Natalia Linos, MSc, ScD
Executive Director, FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard
Here you will find resources that help you design a successful course. Learn about the steps for developing a plan that takes into account student needs, learning objectives, engaging assessments, and the teaching practices to help students reach their learning goals.
New course. What steps do I need to take to create and propose a new course?
Preparation for courses should begin several months in advance of the course start date. Below are resources to assist you in this process. If you have received departmental approval to develop a new course, please schedule a 1:1 consultation with Sejal Vashi, Director of Learning Design and Instructional Support, for course design support.
- CEP Course Management Process and Action Steps. This webpage outlines the general course proposal process. In addition, it provides valuable resources including the Registrar’s course offering dates; classroom hours and credit hour equivalents; and course schedule time blocks to help you with the planning process.
- Curriculum Center. This webpage provides information about utilizing the Curriculum Center, which supports instructors in the process of identifying online resources and tools and facilitating distribution of third-party materials as a commitment to providing affordable and quality educational content for students.
Objectives. What do my students need to know or remember 3-5 years from now?
The answers to this question will be the basis of your course objectives – the most important part in designing a course. This may be methods, theories, or even a lens of looking at a public health problem. You want to ensure that what students walk away with is aligned with what you wanted them to walk away with.
If your course objectives include components that weren’t part of your answers, reconsider whether those components are in fact crucial elements. Perhaps they’re smaller parts of your course objectives that can be used as session objectives. Or perhaps they’re parts of a new course you’ll want to create in the future.
- Bloom’s Taxonomy (Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching). This webpage from provides an overview of Bloom’s Taxonomy, a framework for categorizing educational goals. For each category – remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create – the page explains what the category is used for and suggests corresponding verbs to use when creating objectives.
- Writing Measurable Course Objectives (UNC Charlotte’s Center for Teaching and Learning). This webpage provides an easy-to-follow breakdown of writing a specific and measurable objective from the learner’s perspective. It also provides a helpful look at differentiating between course and module (or session) objectives.
Assessments. Do my assessments match my objectives?
A well-written course objective becomes obsolete if it isn’t properly assessed. You want to ensure that you assessments cover the right content at the right level. For example, does your assessment ask students to identify elements through a multiple choice quiz even thought your course objectives requires that students discuss these elements? On the flip side, is your assessment aimed too high by having students apply a framework when the objective is only intended for them to describe the framework?
- Assessing Student Learning (Vanderbilt University for Teaching). This in-depth guide provides helpful resources on assessments including forms, purposes, and methods.
- Using Rubrics (Cornell University Center for Teaching Innovation). An assessment should be accompanied by a rubric, “a type of scoring guide that assesses and articulates specific components and expectations for an assignment.” This webpage provides clear-cut bullets on considerations for using rubrics and getting started on creating your own rubric.
Content. Is my content created and displayed in an inclusive and digestible way?
As an expert in your field, it may be easy to fall into certain traps when it comes to sharing this expertise. For example, you may assume that the content should be shared exactly the same way you learned it. You may incorrectly gauge the starting level and/or trajectory or your students’ knowledge and skillsets. For these reasons, it is crucial to be intentional about designing in a way that is inclusive and scaffolded.
- Inclusive Course Design (The Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning). This webpage provides five moves you can make during the design phase to create a more inclusive learning experience.
- 6 Scaffolding Strategies to Use With Your Students (Edutopia). This webpage, while targeted towards educating younger students, provides six scaffolding strategies that can be effective no matter the age or experience of your students.
- Teaching & Learning IT Services. This page provides links to a number of services provided by the academic technology and/or media and educational technology services groups within SPH IT. Having an easy to navigate Canvas site, designing with the classroom technology in mind, and incorporating polls and surveys for interactivity are just a few of the ways to use technology to enhance your course.
- Digital Accessibility Content Creators. While this page is designed for website creators and publishers, it provides great strategies for designing your course materials – including slides, handouts, videos, etc. – in an accessible way.
Feedback. How do I know if my design is working?
Designing ways to receive feedback is key to determining what is helping your students learn, and what may be hindering your students’ learning process. While these feedback points can come about spontaneously, it’s also helpful to plan for some in advance. This can be as simple as plusses/deltas at the end of class; an aha discussion post at the end of the week; and/or a quick anonymous midcourse survey. When asking for feedback, it’s always important to address the feedback in a timely manner during the teaching of your course.
- Getting Early Feedback on Courses (PDF). This guidance provides Harvard Chan-specific questions and processes for getting early feedback.
- Soliciting and Utilizing Mid-Semester Feedback (Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching). This guide provides information on the why, when, how, and what of soliciting mid-semester feedback.
- SPH Course Evaluation. This webpage provides links to previous course evaluations so you can take into account trends – both strengths and areas of improvement – into the design of your next offering.
Dig deeper. Where can I learn more about course design?
If course design is an area of interest, we invite you to explore the additional resource below.
- How People Learn (Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching). This teaching guide provides highlights of research in cognitive science, and its implications for teaching and learning.