Five Course Design Principles

Key Principles for Creating a Strong Course

Created by CFU founder, John Hand, these five course design principles are honed from his years of  programming great adult learning classes:

Principle #1: CFU courses are designed for active, busy adults who want to make good use of their time and get information they can put to use right away. Think about the three to five points that are most essential and how you can make your course practical, relevant, and vital.

Principle #2: Most teachers of adults make the mistake of starting with very elementary background information and working toward the “good stuff.” This often bores many students who already have experience in the field. How can you “start in the middle” with some terrific material and then backfill the introductory stuff?

Principle #3: Students come with many different levels of prior experience. A quick “needs and experience” assessment check-in before you begin to deliver your material will help you to know what your students are hoping to get from class. Be ready to tailor your presentation to meet the needs of the students who arrive in any given session.

Principle #4: The CFU catalog course description is an “implied contract” between teacher and student concerning what the course will teach, how it will be taught, and what benefit the student will receive. The best course descriptions are specific about what, when, and how the skills will be taught.

Principle #5: Materials fees are sometimes needed to provide essential supplies for class projects or pay for admission tickets for class outings, etc. Most often these fees are paid in class, directly to the instructor, to cover out-of-pocket costs for copying and producing materials. CFU seeks to keep these fees as low as possible and expect that you will charge just what you need to cover your costs. We need an accurate statement of what your fees will cover–what supplies in what quantities.

More Thoughts on Creating High Impact Courses by CFU founder John Hand:

Make your CFU experience a workshop instead of a seminar.

Let students work on something rather than simply listen to a lecture. Structure your session to have as much interaction and hands on practice as you can. Use your handouts to deliver background information. This approach takes creativity to implement, but it pays huge dividends. An involved student is a happy student.

Don’t start at the beginning! Start with a real nugget of content.

Do not think in pure linear-sequential terms where you begin with the background or history and then move forward to the most current and valuable information. Jump right into the good stuff, the practical stuff, the “insider’s secrets,” and then backfill the foundation info. Teachers make a mistake waiting for the last half hour of class to deliver the best content.

Let the class know where you are taking them. (Use your excellent handouts.)

Give them a list of the questions you will answer. (Answers mean more if you know what question they connect to.) Lay out a roadmap of the session ahead. Create easy-to-read handouts with diagrams, background info, and places to take notes.

Be ready with the “front lines” info and “insider secrets.”

Students love lists like:

  • Here are the three most creative developments of the last two years…
  • Here are the biggest mistakes to avoid…
  • Here are the five things you absolutely need to know…
  • Here are ten things that will save you time…

Do some original research if you can.

A simple survey can payoff with original findings. Think about how you could send out a questionnaire to your colleagues to divine some great new information to bring to class.

Pick your examples or cases with panache. A case study from Harvard Business Review energizes students more than a case study from your Uncle Charlie.

Have pathways for students to continue learning.

Give them a list of web sites to visit, magazines to subscribe to, a bibliography, organizations they can join, other classes to take. Make your class the beginning.