Compressed or accelerated courses require instructors to pay special attention to course design to ensure a robust and manageable course.
In planning an accelerated or compressed course, whether a summer or part-term course, draw on the principles of backward design. These allow you to focus on the learning outcomes essential for students and to build the course content and activities with those in mind. Ask yourself what learning objectives can be reasonably met in the time you have.
Whether you are planning your accelerated course from scratch or converting an existing full-term course, use your learning objectives to help determine what students “must-know” (prerequisite ideas), what they “need to know” (what they must know later later), and what would be “nice [for students] to know” (extra information that can be skipped) (Kops, 2014). The Iowa State Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning offers the following example for an Astronomy course:
|Must know||Should know||Nice to know|
|Prerequisite ideas||Less critical, but must know later||Can be put off without jeopardizing baseline knowledge|
|Types of galaxies||Kepler mathematical rules for orbits||Explanations for dark matter|
Quick Guide to Planning Condensed Courses
This table guides you through important elements of course design:
|My course has less time or more condensed time for students to . . .||Which I can address if I . . .|
|Process new information||
|Reflect on their experience||
|Study for exams||
|Redo or resubmit work||
|Ask for help on course-related components||
|Seek support (e.g., tutoring, academic coach, wellness, etc.)||
|Review foundational knowledge (pre-requisites)||
|Obtain new resources||
|Complete long projects||
|Receive feedback before the next assignment||
|Communicate with instructors||
Planning for long synchronous meetings (in person or online)
Although your course may be compressed over a period of weeks, individual class sessions may be longer than those in a traditional semester-long course. Here are some options:
- Do not lecture for the whole meeting: both you and your students will be exhausted
- Develop a class plan using blocks of time. This lesson planning tool provides ideas about types of tasks you can use to:
- Set the Agenda – Entry tickets/do nows, review/reading quizzes
- Motivate Interest – Real world case study or video/audio/auto
- Activate Prior Knowledge – Background knowledge or self-assessment
- Present Ideas – Student presentations or guest speakers
- Engage Active Learning – Think/pair/share or brainstorm
- Facilitate (Engaging!) Discussion – Small group discussion or debate
- Assess Growth – Minute ticket or 3-2-1 Survey
- Summarize Takeaways – Recap and Preview or Course Logistics
Incorporate planned (announced) breaks. Regular, pre-announced breaks can be useful for pacing yourself and your students.
Use some class time for working–whether individually or in small groups. If you give students time to work on assignments in class, it is generally more effective to give them time that is not at the end of class (otherwise they may rush through or decide to work on it later).
Kops, William J. (2014). Teaching compressed-format courses: Teacher-based best practices. Canadian Journal of University Continuing Education, 40(1):1-18.
Swenson, C. (2003). Accelerated and traditional formats: Using learning as a criterion for quality. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 97, 83–92.
For more information or help, please email the Office for Faculty Excellence or make an appointment with a consultant.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 6, 2023 5:18 pm
Last Modified: Thursday, July 6, 2023 5:18 pmCK
Teaching Resources by Montclair State University Office for Faculty Excellence is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. “Quick Guide to Planning Compressed Courses” is a derivative of Quick Guide to Teaching Compressed Courses by Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) at Iowa State University.
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