In some situations one need to design some compact courses for undergraduate/graduate students. I would like to know how to do it without any loss of generality, main ideas and any other important parameters of a usual course? Is there any difference between compact course design for graduate and undergraduate students? In fact I am searching for the main parameters which I should bring in my talks and those subjects which I should avoid.

By a compact course I mean the following:

  • Very Short: 1 lecture
  • Short: 3 lectures
  • Medium: 6 lectures
  • Long: 12 Lectures
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It sounds like you're trying to make a concise subject incomprehensible. $\endgroup$
    – user 85795
    Jun 26, 2014 at 9:04
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I've had to design short courses before. There are risks involved. You can go the survey route and still cover plenty of material, but at the cost of depth and student understanding. The other main option is to pare down the material - jettison anything not crucial. The danger here is that you strip out examples and/or damage the coherence of the course. $\endgroup$
    – J W
    Jun 26, 2014 at 9:15
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Something will be lost by doing this. You have to balance what. $\endgroup$
    – vonbrand
    Jun 26, 2014 at 12:12
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ you need students who are already past a certain usual level for the given topic. For example, I had an excellent student I taught DEqns in the space of 3 days or so (Medium by your lingo). It's not ideal, but, it served the purpose for him. Sometimes I do the same as an introduction to an independent study just to give the big picture and a sampling of examples. This much is true, you need to have a very good idea of where your students are in their development... $\endgroup$ Jun 27, 2014 at 2:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ As @vonbrand says, something will be lost. At a basic level, one loses time, unless your students make up for it with time spent outside of lectures. $\endgroup$
    – J W
    Jun 27, 2014 at 18:13

1 Answer 1


The purpose of a course is normally determined when the course is planned and designed, not when it is executed by an instructor. If this course is part of a college curriculum, then there is normally a planning process where this purpose is clearly stated and approved by a variety of stakeholders.

If you are engaged in this planning yourself, then the questions I would ask are:

  • What are the most important topics that you want students to retain?

  • What are some non-essential but nice topics you'd like to include?

  • What, if anything, will completion of this course certify them to do? Take some other course, perhaps?

  • What prerequisites do you need to impose to enable student success?

  • What resources will the students and instructor have available? Books, handouts, computers, etc.

  • Who are the students and who is the instructor?


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