overhead photo of female student in lounge chair working on laptop

Converting Courses to Accelerated Formats

Teaching a compressed version of your course is an opportunity to thoughtfully repackage your content to accommodate the accelerated nature of this format. Accelerated courses require special attention to the distribution of work that results from combining content and activities previously spread across fifteen weeks. Deciding on how to best organize and order your content, activities, etc. requires estimating how long it takes students to complete each task. This estimation can be easy for some tasks (we can easily estimate time to watch a lecture video based on its length) and more challenging for others (students read and annotate text at different paces).

Best Practices for Converting Courses to an Accelerated Format

Consider the following best practices for redesigning courses to accelerated formats, which prioritize accommodating your students’ need for structure, flexibility, and transparency while assisting you with calculating the out-of-class workload:

Step 1
Rank each topic as either must know, need to know, or nice to know (Kops, 2014) based on course learning goals and module-level learning objectives.

Must know:

  • Prerequisite knowledge attained prior to the course.
  • Foundational knowledge needed to satisfy course goals and learning objectives throughout the course.

Need to know:

  • Less critical at the moment but must know later.
  • De-emphasizing less imperative knowledge and skills without placing the learner in immediate jeopardy.

Nice to know:

  • Can be put as a lower priority without jeopardizing baseline knowledge.
  • This is usually information that adds substance, breadth, or interest to a subject or a skill.
Step 2
Combine and reorganize your course’s topics and content.

What units/topics are compatible considering their content and learning goals?

  • Topics should be compressed in a manner that thoughtfully considers their respective learning goals.
  • Will these topics make sense being presented together in this sequence?

What topics have been most challenging for students in the past?

  • If a particular unit or topic has proven historically difficult for students, ensure you plan accordingly. That confusion may be exacerbated in a compressed format.
  • Reduce the workload for that particular week so students can dedicate the time necessary to mastering that material.

What amount of written and/or video lecture content sufficiently covers each topic?

  • As you repackage your content, consider the amount of lecture content and reading material attached to each topic.
  • Is the reading/watching commitment balanced and distributed as evenly as possible across the four weeks?
Step 3
Determine if activities and assessments accommodate the accelerated format of the course.

Which activities assess learning goals while being logistically feasible for an accelerated course?

  • For example, a multi-part group project requiring extensive collaboration may not be the best fit unless this is factored into your course schedule.

How can we facilitate collaboration while being considerate of holiday schedules and workload?

  • Integrated technologies in Canvas such as VoiceThread, Flipgrid, Padlet, and others can facilitate collaboration in a lower-stakes, asynchronous manner while allowing students flexibility to contribute at their convenience.
  • Use a variety of teaching strategies to promote student engagement.
  • Incorporate experiential learning strategies such as problem solving, role-play, simulations, and skill practice.

What are the best ways to assess student learning in an accelerated format?

  • For assessments in an accelerated course, consider placing emphasis on application and synthesis (authentic assessment!) rather than memorization and recall. Authentic assessments help to relate student learning in a real world context, which can help promote student engagement.
  • Include frequent, small assignments to help students stay on track with frequent feedback.
Step 4
Build a consistently organized Canvas course using Montclair State’s online course template.

Content should be organized into consistently designed learning modules in Canvas using Montclair State’s OCIA model.

Step 5
Communicate frequently and promote transparency.

Post weekly announcements with to do lists and the wrap up for that week to keep students engaged.

Provide online Q & A sessions to let students post any questions related to the course.

Step 6
Provide additional student support.

Provide students with study guides, lecture notes and practice exercises to help them better understand the learning materials in a short period of time.

References and Resources
  • Carnegie Mellon University, 2013. Solve a teaching problem: Assign a reasonable amount of work.
  • Kops, William J. (2014). Teaching compressed-format courses: Teacher-based best practices. Canadian Journal of University Continuing Education, 40(1):1-18.
  • Lockyer, J. Ward, R. & Toews, J. (2005) Twelve tips for effective teaching. Medical Teacher, 27(5). P 392-395
  • McDaniel, E. A. (2011). Level of student effort should replace contact time in course design. Journal of Information Technology Education, 10(10).
  • Turner, T. (2005). Student workload in the online course: Balancing on a rule-of-thumb. Educator’s Voice, 6(3).

The following sites help you estimate the amount of time that a student needs to complete a task.