Step 1.1 - What problem(s) will student learn how to solve?

Write a list of ideas for problems that the students will encounter in the course. Don't worry about whether they are good or bad ideas, and don't worry about the order. Filtering and sorting comes later.


From a course on generalized additive models:

  • How to use Generalized Additive Models to understand relationships between variables in data and make predictions.

From a course on fraud detection:

  • How to identify and predict fraudulent transactions
  • How to effectively work with highly imbalanced data

From a course on human resource analytics:

  • How to compare high- and low-performing groups (see Work Rules! pages 201, 343)
  • How to identify the most effective recruiting channel (how does this generalize?)
  • How to determine what's driving (attrition, high/low performance, etc.)


How many items should I list?

Many courses list four or five problems to solve. This helps to divide the course up into chapters later on.

How long should items be?

No more than a sentence, and often just a phrase.

Can I break that rule?

Sure! Don't feel obliged to stick to this format. Some courses list a single overarching problem to solve, and other courses list a dozen problems.

Good ideas

Add references

If you come across good ideas for things to teach, make a note of where you found those ideas. For example, you can link to other syllabuses, or note pages of books that had a ideas on things to teach.

Be exhaustive

Don't be afraid to list bad ideas: it's better to have too many ideas at this stage than too few. One trick is to keep listing items until they start to get silly. You can include these items to ensure that you Curriculum Lead is concentrating when they review your work.

Common problems and their solutions

I can't think of any ideas

  • If you know what technology you want to use, try reading the documentation for it.

  • Read through the contents pages of books on the subject. Amazon's "Look inside" feature is useful for this.

  • Check Stack Overflow to see what questions people are asking about the topic.

How will this be reviewed?

Your Curriculum Lead will discuss your responses to the brainstorming questions. They will not be formally reviewed (though they provide important context for reviewers).

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