The academic calendar will shift to offer 14 week semesters in 2025. This is intended to allow for more consistency between Fall, Spring and Summer semesters. It will also allow the addition of a mid-semester break in the Fall, matching the structure of the Spring semester, giving the ability to split each semester into two 7 week terms. If you currently teach in a 15 week format, you will want to change your course to 14 weeks so that student learning is maximized. Courses in an 8 week format will also shift to a 7 week format.
ITDS provides course design consultations to assist with this transition!
To get started on making this transition, review the recommended strategies below:
Prioritize Coursework Based on Learning Outcomes
The learning outcomes should be the same for a course, irrespective of the delivery format or the number of weeks. When shifting from 15 to 14 weeks or 8 to 7 weeks you will have to revisit your learning outcomes to ensure that you are focusing on activities and content that assists students in meeting them, and have the opportunity to reframe the assessments in the course.
As you consider what needs to change in your course, prioritize the course content, activities and assessments that are closely connected to your learning outcomes. It may be helpful to map (remap), utilizing backwards design to re-envision the activities or assessments in the course.
Rank the topics in your course on this scale:
- 1. Must Know
- Prerequisite knowledge attained prior to the course.
- Foundational knowledge needed to satisfy course goals and learning objectives throughout the course.
- 2. 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.
- 3. 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.
Modify Assignments to Align with the New Timeline
Make necessary adjustments to assignments, combining assignments or reducing their length while maintaining the learning objectives. Provide timely feedback on assignments to ensure students are on the right track. Integrate authentic assessments which connect student learning to real-world scenarios. Making weekly announcements that include to-do lists for the students, and/or wrap up and summarize the week’s work are methods to maintain student engagement throughout the course.
Review Your Course’s Workload
As you remove one week from your course, you may find it valuable to review the student workload. This may illuminate where you can trim in one area of the course or reduce in another to balance the workload. The Wake Forest University’s Course Workload Estimator is a useful tool to use to ensure that the workload is consistent, even after you have adjusted the coursework to 14 or 7 weeks.
Maximize Instruction Through Effective Teaching Strategies
Employ teaching practices that will enable you to maximize instructional time. Below are some strategies that may help make up for the 1-week reduction.
- Flipping the Classroom: Flipping the classroom is an instructional strategy that leverages a blended learning model to achieve what the name implies: “flipping” the traditional classroom model. One of the key benefits of a flipped classroom is the use of class time for direct interaction with the instructor, peer students, and the material rather than passively listening to a lecture. Students are actively engaged in activities that would be hard to do in isolation, or from home. Traditionally, live synchronous class sessions have been used for information relay/lecture while independent, asynchronous time was used for activities and homework. A flipped classroom is structured as the opposite, giving students their first exposure to coursework outside the classroom, often by reading or online video lectures. Once in class, the instructor guides students to get a deeper understanding of the course material through classroom activities which often reinforce course concepts through active learning (discussions, group work, jigsaw exercises, think-pair-share, and more.
- Active Learning: Active Learning is a student-centered approach in which students are involved in coursework by interacting with each other or responding to the course material in a manner that engages them beyond the traditional lecture. When used effectively, this approach can save you class time and enhance student learning. Studies and contemporary learning theory critique the impact of the traditional lecture on student performance and promote active learning approaches (Freeman et al., 2014). Active learning strategies and techniques can help increase student engagement in coursework, assist students in gaining a deeper understanding of the material, and strengthen their problem-solving skills (Grunert, 1997).
- Teamwork, Collaboration and Student Presentations: Teamwork, collaboration and presentations may also help extend learning beyond the designated class meeting time. Students may work in teams outside of class time, while developing their problem solving, communication, and critical thinking skills. It also gives them the opportunity to work with and learn from their peers. Student presentations may also be conducted in part or fully online, outside of class time. Video recordings can be posted online in Canvas so that class time can be used to discuss the presentations or provide feedback.
Leverage Assessment Tools in Canvas to Make Grading More Efficient
Canvas has tools that can assist you and your teaching assistants with grading student work. Grading more efficiently is definitely beneficial, especially when shifting your course format. Consider the following tips to save time while supporting student learning.
- Rubrics: Scoring rubrics help students understand what is expected of them in the assignments while streamlining the grading process. They can save you time when grading student work. A rubric can be created in Canvas and linked to assignments for automatic point calculations. Learn how to create rubrics in Canvas.
- Canvas Comment Library: Another way to save time when grading is to use the Canvas Comment Library. The Comment Library allows instructors to save and reuse commonly used text feedback in SpeedGrader. As an instructor, you can add new comments and delete existing comments in the Comment Library. Comments you have added to the Comment Library are accessible from each course in which you are enrolled as an instructor. For more tips and tricks on how to save time when grading, register for a Canvas workshop or review grading tips in our Canvas Faculty Orientation course.
- Carnegie Mellon University: Adjusting Your Course to 14 Weeks
- Iowa State University, Teaching a Condensed-Format Course
- Kops, William J. (2014). Teaching compressed-format courses: Teacher-based best practices. Canadian Journal of University Continuing Education, 40(1):1-18.
- Wake Forest University’s Course Workload Estimator