The Checklist: A simple requirement for success

Before they take off, even the most seasoned pilots are required to use a pre-flight checklist. In his book Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande applied this process to surgery and found that 80% of the doctors found the practice beneficial and in many cases, there was a rection in error. The book’s main point is simple: no matter how expert you may be, well-designed check lists can improve outcomes. If pilots and surgeons, who perform the same routine pre-surgery and pre-flight preparations over and over, rely on checklists, it is likely that students, professors, and training professionals will benefit from them. Here are some general steps to take to develop a personalized checklist:

  1. Consider the tasks that you frequently perform. In training, these might include broad tasks like developing a new course, delivering a lesson, conducting performance assessment, or more focused tasks like writing objectives or completing an assessment.
  2. Conduct a mini “task analysis,” where you list each step involved in the process. Be sure to make the list of tasks granular—imagine you will teach someone unfamiliar with how to perform the task.
  3. Create a visually appealing document to house your checklist.
  4. Make it easy to use. Consider where and when you are most likely to use your checklist (in your office, on the road, at home, etc.) and the most appropriate format (paper, notes page on your phone, tasks in outlook, Google doc, etc.)
  5. Try it out and revise it.
  6. Now use it! If surgeons and pilots rely on checklists to make sure they don’t forget an important step, you will undoubtedly benefit from their use.

I am currently working on a pre-class checklist for new online students. Add a comment to this post to include one or more essential items that should go on a checklist for online students before taking their very first class.


  • There are many important points and aspects to this blog post. As a working professional, student and mother, I often find it a struggle to find a balance between career, home and school. I have been utilizing checklists since I was younger, often first using them when I went on trips in order for me to not forget anything. Due to the fact that many classes are now online, a checklist is still an important aspect for me personally. I feel that on a pre-class checklist, it would be important to include times for professor’s office hours in order to help with time management. Also, when purchasing books, it would be important to notate how quickly one is able to receive the book and whether there may be a different option (like an e-textbook) that would aid in being prepared.

  • I agree with many of the points made in this blog post. As someone who actively uses check-marks I strongly believe that they’re effective.

  • As a student, employee, parent and spouse- checklist are essential. It may be easy to overlook items on various to do list- especially when operating via various platforms. One essential item that might be beneficial to online students before taking their very first class is to identify a time and date of important due dates for the week. Another might be to indicate if the item will be an individual task or if it will require group collaboration.

  • I agree that no matter how well-versed you are in a field, it is important to practice the basics and remind yourself. I think by getting into a routine, you can overlook small but important steps because you are confident that you will do it right. Sometimes, you want to work faster and skip over the tasks. I think conducting a mini task analysis is a quick yet effective way to ensure you are not missing anything.

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