Preparing to Teach a Winter Course

Image of trees covered in snow.

Photographer: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

Published December 8, 2021

As preparation for winter courses comes into full effect, as an instructor, you want to consider:

  • Why are students signed up for your course?
  • What are students hoping to get out of the course?
  • What skills or information do you want your students to obtain? 
“Permitting flexibility in your course will allow for optimal outcomes as you are leveraging student feedback to guide your instruction. ”

Because winter courses are inherently fast paced and often rigorous, it is important to go into the first week with a strong framework for implementing your course. While you may have to wait until week one to establish students’ objectives and goals, you can set your course up to allow for flexibility based on student feedback, while still maintaining a set course. To maintain a set course, instructors should consider:

  1. Course Time Frame
  2. Course Objectives
  3. Course Outcomes.

Course time frame

As winter courses typically run for around 3 weeks, with everyday instruction, you can immerse your students in the course. If adapting a previously taught regular (Fall or Spring) term course, you may find that you must reduce some of the previously taught information. Rather than excluding units, think about how you can still share this valuable information with students by incorporating this information into other units. You do have a similar amount of time to teach a winter course, just keep in mind your students may require more active learning to avoid disengagement.

Course objectives

As winter courses are fast paced and rigorous, you need to keep your course objectives at the forefront of your mind. As previously mentioned, it is essential, particularly in winter courses, to encourage active learning. Active learning involves actively engaging students with the course material through discussions, problem solving, case studies, role play and other methods. Incorporating active learning in your course will allow students to think about how the material is experiential and relates to their lives, which results in increased comprehension. When considering comprehension, the instructor must also consider Course Outcomes.

Course outcomes

Course outcomes can often be simplified into numeric outcomes and final grades, but course outcomes can, and should, also be considered after any assessment or lecture. Course outcomes can be established on a daily or weekly bases, allowing for more opportunities to check in on student comprehension. For instance, a review of the material before or after every class can give students the opportunity to know what they should focus on as key takeaways. Permitting flexibility in your course will allow for optimal outcomes as you are leveraging student feedback to guide your instruction. There may be some material that students struggle to comprehend, and it is important to know this before proceeding, as it is particularly hard for students to ‘catch up’ in winter sessions.

While winter courses can seem fast paced and rigorous, since you typically meet with students every day, you ultimately have the unique opportunity to immerse your students in the material. Just remember that it is essential to maintain course continuity by regularly focusing on the three key concepts listed above.