Tuesday, 01 May 2012 08:00

The Purpose of a Course Outline

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The Purpose of a Course Outline MP900177838 © 2012 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.


Did you know that a course outline is a legal, binding document? It communicates important information about a class such as course outcomes, class expectations, and grading structures. Both instructor and student are obligated to follow the content of the syllabus.

As mentioned the course outline includes the course outcomes or the list of things students will be able to do once they have completed the course. The class instructor must align his/her instruction and assessments to these outcomes. A student would have the right to complain if outcomes were not touched upon or an exam or an assignment covered topics unrelated to the outcomes. For more information on aligning course outcomes and assessments see the article “Mapping Out Your Course.”

Furthermore, students are also bound to the course outline. Common elements are institutional policies on academic honesty, such as plagiarism, examination policies and classroom conduct. Most institutions highlight similar items, but they are not always exactly the same. It is good practice to inquire into your institutions policies about course outlines.

Ensure good teaching practice by doing more than just providing your students with the course outline as a handout and/or posting it online. Take time during the first week of class to review it with them to ensure they understand it, but don’t just read it to them. Have students interact with it by creating a fun quiz about its contents and include a small reward or have them use their critical thinking skills at the end of each lesson by getting them to explain which outcome was covered that day. Try to think of creative ways to have your students realize this is an important document that can inform their learning.

What are your thoughts? How do you keep your students engaged with the objectives of the course? Post your thoughts below.

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Christie Robertson

I remember what it was like being a new instructor: too many questions and too many resources to sift through. My goal as a writer for Learning Connections is to help instructors with common teaching issues, whether they are f-2-f, blended or online. I want answers to those frequently asked question to be easy to find!