Blueprinting a Course and Developing a Course Outline

Clayton R. Wright, PhD, crwr77[at]gmail.com

Blueprinting
You wouldn't bake a cake without a recipe, build a house without a blueprint, or travel across the country without a road map, so why would you design a course or training program without a blueprint? A blueprint is an overview of your proposed training or instructional program. It comprises a brief description of the intended audience, the program goals, the instructional objectives, the estimated time to complete each objective, the topics to be covered, the sequence of the topics, the program material, the instructional strategies, the learning resources, the reference resources, and the evaluation procedures. One way to construct a blueprint is to write each of the above headings (except intended audience and course or program goals) on the top of one wide sheet of paper. Underneath each heading, brainstorm the items that should appear. If objectives and other components of a blueprint are written on separate pieces of paper or index cards, they can be re-shuffled at will. (Of course you can also do this on a computer, but I find placing this information on a wall enables several people to see the entire course in one view and I can make astute observations about the course when I am just passing by the wall or working on something else.) Your completed blueprint will then consist of a series of pages. These pages are then combined with the description of the prospective students, the goals of the project/course/program, and the budget allocations to form a blueprint. The blueprint should be reviewed by your colleagues and the appropriate professionals in a specific trade, business, or profession. As you review the blueprint, ask yourself the following questions: y Are the objectives congruent with the goal statements? y Are the objectives sequenced appropriately for the subject matter? Are additional objectives needed? y Is there a mixture of objectives? Are there a number of high-level objectives that encourage students to apply their skills? Is creativity or innovation encouraged? Are learners asked to think critically and to work collaboratively? y Is the content appropriate to the students' characteristics and experience? y Is the content accurate and relevant? y Is the content appropriate for the culture or location (e.g. rural vs. urban) in which it will be taught? If the content will be taught online to a diverse population, you must be aware of the potential effects the content and the way it is presented may have on students who hold cultural and philosophical views that may not be shared by your institution. y Has a variety of appropriate learning activities been provided? y Do the learning activities provide realistic, meaningful tasks? Do they address ethical, environmental, and communal issues that are directly related to these tasks? y Are the instructional methods appropriate for the student, the content, and the instructor? y Does the blueprint provide students with the opportunity to practise their newly acquired skills and to receive feedback?

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Does it contain activities designed to motivate the students? Does it include a variety of resources that address different interests, abilities, and learning styles? Are the resource materials accurate, current, and suitable for the culture in which they will be used? Will the instructional media listed in the blueprint be readily accessible? If not, what alternatives should be considered? Does it include frequent assignments and opportunities for practice? Are the evaluation procedures congruent with the objectives? Is there adequate time to complete all items listed in the blueprint? Time must be allotted for local holidays or festive events that may interrupt your training schedule. Is the budget assigned for course development adequate? If not, what items could be reduced, re-shaped, or dropped from the blueprint.

In order to address the time allocation question above, you may want to construct a general format for each training day, and then fit the contents of the blueprint into the training schedule. The format and schedule should take into account the cultural norms of the country in which the training will be conducted. For example, in Latin countries, the lunch break may be two to four hours; people do not work during the hottest part of the day. If you are working in or will be delivering training in a Muslim country, you must allow for prayer during the day, but especially on Friday when men are expected to attend the mosque. When you design your instructional format, make sure that you take into account the needs of the students and the institution or host organization. Also, ensure that your format is flexible; you can never be 100 percent certain of the circumstances you will face such as snow in some countries or floods in others. In other words, clearly identify what is essential in any training program and what is nice to know. If you are designing an online course, ensure that you consider how students will access your course ± at home on their own computer, at work where employers may limit what they can access, at a local public computer centre which has limited operating hours, or at an internet café where they must pay for each minute they are online. Also, consider the bandwidth available to the students as this may limit the videos they can see and the level of interactivity you build into the course. If students live in different time zones or work, you may want to minimize or not include synchronized online activities. Do consider how internet-based activities such as blogs, wikis, interactive whiteboards, twitter, and a variety of social media can be used in your course. Whether you specify the use of social media or not, students in developed countries are likely to use a variety of social media as they proceed through your course. Thus, why not take advantage of this media? After you and other instructors have reviewed and revised the blueprint, it can also be examined by other subject matter experts. However, your blueprint should be reviewed by those responsible for mounting and financing the educational or training program. You must ensure that appropriate managers are committed and involved with your educational or training activity. A timeline for this review process must be stipulated. After all the feedback and recommendations for changes have been reviewed, the blueprint should be signed off by the chair or dean of the appropriate department. You are now ready to develop your course.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________ Blueprinting a Course and Developing a Course Outline by C. R. Wright, crwr77[at]gmail.com 2

Course Outline
Once your blueprint has been developed, you should consider drafting a course outline which will be given to your students. As you work on the preparation of the course, you will need to revise the draft course outline. By preparing a draft course outline at this stage, you will think about some of the questions that students want to know about your course. The course outline should at least have the components noted below. y Course title, course number, number of lecture and workshop or lab hours, and brief description of the course Prerequisites (what qualifications or courses should the student already have) and corequisites (what courses should students be taking at the same time) Instructor information including name, degrees and other pertinent accreditation, location of office, instructor availability (when are students able to meet with the instructor), office telephone number, number for the facsimile machine, and e-mail address Course expenses, if applicable, such as materials fee, field trip expenses, and computer usage fee Course objectives Course content including brief listing of major topics Required or primary textbook or learning resource Secondary resources or reference materials Teaching and learning strategies that will be employed. Indicate primary strategies such as lecturing, case study, field trips, group discussion, workshops, and online activities such as chats, blogs, and wikis. Students need to know whether they must travel and for how long in order to complete a field trip assignment. If they are required to do lab work, they need to know what protective equipment to wear. If they will be working in a workshop, they need to know if they must supply materials and tools. Evaluation. Include the items below: - List of major assignments - List of quizzes, test, and examinations as well as the approximate testing dates - Value or weight of assignment, tests, or any items that will be submitted - Penalties, if any, for delays, messiness, incompleteness, and so forth - Estimated return time for marked assignments - Grading policy: What constitutes a ³pass´ or ³fail´, or an ³A´ or ³B´ grade? You should remind students about their responsibilities as students (e.g., avoiding plagiarism) and your responsibilities (e.g., to be fair, to provide feedback in a timely and constructive manner).

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_____________________________________________________________________________________________ Blueprinting a Course and Developing a Course Outline by C. R. Wright, crwr77[at]gmail.com 3