How much time should you plan to spend designing your course?

c3Design is based closely on a 5-day, face-to-face course design institute. The institute includes formal instructional periods, exploratory activities, independent work, and peer feedback sessions. If you were to replicate this process through c3Design, we expect it would take a comparable amount of time.

One of the important characteristics of the face-to-face institute is the ability of instructors to interact with colleagues, share ideas, and learn together. For this reason, we strongly recommend you move through c3Design with a community of practice—either virtually or in person—and punctuate specific design steps with discussion, Q&A sessions, and peer feedback. As a group, you might move through the five recommended sessions in one week, or spread them out over several weeks or even a semester.

The following pacing guide is designed to help you successfully navigate and complete the program with a group of instructors. The guide provides a high-level overview of each meeting, suggested work to complete prior to the meetings, and possible activities you might undertake during meetings. Depending on your specific circumstances, some of the sessions can be combined and others split up to allow more time for discussion. For example, sessions 1 & 2 can easily be combined into one meeting, while session 5 might be better suited for two separate meetings. So that discussions and feedback sessions aren't rushed, plan to spend at least 90 minutes per meeting. Importantly, before you get started, be sure everyone in the community of practice agrees to the schedule and understands the expectations on their time.

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Focused on setting up basic details of your course, describing your situational factors, and exploring student motivation.


Work to complete prior to 1st group meeting. Plan to have work-in-progress available and ready to share.

  • Determine as many basic details about your course as possible.
  • Carefully consider your situational factors, especially your special pedagogical challenge.
  • Consider other opportunities to positively motivate your students.

Possible activities for group meeting. Depending on the size of the group, these may be whole group discussions or small group breakouts.

  • Share your situational factors, especially ones that seem particularly challenging for you, and explore creative ways to work around them.
  • Summarize value-expectancy theory of motivation and discuss the student motivation Exploration Activity, focusing conversations on teaching behaviors for which the answers don’t seem clear-cut.

Focused on highlighting the differences between content- and learning-focused syllabi, defining backward-integrated design, developing your learning goals and objectives, and ensuring alignment.


Work to complete prior to 2nd group meeting. Plan to have work-in-progress available and ready to share.

  • Consider the new possibilities and opportunities for you and your students that come with shifting to a more learning-focused course design.
  • Determine your learning goals and objectives, ensuring that they reflect your intentions and span Fink’s Taxonomy of Significant Learning.
  • Create a new learning-focused course description that excites you and captures your students’ imagination.

Possible activities for group meeting. Depending on the size of the group, these may be whole group discussions or small group breakouts.

  • Discuss the syllabus Exploration Activity, focusing on your general reactions to the documents, perceptions of the course described by the documents, and perceptions of the instructor associated with the courses.
  • Share good ideas you discovered from your exploration of the other examples of learning-focused syllabi.
  • Summarize the principles of backward-integrated design, the various domains of Fink’s Taxonomy, and the differences between goals and objectives.
  • Share and get feedback on your learning goals and objectives with each other, considering whether your objectives are mapped correctly and they are balanced among the categories.
  • Share and get feedback on your course descriptions, focusing on whether they might capture students’ imaginations or create a sense of wonder for them.

Focused on exploring and defining different types of assessment, developing an assessment plan, and creating learning-focused assessments.


Work to complete prior to 3rd group meeting. Plan to have work-in-progress available and ready to share.

  • Define your major assessment activities (i.e. buckets), taking care that they align with your learning objectives.
  • Draft short descriptions for each major assessment activity that help students understand the value of the assessments.
  • Develop a transparent description for one of your major assignments.
  • Continue to check alignment and adjust as necessary.

Possible activities for group meeting. Depending on the size of the group, these may be whole group discussions or small group breakouts.

  • Summarize the three main types of assessment.
  • Share and get feedback on your assessment buckets and description and look of clarity and alignment with your learning objectives.
  • Share and get feedback on your transparent assignment description, focusing on the clarity of purpose, task, criteria, and alignment with your learning objectives.

Focused on motivating the science behind active learning, exploring a range of possibilities, and developing your assignments and activities.


Work to complete prior to 4th group meeting. Plan to have work-in-progress available and ready to share.

  • Determine your overall pedagogical strategy, ensuring that it leverages the science behind activity learning.
  • Begin to develop 1-2 specific activities to support one of your major assessments.
  • Check alignment and adjust as necessary. Refine learning activities.

Possible activities for group meeting. Depending on the size of the group, these may be whole group discussions or small group breakouts.

  • Summarize the science behind active learning and discuss ways to incorporate spaced-retrieval practice, interleaving, and elaboration into your course.
  • Compare and contrast the different pedagogical strategies.
  • Share and get feedback on possible learning activities.

Focused on helping you create a sense of wonder about your course, fleshing out your course calendar, setting your expectations, checking the quality of your design, and considering next steps.


Work to complete prior to 5th group meeting. Plan to have work-in-progress available and ready to share.

  • Begin to develop your course calendar, focusing on the questions that might create a sense of wonder for your students.
  • Define your expectations, taking care that they are supporting the learning environment you’re attempting to create.
  • Self-assess your syllabus and look for opportunities to focus your course even more on learning.
  • Consider ways to help students understand their role in your course, how to effectively navigate it, and how to get help.
  • Determine your continuous improvement strategy.

Possible activities for group meeting. Depending on the size of the group, these may be whole group discussions or small group breakouts.

  • Discuss the syllabus rubric and the possibilities it opens for you.
  • Share and get feedback on your syllabus, focusing on the aspects of the design you find particularly appealing, how well the objectives, assessments, and classroom activities are aligned, and how might students react to the syllabus/course.
  • Share and get feedback on your 1st-day activities.
  • Share and get feedback on your continuous improvement strategy.

Next Step -> Part I Overview