Course Planning

Course planning consists of regular review, creation, revision, and deactivation of courses, subjects, and items that support awarding of credit (such a credit by departmental exam, placement tests, third-party test credit etc.).

Courses provide the basic foundation/facilitation for program planning and are an important piece of the UW-Madison’s Academic Structure. Students enroll in classes that fulfill program requirements and meet learning outcomes culminating in a cohesive plan of study in any given academic area. Courses should be reviewed holistically in terms of their placement in a subject, the department, school/college, and university to ensure they meet the mission of the related areas and don’t create unnecessary duplication. Department own course subject listings and are responsible for all the courses listed under that subject (even if cross-listed). Courses are not owned by individuals.


Courses and subject listings are reviewed and approved through academic governance. The approval process includes (but is not limited to) the department, school/college and the University Curriculum Committee as the final, interdisciplinary campus-level governance, ensuring campus standards across the university.

Course design

Course planning and course design are separate but related course development processes. Course planning involves the governed, durable content at the catalog-level. Course design is the implementation of that governed content.

Course design is best understood as an ongoing process to improve the classroom experience and allows instructors to customize the delivery of course material within the bounds of the governed content. Design of a course can take place independent of course planning.

Course design decisions that do not require a course proposal include:

  • the type or number of assessments administered
  • number of, or list of assigned readings
  • inclusion of a guest speaker
  • materials used to reach learning outcomes
  • the pace of content delivery
  • the grading scale (distribution of letter grades)
  • grading percentages attributed to various assignments, exams, etc.

Instructors may utilize services such as the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Mentoring to engage in course design. While course design is important for the classroom experience, the design of a course is not approved at the campus-level. If changes to the delivery and/or design of a course significantly differ from the governed course elements, the subject owners must submit a course change proposal or create a new course to appropriately communicate to our stakeholders UW-Madison’s offerings.

For example, an instructor might notice that some students in a course are struggling more than others. They may engage with the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Mentoring to improve their content delivery, but also notice that successful students have taken foundational coursework that is not currently listed as a requisite. Adding a requisite to the course would require course planning and a course proposal. If you are unsure whether your course requires a course proposal, please contact your school or college Dean’s office or academic planner.