively when reading your curriculum. We require
you to post Word Documents (in 2003 format) to keep these options open. Each institution will be able to put the curriculum into
the CMS of their choice.
- Keep your formatting EXTREMELY simple, so the resulting documents will be clean and un-cluttered and they will go into a CMS
with minimal formatting issues. Keep in mind that Word adds tons of 'junk code' that tends to gum up html pages when your work goes
online. Avoid adding white space (indents, tabs, lots of bullets or numbering, columns, etc.). Use tables sparingly.
- Supply a Course Map that will indicate how documents and other resources are related. Also to aid this linking adopt a
consistent file naming system.
- For equations use Math Type so that students can download the free Math Player and have clear enlarged presentation of
E) Designing for curriculum renewal
- To extend the life cycle of your curriculum keep in mind that text books and software WILL go to new
editions and versions or in some cases even be discontinued. Sometimes this will occur while you are writing
and often it will occur within 1 to 3 years of the completion of your work. We want your work to survive these
changes with only minimal updating required to keep it current. Therefore whenever possible tie your curriculum to
specific learning outcomes rather than to specific chapters in a specific text or piece of software. Keep in mind that
you or someone else will need to update your curriculum probably many times and sooner rather than later. Adopt strategies
that will allow for easy maintenance that requires minimal time on the part of the person doing the maintenance.
- One strategy would be to keep any references to a text or piece of software as generic as possible.
That would have the added advantage to students that they will be able to use an older text or piece of software
and the Internet sources that are available.
- When references to specific texts or software are required another strategy would be to keep these references
in a separate module that is referenced from within the course material.
- You may have another way of dealing with this issue.
- There WILL be un-expected changes and advances in your field. By keeping each document relatively short you or someone else will have an easier job making updates to your curriculum when this occurs. A smaller document is easier to remove, update, replace, or add than a larger document without disrupting the rest of your course.
F) Copyright issues
- The curriculum we produce in this project will be placed on SOL*R under the BC Commons. This means that all BC post
secondary institutions will have access to it and be able to use it. We also expect some K - 12 institutions may want to
look at our work.
- Under the BC Commons you or your home institution (depending on the policy at your institution) retains the copyright
for our work, but you give permission for any BC Post Secondary institution to use it without pecuniary considerations.
- Try to avoid using material you do not have the copyright for. If this can't be avoided, then we need official permission
to include it as part of our deliverables. This will mean writing to the copyright holder and getting a letter of permission
and the curriculum author is responsible for this.
- If you foresee any copyright issues please contact the Project Coordinator (Ron Evans) and he'll check on it with our funders.
This resource, from Georgian College in Ontario, has detailed criteria to assist you in curriculum re-design for the web.
See also AScW's Science Course Design Template.