Course Design

As you design a new course, or modify an existing one, we encourage you to look through some frequent questions that come through CPI. Each question leads to one or more links filled with suggestions and ideas to guide your thinking. If you would like further support for any of these questions, or others not addressed here, we can help you. No matter what stage your class is in, CPI aids in thinking through objectives, structuring your syllabus, designing online activities, building community in classes, redesigning assessments, and more. Contact us anytime with questions!

Initial Questions

  • How do I write a strong learning objective?

    QUICK TIP: A learning objective is a statement of what students will be able to do or demonstrate by a certain point in the class (usually the end). An effective learning objective is measurable and focuses on the student’s perspective and includes timing (e.g., “by the end of week 4”), demonstrable activity (e.g., “define”, “differentiate”, “build”, “design”) and product.


Live and Recorded Video

  • How do I make a good instructional video?

    QUICK TIP: Above all else, keep instructional videos short, typically between 6 and 10 minutes (so a typical 50-minute lecture might consist of 5-8 videos). Have a plan for what you want to say (a script or at least an outline) and recognize that your timings are likely to be different than a live lecture because you won’t have feedback in the form of questions or opportunities for clarification. Find logical breakpoints in the lecture, and try to have each video be independent enough that students don’t need to watch the entire set straight through to follow the thread. Leverage visuals when possible, but try to keep your image on the screen (even in a small box) at least most of the time to build personal connection.


  • Can I use someone else's videos?

    QUICK TIP: Thousands of high-quality instructional videos already exist; no need to reinvent the wheel! For software instruction and process-oriented videos, we recommend you start with LinkedIn Learning (formerly, to which all Wesleyan community members have access. For other academic content, all courses on Coursera is available for free to Wesleyan learners throughout Fall 2020; contact CPI to arrange access to any subset of courses you'd like. Of course, YouTube and other sources have plenty of high-quality videos, too, but require a bit more curation.

Community Building

  • How do I ask good discussion questions?

    QUICK TIP: Craft discussion questions - whether posed synchronously or asynchronously - that reflect on weekly learning objectives and do not allow for yes/no answers. Allow space for students to consider replies before anyone responds. For forum-based discussion, provide multiple questions for response.


  • How do I encourage students to participate in class discussions online?

    QUICK TIP: The Community of Inquiry framework suggests an effective online learning experience requires elements of social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence working together. Further, an effective pedagogical strategy incorporates the student interacting with each of the three main elements of the classroom - course material, the instructor, and other students - while allowing time for self-reflection. 



Additional CPI Resources