Creating Course Topics, Assignments & Activities

By TILT Staff

Once you have established the vision, goals, and learning outcomes for your course, you will be able to break the course into topics that map to the learning outcomes. If students study these topic areas, they will be able to accomplish the outcomes you have identified.

Then, in each topic area, you will design and structure assignments and activities that will guide your students through the topics.

The first step here is to list all of the topics you will cover in the course, and divide them into units. Make sure you set aside enough time to cover each topic. You may decide to include this list in your course syllabus.

Course Topics

  • What is the breakdown (subtopics) of the course topics you've identified that must be covered in order to accomplish the course's learning goals?
  • What are the activities that would best help students master each topic?
  • What reading, writing, and research assignments would best support students' mastery of each topic?
  • What are all the possible resources that could be provided to enhance students' exploration of each topic?
  • Of all the possible resources, which are the best to accomplish the learning goals in the available timeframe?
  • In addition to the resources you select, what additional information do you need to give students to get them engaged in the topics and to inspire their thinking and interest in the topic?
  • What questions do you want to ask students to engage their thinking about the topic and what questions do you want them to ask themselves?

Course Activities and Assignments

Some of your activities and assignments will prepare students to demonstrate their knowledge (building block assignments) and some will be "key assignments". The Key Assignments are those that demonstrate student mastery of the course's learning outcomes. As you identify key assignments, you will also need to develop assessment tools or rubrics for those assignments that can accurately evaluate student learning.

Activities and assignments may include, but are not limited to:

  • Written reports
  • Oral presentations
  • Multi-media presentations
  • Critical analysis
  • Scenarios and/or simulations
  • Case studies
  • Field Trips
  • Portfolio work
  • Interviews and other research assignments
  • Product development
  • Role plays
  • Self-assessment inventories
  • Exams

Activities and Assignments can be interactive, project-based, team-based, and/or exam based. Some activities and assignments will have a research component. If the assignment requires research, make sure that the amount of research required is appropriate to the course level and subject, and that students can take advantage of library resources, databases, and/or Web sites.

Finally, create assignments that discourage plagiarism. For example, have students write a reflection at the end of the assignment discussing their work process and what they learned from the work and the topic. Have them identify why they choose their topic.


For each activity or assignment, include:

  • Introductory Statement - Let students know not only the "what" of the assignment, but the "why" - how it relates to your learning goals, what you want them to gain from the assignment.
  • Overview - a detailed description of the assignment
  • Deliverables - indicate exactly what the student must do to complete the activity or assignment, including any products that must be turned in.
  • Grading - develop a rubric for each key assignment and the percentage of the student's grade that corresponds to each component of the assignment.
  • Resources - list all resources that will help the student complete the assignment.

For each exam-based key assignment:

  • Organize questions into those that are knowledge-based, skills-based, and attitude based.
  • Knowledge-based questions include multiple choice, short answer, true/false, and match.
  • Skills-based questions include short and long answers and essays.
  • Attitude-based questions include short and long answers and essays.

To Learn More, Please View:


Shaun Beaty – TILT Director of Course Development and Instructional Technology

Peter Connor – TILT Web Content Writer and Editor