Step 3: Creating a Course Map

Now that we have aligned our objectives, activities, and assessments, it’s time to map them out into a plan for your semester.

A great method for mapping out your course material is by scaffolding, which is the process of utilizing instructional techniques to move students progressively towards a stronger understanding and greater independence in learning.

By scaffolding and sequencing activities, we can promote learning based off of previously mastered content. (Horton, 2012; Reid, 2016).

Consider the following example:

Example with scaffolding:

Example without scaffolding:

When teaching medieval history, a professor asks students to begin a timeline of important events. Periodically the student adds to that timeline, including major events and important historical figures. By the end of the course, the student has progressively outlined several centuries of history. The professor then encourages them to reflect back on this timeline as they write their final research paper.

When teaching medieval history, a professor asks students to write a final research paper. There are no activities leading up to the research paper aside from unit exams.

Essentially, scaffolding allows the teacher to transfer his or her knowledge to the students by helping them to master the content (Reid, 2016). If you have students who are not grasping the content, it may be time to review your course scaffolding.

To get started with scaffolding:

  • Break down your big assignments/assessments into necessary skills the student needs to be successful.
  • List those skills – some of this may have already been done when we talked about alignment.
  • Look at the scope of your course and create mini assignments or experiences that will help students to progressively build on knowledge.
  • Then, begin to lay all of these ideas out in a course map (activity below).
  • Remember, it’s okay to be transparent and make learners aware of this scaffolding. When students know that learning is constructed in a meaningful way, it helps to engage and motivate them to push forward.

Here are some scaffolding techniques for remote classrooms:

Scaffold Technique:

Ways to use in a remote setting:

Advanced organizers

Tools that introduce new content by asking students to make a venn diagram comparing and contrasting information; flow charts to illustrate a process; timelines to illustrate progression; mnemonics to assist with recall.


Prepared handouts that contain information related to the topic, but with less detail and with encouragement for them to fill in their own notes.

Concepts and mind maps

Mapping out relationships either with an empty map or with one partially filled in.


Providing real examples, illustrations, problems – something that the student can connect with.

Question stems

Incomplete sentences or information that the student has to fill out. Encourages analysis and deep understanding by asking them, “What if…” questions.


Providing stories that relate to the content, taking abstract material and making it relevant to them.

Embedded Video Player: Zone of Proximal Development

Zone of Proximal Development

n/a – Added: 3/5/14

Activity: Create Your Map

Think about how you want to scaffold your content and utilize the handout below to map out your course.


Horton, W. K. (2012). E-learning by design. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

Reid, R. (2016). How Do I Scaffold Instruction? Retrieved October 03, 2016, from

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