Consistency in the weekly pattern of course activities is useful to students to plan their time and succeed in their studies. This article explains how to develop a pattern for weekly activities and communicate to students what they can expect from week to week.
Weekly course patterns are the sequence of events for course modules that employ consistent due dates. While some modules may have unique content, it is useful to establish a pattern for most modules. Most courses, whether face-to-face or online, follow a similar weekly pattern each week like:
Readings and a quiz
Some sort of weekly assignment
Interaction with the instructor and other students
Some weeks may not follow the pattern, but overall courses usually have a consistent weekly structure. Developing a weekly course pattern can be a tool to help organize ideas and curriculum when developing an online course. Consistency from week to week generally helps students plan and focus on the content, not the structure, of the course.
How to Develop a Weekly Course Pattern
You may choose to draw out the pattern as a table, a list, or a format of your choosing.
For each day, list the activities that will take place in a typical week. This may include readings, recorded lectures, homework, quizzes, assignments, discussions, or any other form of interaction with the learning content, other students, and/or the instructor.
Establish regular due dates by choosing 2-3 days each week when assignments will be due, for example Wed/Sun or Tues/Thurs/Sun.
When choosing between 2-3, consider if your students generally have more or less time to study in blocks. For example, some graduate courses have two due dates because students work full-time and have fewer clusters of time to study.
Sort or group the activities by the due dates you have established.
For each activity, indicate the interactions that will be taking place as one or more of the following: Learning-to-Content (L-C), Learner-to-Learner (L-L), Learner-to-Teacher (S-T).
Note the amount of time you anticipate it will take a student to complete each activity. Add a time estimate at the day level or activity level, for example, Tuesday (4 hrs) or Reading (1 hr). This can help students plan their week and help you ensure the course meets the University Credit Hours Policy 4080.
Use the information you listed to balance a typical week’s activities:
Do the due dates allow a realistic amount of time to learn the content, complete the activities, or study for a test?
Do the time estimates meet credit hour expectations? For example, a 3-credit course taught over 7 weeks will include between 16.5-19.5 hours of activity.
Do the activities include a variety of interactions with other students? With the content? With the instructor?
Add or remove activities for atypical weeks. With the changes, reevaluate the interactions and time estimates.
Example (List Style)
Here is an example 3-credit, 15-week course. Tasks are due three times a week (Tues / Thurs / Sun). Ideally, this will keep students connected to the course content. It also provides a time with the structure to interact with each other in discussions on Thursday and Sunday.
Due Tuesday (2.5-3.0 hours) Module Introduction (5 min) Reading and Quiz: Chapter 00 (120 min) Reflective writing journal (30 min)
Due Thursday (2.5-3.0 hours) Reading or video content (60 min) Homework assignment (60-90+ min) Group Discussion: Initial Post (30 min)
Due Sunday (2.5-3.0 hours) Group Discussion: Reply Posts (60 min) Exam Prep or Guided Independent Study (60-90+ min) Reading Preview (30 min) Module Self-Evaluation (10 min)
Example (Table Style)
Interaction Type (S-C, S-T, S-S)
Interaction Type (S-C, S-T, S-S)
Reading and Quiz
Video Lecture and articles
Group Discussion: Initial Post
S-C, S-S, S-T
Group Discussion: Reply Posts
S-C, S-S, S-T
Homework assignment submission
Open-ended activities. It may be helpful to include open-ended activities such as "Exam Prep" in a design pattern as it allows you to promote effective study habits. You set the expectation, and it doesn't require monitoring. Without this type of activity, it's possible to overload students with more work than they can manage, and the quality of student work suffers. Spreading out the work is far superior to cramming because it requires less effort to absorb smaller amounts of information and reaps the benefits of spaced practice. Besides, it's more flexible when students need to make an adjustment in their schedule.
What about variety? It's important to leave room for variety, but not so much that students don't know what to expect. Students like variety, but also appreciate a consistent schedule. An example is to have consistent days and times that all graded discussion answers and replies are due each week. Each week, after that deadline has passed, the discussion closes to further activity while the instructor grades responses. Students quickly adapt to course and assignment schedules if they are consistent throughout the semester.
Time estimates. Time estimates are used for several reasons.
To help students plan their study time in flexible chunks or blocks
To communicate the level of effort expected for a given task
To monitor the workload so it stays within the time constraints defined by the State Board of Education for credit hours.