Great Courses

Set Class Objectives and Ground Rules

Define the purpose for your class and establish ground rules for a great beginning.

Set Class Objectives 

Define the purpose of your class and what you would like participants to learn. Mention these objectives in your syllabus and prepare to share them with the class on the first day. ​ 


  • "By the time this class concludes, participants will be able to define how the events of the time period shaped key cultural and artistic trends throughout the Victorian era."
  • "By the end of the class, members will be able to identify how changes in American foreign policy during the 19th century impacted relations with neighboring nations." 
  • "By the final class session, participants will be able to pinpoint key scenes from Tarantino films that helped to redefine the genre. Members will also be able to identify and describe Tarantino's influence on other modern films." ​ 

Setting a clear objective can provide a solid touch point to revisit in discussions.

Establish Classroom Ground Rules 

Set your class up for a fun, engaging semester by establishing ground rules for your classroom and all participants. Share your ground rules at the beginning of class, and if possible, email a copy to your students to reference during class discussions. ​ 

All OLLI members are expected to adhere to the UNLV Student Code of Conduct. Supplemental to the Code, Classroom Rules to consider may also include: ​ 

Sample Classroom Guidelines

  • Show respect for others in the classroom. Be kind and gentle in your responses and interactions. 
  • Respect the speaker and class facilitator, even if you do not agree with a point a speaker may be making. Avoid raising your voice during moments of disagreement. 
  • Listen carefully; do not interrupt. Aim to actively listen and not simply wait to respond. 
  • Keep an open mind. 
  • Avoid monopolizing the discussion. Allow space and time for others to speak. 
  • Cultivate an atmosphere of learning and growth. 
  • Avoid making assumptions. If someone makes a point you don't understand or agree with, ask them to clarify to avoid miscommunication. 
  • Acknowledge the worth of your voice and opinion. OLLI members have vastly diverse knowledge and experiences; as such, aim to see the value of a discussion that includes everyone's experiences-including your own.

Assign Supplemental Work

After planting the seeds, how would you like the class to explore further growth?

Homework - Yes or No?

Homework is not a requirement or expectation for OLLI classes. However, providing additional resources, projects, or reading material can enhance the classroom experience and fuel further growth and exploration. ​ 

Consider the ideas below for encouraging members to engage outside of the classroom. ​


Assignment: Complete some of your own internet research on the life of Jackson Pollock. Make a few notes on how you may/may not see evidence of his life events in his work. Consider creating your own artwork with your chosen medium to illustrate key events in your own life.

Assignment: Watch a film version of The Great Gatsby and examine the portrayal of the women characters. Write down what you notice about their lines of dialogue, their character qualities, the way they are dressed, the way they interact with others, etc. Bring your notes to class next time as we continue to discuss the unspoken rules for American society before the Sexual Revolution.

Assignment: Next week, we will continue to discuss Bob Dylan's impact on modern music. Please watch the music video "Subterranean Homesick Blues" and take notes on the lyrics. Choose a line from the lyrics that resonates with you and arrive to class prepared to share your thoughts.

Presentation Methods

How will you present your subject? Explore various methods and decide what works best for your class.

As described in the Principles of Adult Learning in the Instructor Handbook, there are many ways to facilitate collaborative adult learning. Meaningful OLLI classes are engaging, iconic, sustainable, and meet the needs of the community. ​ There is not "One Right Way" to teach an OLLI class, however, there are many different presentation methods. Choose the one(s) that work well for you, or create a combination of many!

  • Lecture Method 
  • Discussion Method 
  • Demonstration Method

Lecture Method 

An oral presentation of information by the instructor. ​​ 

Qualities of a Good Lecture:

  • Engaging-even if the instructor is the only one speaking. Interact with your audience. Give relatable examples. Provide callbacks to previous material. Give reasons for your audience to pay attention closely. 
  • Not too long - Attention spans begin to expire after 25 minutes. Plan interruptions for breaks, questions, and discussion. 
  • Builds on existing knowledge. 
  • Utilizes a variety of approaches. 
  • Explores single themes, but then ties all themes back to the whole. 

Lectures may often be accompanied by Powerpoint Presentations. However, avoid common Powerpoint Pitfalls!

Death By PowerPoint Don McMillan

How to Avoid Death By PowerPoint David JP Phillips

Discussion Method 

Involves communication between participants, where all parties speak, provide feedback and listen. 

What happens when instructors "Flip the Classroom" and create space for engaging discussions?

Example Questions to Spark Discussions: 

  • The syllabus lists ________ as our topic for today. Why did you decide to attend this session today? What do you hope to learn? 
  • What was your initial reaction to __________? 
  • Is there something brief you would like to mention for us to consider before we discuss the topic? 
  • Consider what was/is happening in the world at the time of __________. How does that knowledge influence what we are discussing? 

As always, leave space and time for questions. If a class member starts to veer off-topic, bring the conversation back to what you wish to discuss.

Example: Discussing Poetry 

Subterranean Homesick Blues Bob Dylan 

  • Given the cultural climate in 1965, what do you feel was the message Dylan was sending to his audience? 
  • Why do you think Allen Ginsberg was in this video? What is the significance of his presence? 
  • Where were you in 1965 when this song was released? 
  • What is the significance of the title?

Example: Discussing History 

Gandhi (1982) Protest Speech Produced by Richard Attenborough 

  • What is your initial reaction to this interpretation of Gandhi's speech? 
  • Let's discuss what was happening during the time period in India-and throughout the world. 
  • How do you think this speech and this movement influenced our modern world? 
  • Who in the class would like to briefly share their own experience with nonviolent protests?

Demonstration Method

Commonly used in interactive, hands-on classes, this method involves an instructor demonstrating a concept or practice to the audience and then providing instruction as the students view what to do, how to do it, and how to explain the process. 

Classes that utilize the demonstration method require a different type of planning. When working on a class agenda, ask: 

  1. Do I have all of the proper equipment? (Remember, instructor-only demonstration material requests may be processed through the Request Form) 
  2. Have I completed a rehearsal and worked in time for questions/troubleshooting? 
  3. Have I contacted my class to alert them of any materials they need? 

Demonstration methods are commonly used in art and hands-on classes, as exemplified below.

The Joy of Painting Bob Ross

25 Chemistry Experiments in 15 Minutes Andrew Szydlo