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Course Planning Template for Higher Education

Simplify your semesters and design your own course plan with our free customizable template.

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Laying out your course’s structure before the semester starts helps you pinpoint course objectives that each individual lesson should work toward. You can also explore different types of class activities and assessments aimed at helping learners achieve those objectives. 

Created with hybrid and online higher ed classrooms in mind, our free printable course planning template includes multiple helpful resources:

  • A quick questionnaire to help you brainstorm ideas and consider requirements
  • A customizable class plan template with options to track lesson plan status
  • Actionable tips for keeping students engaged and improving participation

How to get started with your course plan template


How do you write a course plan?

Writing a course plan can be as simple as scribbling down notes and thoughts for class activities, learning goals, and assignments. After gathering your ideas, organizing those notes in a lesson plan template helps you piece together each part of the class to ensure a streamlined, effective learning experience. Along with brainstorming, there are other steps you can take to tackle course planning:

  1. Get to know your students, their academic goals, and how your course fits into their graduation plan—don’t forget to also consider how you can best support your students in virtual and hybrid learning environments.
  2. Choose learning objectives by pinpointing specific, actionable, and measurable goals for each lesson and the course as a whole.
  3. Break your course down into the required steps you’ll need to cover to help students reach the class learning objectives.
  4. Select learning activities that help students acquire relevant information and skills—be sure to vary your activities to help students make sense of new knowledge and improve engagement.
  5. Add regular checks for understanding with interactive quizzes, discussions, and graded assessments.

What is the difference between a course plan and a lesson plan?

A course plan creates a bird’s-eye view of the learning objectives and topics covered in the class as a whole. To create a course plan, you’ll want to select the content, activities, and assessments required for students to achieve the learning goals you’ve established. 

An online course outline should also detail the primary way your course will be delivered, such as live classes over Zoom, asynchronous discussions in the class forum, or webinar-style recorded lectures. By planning your course, you get a clear roadmap for how your lesson content needs to fit together. 

Lesson planning, on the other hand, focuses on a single lesson or class period, down to detailed instructions for activities, assessments, and homework. Your lesson plan should list the specific learning objectives the lesson works toward as well as the sequence of activities and assessments. In essence, a lesson plan lets you zoom in on the details and ensure each class builds on what was learned in the previous one.

What is the structure of a course?

A course’s structure indicates the topics, pace, and sequence of activities and assessments. This information helps you support your students, work toward learning objectives, and effectively organize class content.

How do you plan and construct a course of study?

Planning and constructing a course requires research and organization of information before you even begin designing class activities and lessons. To get started planning, it helps to get an idea of how the course was previously instructed and how it fits into your institution’s academic programs.

  1. Take a look at previous course syllabi and talk to others who taught the class before.
  2. Consider what skills and knowledge you want your students to have after completing your course, then fill in the learning objectives in our free Course Design Template.
  3. List the activities, assessments, and assignments that will help students achieve course goals.
  4. Decide how you’ll assess students’ understanding of course materials, including whether you’ll use a weighted grading scale.
  5. Build your course schedule by considering which topics you’ll cover each day or week, the timing of large projects or assessments, and the pacing of activities and assignments. 
  6. Decide what textbooks or class resources you’ll need and how you want students to access them. 
  7. Consider what educational technology, including learning apps like Poll Everywhere, you’ll use to engage students in course content. (Be sure to share tutorials and logins with students before class starts.)
  8. Draft course worksheets, assessments, and the syllabus.
  9. Build on and refine this course plan—but be ready and willing to adapt it on the fly.

Need help designing your class?

Download this free course planning template as a starting point for creating an engaging and effective plan.

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