Short Format Courses

Designing a short-format course can present some unique challenges. We’ve assembled some resources to help you as you design your courses in Canvas.


Benefits and Challenges

  • More directly focused on outcomes
  • Encourages more succinct learning objectives
  • Faster grading turnaround for student
  • Promote active learning and creative thinking (Gaubatz, 2003)
  • Faster grading turnaround for instructor
  • Keeping students on task
  • Courses can be overwhelming to students


High Quality Courses

Short format courses allow the instructor to focus more on the outcomes of academic rigor and efficiency. The resources on this page may come in handy as you determine the appropriate balance of efficiency and rigor in your short-format course.

Successful Short Format Courses:

  • Are well planned
  • Use various methods for face to face instruction (micro lectures, small group work, individual work, etc.)
  • Utilize a multitude of teaching strategies
  • Focus on learning outcomes and student assessment (Kops, 2014)


Five Steps to Designing the Primary Aspects of your Course

A well-built condensed course should also focus on its specific goal(s), which should ensure that the student leaves the class having learned the essential knowledge and skills. The self-directed guide linked here will walk you through five steps, taken from Dee Fink’s (2003) Integrated Guide to Designing College Courses, which you may find helpful as you design the primary aspects of your course in a new format.

Blank Checklist

1) Identify important situational factors

2) Identify important learning goals

3) Identify important feedback and assessment features

4) Select effective teaching and learning activities

5) Make sure the primary components are integrated


Additional ideas and resources you might find helpful as you progress through each stage can be found in this table.


Survival Strategies for Giving Feedback in 8-Week Courses

people with word bubbles overhead

– Short Papers or blogs
– Discussions or debates
– Rubrics
– Formative Quizzes
– Peer Reviews
– Video Lessons
– Auto Announcements
– Long Papers
– Worksheets
– Long Assignments
– Graded Projects
– Professor assessed
– Walls of Text
– Student Emails


Designing a Hybrid Course

person using a laptopIn an 8-week course schedule, a hybrid course that combines face-to-face and online instruction may be more desirable to some faculty. The Arizona State University Design for Online Learning Toolkit suggests faculty consider the following questions before teaching a hybrid course:

  • Are you looking to emphasize active learning and problem solving?
  • Do you want students to take ownership of their own learning?
  • Do you want learning to be student-centered?
  • Would you like a focus on inquiry and dialogue?
  • Do you want to use technology to support your course and not drive it?

If you are interested in exploring a hybrid course design, you may find these resources helpful:


Analyzing and Determining Course Content

Wilson (2007) emphasizes the importance of prioritized learning and distinguishes between “must know” (prerequisite ideas) and “need to know” (less critical at the moment but must know later), and “nice to know” (can be put off without jeopardizing baseline knowledge) [Wilson (2007). When backward is forward thinking: Radical changes in instructional designs for summer school, as cited in Kops (2014)].

Take an inventory of the content to break down and prioritize content based on what students:

  • “Must know” – prerequisite ideas. These are the objectives that are absolutely necessary for understanding. These objectives may be used for rapid acceleration or for remediation.
  • “Need to know” – less critical at the moment but must know later. These are less imperative knowledge and skills that may be de-emphasized without placing the learner in immediate jeopardy.
  • “Nice to know” – can be put off without jeopardizing baseline knowledge. This is usually information that adds substance, breadth, or interest to a subject or a skill.

A typical breakdown of this inventory for a general astronomy class may look like this:


Must KnowShould KnowNice to Know
Prerequisite ideasLess critical, but must know laterCan be put off without jeopardizing baseline knowledge
Types of galaxiesKepler mathematical rules for orbitsExplanations for dark matter

Quick Tips for Designing Accelerated Courses (Rochester Institute of Technology)

Planning your Online Course

  • Eliminate “nice to know” content to focus on a few topics in depth.
  • Prepare the entire course in advance to avoid “wasted” time there during the course.
  • Include frequent, short assignments to help students stay on track with frequent practice and feedback.
  • Reduce required reading to just the most necessary.
  • Assign some reading to individuals or groups who summarize the content for the rest of the class to help students manage the reading load.
  • Help students maintain focus and energy by varying the pace and frequently changing classroom activities (10-minute micro-lecture, 15-minute think-pair-share, 5-minute group report out, 15-minute individual exercise).
  • Be accessible outside of class time so students don’t have to wait a few hours or a day to meet with you or receive an e-mail response.
  • Provide study aids like practice tests, lecture notes, and/or study guides, since students will have less time to prepare for tests.

    Additional Resources