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Gateway Course Redesign
July 29, 2014 - 9:00pm

Are you involved with a course redesign initiative at your school?

I’m talking about a process that is more intense, more deliberate, and more expensive than the normal work that faculty and instructional designers do on course updates.

Something more in line with what Carol Twigg has been doing since 2004 with the National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT).

Big course redesign initiatives may differ in scope and design from campus to campus.  

While course redesign initiatives will differ in scope and design from campus to campus, I would argue that almost all share the following attributes:

  1. They have a separate budget, either for the whole program or individual courses.
  2. Resources are focused on a small number of courses, usually the courses with higher enrollment and sometimes on courses with higher attrition or lower levels of student success.
  3. They involve some sort of RFP (request for proposal) from faculty.
  4. Specific resources, usually instructional design folks, are assigned to the course redesign project.
  5. There is almost always some element of blended course design and classroom flipping, moving lecture and content to pre-class accessible digital platforms, and a re-thinking of how to utilize in-class time.
  6. An assessment component is almost always part of the course redesign initiative.

Can you add or argue with any the course redesign attributes enumerated on this list?

At my institution we are gearing up our own course redesign project, something that we are calling our Dartmouth College Gateway Course Initiative.

We are at the point in this initiative where we are holding initial meetings with the faculty who are teaching the first courses to be redesigned.

As part of our meetings we provide each faculty member with a 1-pager that describes the goals of the program, as well as a description of our learner-centered design process.   (We also share information on roles for the project team, and the campus resources that are available, but the goals and the process are the most universally applicable).

These goals, and the design process description, were created by the instructional design professionals in our Educational Technology and Center for the Advancement of Learning groups.    

The key people at this initial meeting are of course the faculty member and the instructional designer assigned as a dedicated resource for the course redesign process.

I have a couple of reasons to share with you the content of the 1-pager on course redesign that we share with faculty.  

First, I’m hoping that maybe this material will be useful to you as you design and refine your course redesign methodology and communications tools.  We’ve found that a concise document describing the goals and the process is very welcome by the faculty that we work with, and also serves as an excellent communications tool for other faculty that we hope to work with in the future.

Second, my hope is that you might have ideas or suggestions to improve this document.  That you can share how you communicate your course redesign process, and what you have learned in your own work with faculty.  

Here are some of the materials in the 1-pager that we share with faculty:

Goals for Gateway Course Redesign Initiative:

Make large courses feel more like small classes.

  • Incorporate more active learning.
  • Create greater student engagement.
  • Better defined learning outcomes.
  • Diffusion of methodology and successes to the department.
  • Individual faculty/departmental goals (e.g. fewer withdrawal, more students taking additional courses in the discipline, etc.).

Learner-Centered Course Design Process:

The Gateway Initiative will use the research-informed process of backwards design (Wiggins and McTighe, 1998) which makes it easy to choose the best course materials to meet your goals, and focuses on student learning rather than course content. This process also ensures internal congruence and alignment between objectives, instruction and assessment.

The steps to the process are:

  • Craft measurable and attainable overarching course learning goals/objectives and then more granular outcomes for units/topics/modules.
  • Design both formative and summative assessments to measure attainment of learning outcomes and articulate feedback channels.
  • Design learning activities and experiences that provide practice and preparation for success in assessments.
  • Create a syllabus or other means of communicating the course goals, objectives, outcomes assessments, activities, and expectations for the learning community.
  • Develop an optimized Canvas (our LMS) course site with student-centered design decisions.

Looking forward to hearing your feedback and experiences with your own course redesign initiatives.


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