Creating new teaching material

This semester I am working on a new presentation textbook for my classes here at Tohoku University (okay, so I am also hoping I will be able to sell it to a publisher eventually too), and thought it might be interesting to write a little about how that is turning out. Experienced material developers probably won’t get much out of this, but if you are just starting out like I am, or have yet to start, you might find something useful.


My desk at work. Note the all-important coffee cup and blank notebook -I find it really helpful to explore ideas on paper before starting work on the computer.

For my presentation course, I was provided with some fairly rigid constraints: too many students (one class of 32 and one of 25), too few classes (maximum of 14, more like 13 once the first one is used up for orientation), and a not-quite perfect classroom (it’s a little too small for group work). However, this is actually helpful, as it provides space in which to work. Having complete free reign paralyses me.

My project is very much a work in progress at the moment, but here are the major steps so far:

  1. determine the goals of the course
  2. decide on topics to include, and the order to teach them in
  3. establish a class routine
  4. figure out what materials to create for each class
  5. write the materials
  6. scribble over the materials in red pen after class with corrections and ideas

I have realised those four elements in bold are the foundation of a class, and getting them straight is probably 90% of the work. Now that they are done, and in great contrast to previous courses I have designed, it’s pretty easy to sit down each week and plan my classes.

Right now I am mainly trying to get the content and the activities right, and not worrying too much about design.

Has anyone successfully completed a project like this? Am I missing anything?

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