© 2016 GW Libraries & Academic Innovation
Estelle and Melvin Gelman LibraryEckles Library at the Mount Vernon CampusVirginia Science and Technology Campus Library

The Parts of a Course

The image below presents a birds-eye view of the pieces of a course. The pieces are presented in roughly the order you will want to consider them in. So, you might be surprised that we suggest waiting to assemble a syllabus until you have most of the course elements in place.

However, the process of developing these pieces is iterative, with elements circling back on one another. For instance, Quality Matters (QM) Rubric is a nationally recognized peer review process designed to certify the quality of online courses and online components. Reviewing and using this rubric helps ensure that course goals and learning objectives tie to assessments, activities, and overall course instruction. It is a helpful guide to use before, during, and after building a course. See the section Evaluating Your Course Design for more information.

Assessment Plan. This includes your course activities and assignments, how you will assess the assignments, and your overall grading scheme for the course. See Assessments of Student Learning for more information.

Course Content. Content encompasses the materials you provide students to support the course learning activities. This includes readings, diagrams, multimedia presentations, and websites.  See sections on Building Community Online and Multimedia & Presentations for more information.

Class Schedule (Calendar). Include a specific course calendar listing all completion dates for all instructional units, assignments, group projects and tests/exams.

Syllabus. Qualities of a good syllabus are similar in face-to-face and online courses in that they provide all of the information required for the student to navigate his/her way through the course. Online course syllabi also account for policies and practices specifically related to distance education. These might include policies related to discussion forums, netiquette, online group work, use of wikis, and expectations for student engagement.

Online Course Layout. Every course needs to be delivered on an electronic platform, and for most GW faculty that is Blackboard. Course components remain the same. The menu is a critical part of this as it is what communicates and guides students to the various parts of the course. The course menu can be modified to create new categories, and to eliminate those sections you do not use. The menu can direct students to a complete course calendar, assignment guidelines, electronic reserves, discussions, and other common course resources.

Feedback and Revision Plan. This establishes ways of collecting data both during (formative) and at the end of a course (summative) to gauge the extent to which you achieved what you had hoped for in the course. See Feedback: Evaluating Your Course Design and Feedback: Evaluating Your Course Delivery.