What to Consider Before Hiring Academics to Write your Courses
When designing a higher education course, you want to ensure the content is academically sound and appropriately challenging. So in that case, who better to write your syllabus than an academic? More institutions are outsourcing course writing to academics and other providers because it often ensures effective course design and meaningful content.
But it is critical you only hire those professors and researchers best qualified to provide courses which prepare graduates for an increasingly competitive post-graduate career market. We take a look at what you should be considering before you hire an academic to write your course, to help you make the right decision.
What we mean by an “academic”
When we talk about “academics”, we mean learned individuals working most typically within higher learning institutions, and who have a relevant understanding of their field. They are responsible for the teaching, development, and research undertaken in their subject area, and without them, there wouldn’t be colleges or universities in the first place. They generally work at professor level.
Academics, like any professional, have reputations to maintain and pride themselves on being authorities within their field. They are passionate about whichever subject they specialise in and are responsible for maintaining quality learning in their establishment. Occasionally academics work in other places or independently, but they are most commonly found in typical learning institutions.
But, does it follow that just because someone understands a subject and teaches it that they can design a course effectively?
What writing a course involves
Writing an academic course involves much more than simply setting reading lists and points for discussion. It requires a full and comprehensive design, from the course outline to setting assignments. Typically, course writers must:
- Select the main topics to be covered. This involves referring to a previous syllabus and checking with colleagues to see if there are any mandatory or core topics.
- Refine this list to ensure they cover the most important material within the course timeline.
- Ensure the topics are suitable for the stage of the students.
- Develop learning tools and aids, presentations, homework and reading lists.
- Make sure the topics flow and build upon each other logically.
- Set exams and assignments and decide upon their frequency.
- Take and give feedback, from students, faculty members, and previous course designers.
Designing a course is a lot of responsibility and can be a very challenging process, so you want to make sure your chosen academics have the right skills to devise a relevant, modern curriculum.
Skills that academics must possess to write courses
As mentioned, academics should possess certain skills and attributes – some more specific than others. In general terms, course writers should possess these skills:
- Great communication skills. Your writer must be able to work with colleagues, students, and faculty members. They must also be able to give and take criticism, which is not always easy.
- Time management. Writers must ensure the topics they wish to cover can actually be covered in the allotted time, or else there is a risk students will miss critical learning outcomes.
- Planning and organisation. There’s nothing simple about designing a logical course with an easy-to-follow outline, so planning skills are critical.
- IT skills. Not all academics are up-to-date on technology and how to utilise programs such as PowerPoint to produce documents. You may be able to employ others to help out with these tasks, but it’s helpful if your chosen academic has a working knowledge of IT.
- Up-to-date knowledge of their subject and demands from the graduate market. They must be able to design and modify their course according to needs, and they should be flexible enough to do so.
Arranging for academics to write your course for you can save you time, money and resources in the long run, and form a great collaborative partnership.
Now that we better understand the general skills an academic will need to design a course, we can turn to the specific indicators you must look to before employing one to write your next syllabus.
1. Successful course accreditation
Any academic you employ to write a course for you should be accredited to teach it – you ultimately want your course to be accredited, after all.
Understanding a subject thoroughly does not mean all academics can effectively train students. It is necessary for you to check that an academic is qualified under the relevant framework to be a lecturer or training deliverer. They should have experience in course writing.
Australian institutions do hold their teaching staff to high standards, but you should always check that an academic is accredited and can evidence how they meet the framework requirements. Ideally, you should be looking to employ Level E Professors to write a course for you, as they possess the most practical teaching experience and subject knowledge within an institution.
Most importantly, you want to ensure the course you want designed will meet accreditation standards. The only way to make this a reality is to choose competent, qualified academics to design it for you.
2. Knowledge of academic conventions
Students should be encouraged to express themselves and construct arguments, but they must also appropriately cite and reference the sources they consulted during their research. A course writer must understand how students should appropriately reference articles, journals, texts and other sources of information to be able to grade work effectively and enforce the correct academic standard.
Course writers should be able to teach students how to present arguments so readers can evaluate the evidence presented. This means that course writers must also be able to evaluate and rank evidence, for example into primary and secondary sources. Before hiring an academic to write your course content, ensure they are well-versed in standard academic practices.
This ultimately means a course writer must choose the right level of recommended reading to complement the material, ensuring students are exposed to the best-respected material in the subject area.
It is vital that any academic who is writing a course for you is familiar with “Bloom’s Taxonomy”. But what does this mean?
Bloom’s Taxonomy is a model for encouraging higher-level, evaluative thinking based upon lower-level, foundation knowledge. The model is designed to be universal and understood by academics at learning institutions across the globe, promoting a consistent and equal framework for measuring success.
The educational goals and guidelines promoted by the Bloom’s Taxonomy model, from lowest level to highest level are:
Put simply, this means learning can be assessed against a number of cognitive levels. Any academic writing a course should be familiar with this model and its levels, and how to assess a student’s competency against each of the said levels.
This is why it’s vital that any academic you choose to write a course for you has some vocational training and an up-to-date understanding of both their subject area and teaching standards.
Ensure the writer understands how to design a course which:
- Provides students with the relevant knowledge.
- Teaches them to evaluate and build upon this knowledge.
- Stretches them to analyse and think at a higher level.
Effectively, they should be able to contribute to the further development of their subject area by the time they complete the course.
3. Experience in teaching and learning
Following on from the above point, the best course writers have experience teaching the subject they are writing a program for. If they have taught the course before, they’ll no doubt have gathered feedback from their teaching and will then be able to factor this feedback into their course design.
Experienced teachers and lecturers understand how students learn best. They understand how outcomes are best communicated based on the topic at hand and the student body – for example, some students learn better through visual aids and private study, others through lecture-based learning.
Academics with experience in teaching will know from previous courses how well students clicked with certain teaching methods. You want someone who can bring this experience to your course design – luckily, more and more academics are able to do just that.
4. TEQSA understanding
It is critical that any course writer is familiar with the expectations placed upon providers and institutions by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (“TEQSA”). TEQSA is the primary regulatory agency for higher education bodies across Australia and provides quality assurance checks. As mentioned previously, any course writer must be familiar with the applicable regulations and design their course accordingly.
If you want to ensure your course and institutions are fully compliant with TEQSA regulations, course writers should be thoroughly vetted for their understanding of their responsibilities. The great thing about these regulations is that they give students confidence in the course provided and the teaching staff, so it’s vital to ensure your course writers are up-to-date.
Ultimately, it is on you and your institution to remain TEQSA-compliant. Make sure you have the resources in place.
Your chosen academic, and your institution, should understand what skills are relevant to the current and future job markets. That way, courses can be tailored to suit the needs and demands of recruiters – giving students renewed confidence in studying with you.
Students need to connect with the course and engage with it to get any benefit from it. The course should align with their goals – it’s essential that academics are not just knowledgeable about the material, but that they know what current students want from their studies.
Academics who can best motivate students to learn and develop independent thought can avoid your course becoming a “cookie-cutter course” which could be criticised for providing generic graduates on a mass scale.
5. Quality degree from a well-respected university
The best way to avoid your course design falling into less competent hands is to collaborate with an academic with a degree from a highly regarded college or university. Professors and academics at these institutions are generally subject to even greater scrutiny and performance reviews than at other establishments, and so the education delivered is of a higher quality.
When an academic has a high-calibre degree from a prestigious institution, you can be sure that:
- They’ve been thoroughly tested and have mastery over their subject area.
- They were taught to think independently and at the highest level, as per Bloom’s Taxonomy. This means they can bring innovation and creativity to course design.
- They are passionate about the subject and can share this passion with students.
- Professors put them through rigorous and varied assessment procedures, such as written exams, assignments, presentations, e-learning and public speaking.
- They received a quality education from professors at the top end of their specialism.
Choosing a course writer with a high-quality degree is the best way to ensure their knowledge of the subject area is sound, and that they were exposed to the best teaching methods. This is essential for ensuring your own course will comply with the Framework and attract students of an equally high standard.
Before hiring academics to write your courses for you, it is important to bear in mind what you are trying to achieve. You ultimately want an accredited course which will attract the brightest minds and enable those students to think at a higher level.
But, you also want those students to leave your course feeling satisfied and confident that the skills they possess are relevant to the wider job market. When considering hiring an academic to write your course for you, ensure that they:
- Understand the subject well and can evidence this.
- Have a demonstrable teaching background.
- Can communicate well and work with others, particularly on the IT side of things if they’re less proficient in this area.
- Show awareness of which skills are currently in demand and likely to be needed in the future, for graduate mapping purposes.
Choosing a well-qualified academic to write your course for you could well be the best decision for that course that you make, so long as you choose carefully.
About Darlo Higher Education
Here at Darlo, we promote increased access to education with the hope of building a prosperous, functional and balanced society. We support government deregulation of the education system and support learning providers who implement programs to guide students towards brighter futures. We encourage diversity and fostering talent.
Our personnel have worked at top-level Australian universities and are passionate about helping design premium and quality courses across Australia, as well as other countries like the United States and India.