Developing or Redesigning a Course

Before beginning the process of proposing or revising a course, you should consult with your department and Division to confirm any guidelines and requirements.

Developing or redesigning a course can demonstrate commitment to improving teaching in your department or discipline and can form an important component of your teaching dossier. Please consult CTSI’s teaching dossier resource to see ways to capture this information.

General questions to ask before you start:

  • What do I hope students will know or be able to do at the conclusion of the course?
  • What previous knowledge of or experience with the topic or methodologies will students need in order to study this topic?
  • How will this course fit into the department’s programs of study?

Logistics questions:

  • At what level is this course best offered? Should it be a full or half year course, a seminar or a lecture course?
  • How many hours a week will be required?
  • Is this course a degree requirement or an elective?
  • Will this course require additional labs or tutorials?
  • Do the content, goals, or structure of the course require a specific type of room (seminar, lecture, lab?), limited enrolment, specific prerequisites, or skills?
  • Will I have a Teaching Assistant? If so, what role will they play (marking, leading tutorials?)
  • Discuss your conclusions with the appropriate administrative office.
  • What is the delivery mode for the course (face-to-face, blended, online synchronous or asynchronous)?
  • How can I use the Quercus learning management engine to support student learning?


As you approach the content for your new or redesigned course, you could consider the following:

  • Review course outlines on similar topics from your own department or from other institutions. 
  • Would you like to organize the material:
    • chronologically?
    • thematically?
    • from the broad to the specific?
    • problem-centred?
    • around particular sources or methods of approaching the topic?
  • How will you incorporate inquiry- and research-based activities into the course, including ways to incorporate your own research?


Consult your administrative office regarding any assessment requirements or policies (for example, some first-year courses require an oral component; others require final exams).

Consider the amount of time and any additional resources (e.g., TAs) that you will be able to devote to assessment.

Think back to your goals for the course, and consider what types of work (e.g., literature reviews, written reflections, research design) might best help you meet and assess these goals.

Be creative with the types of assessment you choose, but also consider that you can design traditional assignments in innovative ways:

Texts and Required Readings

  • Decide how much reading will be assigned each week and what kinds of readings (textbooks, primary sources, journal articles, popular non-fiction) will most help students achieve your goals for the course.
  • Look for new and interesting texts and articles to include by reviewing recent book reviews and journals in the field and in related areas, and consult librarians and colleagues for suggestions.
  • Consult librarians to see whether related special resources (archives, letters) are available in the university or another local library.
  • You may choose to put together a course reading packet. Remember to allow enough time to gather the material, obtain copyright clearance and have the packages put together and printed, and be aware of relevant deadlines, usually about one month before classes begin.

Educational Technology

What tools will you use in your online course? How will you incorporate online elements into your in-person course?

Course Outline

  • Review other course outlines (from within and outside your department/program) for effective and innovative ideas for how to organize and communicate course details and requirements.
  • Consult Developing Your Course Syllabus for more information.

Additional Resources

Resources from the University of Toronto

Resources from CTSI

Other resources

Center for Instructional Development and Research, University of Washington. (n.d.). Resources: Course design.

Includes links to a number of resources from the University of Washington on topics related to course design, as well as to several case studies describing course development and re-design experiences.

Berkeley Center for Teaching & Learning. (2022). Considerations for Large Lecture Courses.

Teaching Assistants' Training Program

For information on graduate student and Teaching Assistant professional development and job training, please visit the TATP for resources, events and more.

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

Enroll in the SoTL Hub to access resources, share ideas and engage with your U of T community.

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