Photo Credit: im.jenbas via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: im.jenbas via Compfight cc

Here is the second in our series of posts about what you are doing with your Summer to enhance your teaching and student learning. Thank you for sharing these great ideas with the UCAT community. In today’s post instructors share their ideas on overall course design.


“I am developing a new course on Social Impact Assessment with colleagues in Armidale, Australia. I travel there from June 20 through July 14. The only hitch it that the predicted lows in Armidale, which is at an elevation of 3,000 feet, are 12 degrees Fahrenheit. Put another frozen shrimp on the barbie, Mate!”

Joseph F. Donnermeyer, Professor, Rural Sociology, Environmental Social Sciences


“Inspired by my first experience with distance education recently, I’m developing a blended teaching approach for fall where students learn basic content outside the classroom so we can delve into bigger interpretive issues during class time.  To ensure students’ success with independent learning, I’ll be using Carmen for weekly reading-based quizzes.  You can see precisely what materials students struggle with since all quizzes produce class-level statistics for each question.  Based on last semester’s stats, I’m spending this week figuring out what I can do to improve students’ understanding of these trouble-spots for the next time around.”

-Emily J. Arendt, GTA/PhD Candidate, Department of History


“I could not think of a better time to take the Course Design Institute. I was off for May semester so I was able to dedicate my time to taking the Course Design Institute with UCAT. I was really transformed by the course. As an instructor, so much of your time is focused on lesson planning and the day-to-day grind of teaching. The CDI really allowed me to reflect on my “Big Rocks” (you had to take the CDI to know what this means)* and what I wanted to accomplish through my courses. I feel that the Summer, which is relaxing, has not only allowed me to discover my “Big Rocks,” but to really put some of the lessons and planning I was taught into practice. I am now able to see what my goals are for my students this Summer and I am able to think about my assessment and building my course for my students. As I mentioned earlier, it becomes difficult to plan out lessons and content, and also think about course objectives, but I have been able to do that in this Summer course, and am certainly more aware of just how valuable this is. I even have my oversized Post-It note to organize my lessons. I really feel that I could not have taken CDI at a better time and I am actually implementing the lessons I learned!

“I have gotten some very clear verbal feedback from my students on how they have been impacted by my teaching, so Yes! I have seen the fruits of my labor as I implemented some teaching strategies and have become very organized as I plan out my courses.”

-Ebony S. Caldwell, Lecturer, Teaching and Learning, College of Education and Human Ecology

*In the CDI, “big rocks” refer to the big ideas that you, as the course designer, have for the class. Your “big rocks” can be anything related to the course and/or your teaching that matters so much to you that eliminating them would significantly impact your teaching of the course. To identify your “big rocks,” you can think about how you want students to be transformed afterward, or what you think of as the heart and soul of the course. If you have items of all sizes that you want to put into a limited space (big rocks, small rocks, and sand that you want to put into a jar, for example), you need to put the big rocks in first. Then put in the small rocks and finally the sand, and all the smaller items will fill in spaces around the larger ones. If you go in reverse order, putting in the sand first, then the small rocks, you won’t have room for all of the big rocks.


“This summer, I am trying to incorporate a small piece of evaluation into every lesson I do. After a new chapter or lecture, students write down answers to questions ranging from “What did you find most interesting about this chapter?” to “What is something you wish was covered in this lesson?” These pieces of feedback will help me improve this course, one that I will also be teaching in the fall.”

-Kristy McCray, GTA, Kinesiology, College of Education and Human Ecology


“The Social Studies and Global Education M.Ed. students are enrolled in a seminar for which the course theme is Culture, Community, and Critical Pedagogy. We are taking advantage of this time of the year by having our classes at different sites throughout Columbus in order to meet with community activists, speakers and representatives at cultural centers, and participate in a walking tour of Columbus neighborhoods with a local historian. The objective is to help aspiring teachers make connections between the diverse cultures and communities of Columbus and the classrooms they will be teaching in this upcoming year as student teachers.”

-Jason R. Harshman, PhD Candidate and Program Manager—Social Studies and Global Education, Department of Teaching and Learning