by Julie Dodd
We’re getting ready to start a new semester at the University of Florida. Classes start on Monday, Jan. 6.
One great aspect about teaching is that, as the instructor, you have opportunities throughout the year to update and rethink how you do your job. Each semester offers that opportunity as you design the course syllabus — whether you are teaching a course for the first time or whether you are teaching a course that you’ve taught before.
Teaching a course like Mass Communication Teaching (MMC 6930) gives me the opportunity to use a combination of advance planning and of course development based on the students in the course each semester.
I’ve developed a course syllabus — mmc6930_syllabus_dodd_Sp2014_1 — but I also have built in flexibility to select topics and activities based on the class size and the students in the course.
The students in Mass Communication Teaching are interested in learning more about teaching — the best practices of teaching and learning and the big picture of teaching in higher education. So course planning and syllabus development will be a discussion area for us during the course.
So as a background to reading the syllabus, here are some of the steps involved in getting ready for the start of class:
- Ordered the course textbooks. The university sets a textbook ordering deadline more than a month before the start of the semester so that students will know which texts are required and will have time to seek out the most economical approach to purchasing the texts.
- Evaluated how the course went last semester. I do that based both on my perceptions (i.e., student performance on assignments and the quality of class discussions) and on the student evaluations. Reading the comments from the students last semester is helpful in making any adjustments to the course for the this semester.
- Created the course syllabus. The deadline for submitting the course syllabus was Dec. 18. UF posts all course syllabi online prior to the start of the semester to enable students to review syllabi as part of making decisions about course selection. http://syllabus.ufl.edu/
- Checked the classroom. The class meets in 1098 Weimer Hall. I’ve taught in this room before — and know the room’s strengths and weaknesses. I know, for example, that the room has whiteboards but never has any markers. So I’ll be taking my own dry-erase markers and erasers to class. [You always want to visit the classroom before the first day of class.]
- Set up a listserv for the class. I will email everyone before the class starts to encourage them to purchase the course textbooks and remind them of our first class meeting. Throughout the semester, I will send weekly class updates.
- Updated the course website. I am using this WordPress blog as the course website. I’ve updated the links to online resources, the images, the book editions and the handouts.
- Contacted a textbook representative who has been helpful in providing textbook resources for the students, as they will be developing course syllabi as a major project in the course.
All those decisions and actions by the instructor before the start of the semester can help provide the structure and planning to help the course run more smoothly not only for the beginning of the semester but throughout the course.
I’m looking forward to meeting the students in the course on Monday!