Fall Course Prep

Putting the finishing touches on your fall courses

August 27, 2019

As summer comes to a close and we finalize our gear up for fall semester, many of us are putting the finishing touches on our fall courses. Are you teaching a new class this fall? Trying out something new? Teaching online for the first time? Exciting ideas you want to share?


Melissa Nicolas, Washington State University, Pullman, WA, US

Where did the summer go?! We’ve started classes already even though the mercury suggests we should be spending the day at the pool. Because I held a full-time administrative position for the previous two years, I was a little worried that I lost my groove when it came to prepping for courses, but it is like riding a bike: decide where you want to end up and then work backward from there. And I do have it easy this year since my first-time back in the line-up is with a course I have taught before. But time away has also afforded me the opportunity (curse?) to look at the course with a fresh set of eyes, and I once again was tempted—as I am every semester—to reinvent the wheel. I’ve chosen all new readings, changed all the assignments, and added a diversity, equity, and inclusion strand that is now carefully woven into every aspect of the course. In other words, I started from scratch. I’m excited to teach this new version and see how students react to it. Also, since I am responsible for faculty development, my experience has me wondering if a “break” from a course, even if it is just for a semester—is really one of the most important things we could do to improve teaching (acknowledging, of course, that the logistics of such a move might make this nearly impossible to implement).


Janni Aragon, University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada

I am all set for my five classes in terms of completed syllabi and have most of my slide decks ready for the Fall term. I am just getting to the Spring term slide decks as part of Operation Enjoy the Winter Break. I was an academic administrator for the last five years and am looking forward to returning full-time to the classroom. I taught during the last five years, but only two courses a term. As teaching-track faculty, my new normal load is seven courses. There is a new cohort of students who are new to me and I cannot wait to meet them. 

I have taken the Spring and Summer to include lots of new materials in my courses and each course has at least one open textbook and other open education resources. Likewise, from the last HASTAC conference, I am looking at ways to “Decolonize Technology and Reprogram Education” and this has meant thoughtfully adding more indigenous content to all of my courses, and ensuring that an Intersectional lens is evident with the readings and assignments. 

For instance, when I teach my American Politics course in January, we have so much material to cover and I want to ensure that we do not get derailed by tweets. The course is set up to view the election through the lens of immigrants or Black women. I have done this by including two recent books related to these lenses and I think the students will learn more by assessing the candidates narrowly. With my Technology and Society courses, we are paying special attention to identity, data analytics, and algorithms. And, you can bet these courses also offer an intersectional lens to technology. I’m looking forward to the new term.  


Leanne Doherty, Simmons University, Boston, MA, US

After six years in administration and a very productive sabbatical, I am back in the classroom full time this fall.  With that comes quite a bit of anxiety and excitement - how different are the students, am I the “old” professor now, do I still have the chops to teach, a skill I was recognized for during my previous life as a faculty member, but now, who knows?

I am teaching a new upper level course entitled “Intersectionality and Public Policy” - a course I created during my sabbatical. It is a direct result of student feedback indicating the need for more courses on policy making and issues of race, class, and gender within that policy making.  The majority of the students are senior majors, therefore I know I will learn a lot from them while facilitating the course.

I am also teaching a first year “Boston” course, which will focus on writing and female political leadership.  The challenge for this course will be working with first year students during their transition to college life while learning to write at the college level.  I will also be advising some of them, which is a direct extension of my teaching philosophy, so that will help me transition back to the classroom as well.

In other words, wish me luck. 


Readers, any advice for folks teaching new courses this fall?



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