Writing a Good Course Outline: Sample Course Outline Template

Writing a Course OutlineA good course outline allows students to assess the course for fit with their learning needs, clearly understand what is expected of them and how they will benefit from the instruction.

There are many possible components to a course outline but a basic course outline
is presented below and can be customized to work within various corporate training and continuing education situations.

Creating a course outline template is an efficient way to standardize course outlines and catalog details for future revisions or offerings. It is an integral part of a course proposal.

Course Outline Template

A course outline should include the following sections:

  1. Course Name, Number, Credits and Description
  2. Prerequisites/Co-requisites
  3. Instructors Name, Contact Info and Bio
  4. Course Schedule
  5. Learning Outcomes
  6. Content Breakdown by Session
  7. Instructional Methods Used
  8. Course Evaluation Process, Policies and Grading Scale
  9. Classroom Rules/Code of Conduct Expectations
  10. Course Materials

Basic Course Information

Course Name, Number, Credits and Description

Avoid using cute names that do not clearly indicate the course content. Choose a simple name that conveys the depth and breadth of the subject that will be taught. Assigning course numbers (a 3-4 letter code and/or number) will clearly show potential students the level of the course.

For example, courses numbered from 100 to 200 are typically beginner or foundation courses whereas courses numbered 300 or higher are typically associated with a more advanced level discussion of the topic.

A course description is an important part of the course outline. The course description needs to reflect exactly what will be covered in the course and how learning will be assessed by assignments and/or tests.


If the course is at an advanced level, it may be wise to request a prerequisite (a course that must be completed prior) or a co-requisite (a course that is taken concurrently). This ensures that students have a foundation level knowledge of the topic before completing the more advanced course.

Instructors Name, Contact Info and Bio

Provide the name of the instructor, his or her contact information, web site and/or biographical information. The bio should stress the instructor’s qualifications that pertain to the subject matter. List the instructor’s degrees and professional qualifications.

Course Schedule

Include the dates, times and location of the sessions. Also include special parking instructions or dates the class will be canceled or rescheduled due to a holiday.

How and What Students Will Learn

Learning Outcomes

The learning outcomes are the goals of the course i.e. what the course is meant to teach students. Often it is the learning outcomes that help a student determine if the course will meet their needs. It is important to use language that does not make false promises. For example, “Students will learn to…” statements can not be guaranteed as learning is highly variable based on student effort. Instead, start outcome statements with “Students will receive instruction on…” or “Students will be introduced to…”.

Content Breakdown by Session

Typically this section of the course outline is a session by session breakdown of the topics or course content covered. List the dates of the sessions or refer to each session with phrases such as “week one” or “day one”.

Instructional Methods Used

Describe the types of learning styles addressed in the course through the instructional methods used i.e. lecture only, lecture and group work, mixture of online study and in-class work etc.

Course Participation and Evaluation Guidelines

Course Evaluation Process, Policies and Grading Scale

Students will be very interested in how their learning will be evaluated through tests, assignments, projects, etc. List the different evaluation tools to be used with the percent of the final grade they represent.

Also include exam writing policies such as whether exams can be taken at a later date with a doctors note or whether late assignments will be accepted.

Classroom Rules/Code of Conduct Expectations

An outline of consequences should student be caught plagiarizing, cheating or acting out in class is outlined in this section.

Course Materials

Course materials include:

  • Required and Optional Texts
  • Readings both pre-readings and course readings
  • Supplies and equipment needed

A well written course outline can be a great course marketing tool, can set clear expectations for student and help instructors to prepare lesson plans. A good course outline can also help record course structure for future offerings.

Copyright 2010*, 2016 Joni Rose of Career Minded Consulting Services. All rights reserved. Any unauthorized use will constitute an infringement of copyright. Please contact Joni Rose for reprint permission.

*originally published on Suite101.com which is no longer online.

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