Building KU's Teaching and Learning Community

COURSE TRANSFORMATION 

The most compelling reason for course redesign is that research and experience are showing that student-centered classes improve student engagement and learning. This has been borne out in studies of flipped and hybrid courses nationally, most recently by a major meta-analysis of hundreds of studies in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. As the research shows, active learning—which is encouraged in redesigned courses—makes a large difference in both learning and success rates in a wide range of courses varying in field and class size. This page provides information and resources on how to enact course transformation.

What is Course Transformation?

In Blended Learning: Across the Disciplines, Across the Academy, Francine S. Glazer—founder and director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at New York Institute of Technology (NYIT)—describes redesigned or “blended” courses as “those in which a significant amount of seat time, that is, time spent in the classroom, is replaced with online activities that involve students in meeting course objectives” (1). She argues that the online components of redesigned courses contribute to greater student learning. In a redesigned course, students are accountable for preparation before class and class time is devoted to active learning of the most challenging material and concepts. According to a recent article in Edudemic, transforming, flipping, or blending a course is “about moving the more passive elements of learning (watching a lecture, reading a chapter, etc.) outside of the classroom, so that more class time is available for interactive, hands-on learning.”

As Carol A. Twigg (2000) explains, “most of the weaknesses attributed to large, introductory, high-enrollment courses are generic in nature and have as their source the limitations of the predominant form of instruction in our nation’s college and universities: the didactic lecture.” Transformed courses seek to correct these limitations by limiting the amount of class-time devoted to lecture. While there remains an important place for instruction through lecturing, more and more evidence supports having students participate actively during class time through team learning, problem solving, demonstrations, searching for and organizing information, and other forms of constructing their understanding.

Strategies and Goals

It is not easy or trivial for professors to make the transition from a typical class format of mostly oral presentation to a more student-centered set of activities that build upon and elaborate what students learned ahead of time online. Many new skills are involved, including learning from the information provided about students by the online learning tools, constructing activities for class time that promote and develop learning, and building good alignment among online activities, in class learning, and written assignments.

A shift to a more student-centered approach to course design involves many changes in instructional strategies and goals. The intent is to promote a range of higher order learning outcomes. Redesigned courses also decrease the use of multiple-choice exams and other types of objective evaluation and increase emphasis on these elements:

  • Open-ended problems and assignments
  • Collaborative projects and collaborative learning.
  • Writing assignments, papers, and projects.
  • Service learning.

This model also increases emphasis on a clear demonstration of how each course leads to the next and contributes to a particular major or to general education goals.

By varying learning contexts, “blended learning courses employ active learning strategies through a variety of pedagogical approaches” (3). It is important to note, however, that varying instructional methods alone does not constitute course transformation—simply posting videos to Blackboard or a course blog does not result in course transformation. According to the National Center for Academic Transformation, there are eight elements—all of which must be employed—that result in effective course transformation. They include:

  • Redesign the whole course and establish greater course consistency.
  • Require active learning.
  • Increase interaction among students.
  • Build in ongoing assessment and prompt (automated) feedback.
  • Provide students with one-on-one, on-demand assistance from highly trained personnel.
  • Ensure sufficient time on task.
  • Monitor student progress and intervene when necessary.
  • Measure learning, completion, and cost.

Taken together, these elements create an environment in which the students are the focus of the class. By creating more opportunities for group work, active learning, and interaction between student and instructor, redesigned courses can increase student learning in a variety of disciplinary contexts.

CTE is an active partner with the Center for Online and Distance Learning to guide faculty in thinking through how to liberate class time for engaged and high level thinking and learning. By participating in our Best Practices Institute or attending our workshops and Teaching Summit, faculty members can plan the best strategies for redesigning their instruction to maximize engagement and learning, for students and for the faculty.


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