Guest Contributors: Maggi Miller, Manager, and Ann Wolf, Professional Educator, TeamUP Cengage Learning Peer-to-Peer Faculty Development.

Thinking behind Course Redesign

Course redesign has become a buzzword in Developmental Education (DE). Instructors want to create pathways that result in improved retention and persistence at college, and students want ways to move through their DE coursework more quickly. From flipping the classroom, to increasing contextualization to aligning syllabi to state standards, redesign is a “bee in our bonnet” these days. The American Association of Community Colleges made a commitment to “Redesign developmental education fundamentally, creating new evidence-based pathways that accelerate students’ progress toward successful college-level work.” Redesign can result in moving students along toward their goals more quickly, and it has the side benefit of reducing costs not only for the organization but also for the student (AACC website, 2014). So, if this is what institutions of higher education have decided would make the most sense to help students be both successful students and college graduates, then we need to look at what it means to redesign courses in developmental education.

Elements of Course Redesign

The National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT) has a list of eight elements that are important for redesign. These eight elements could help students be successful and put them on a path to a career.

  1. Redesign the whole course.
  2. Require active learning.
  3. Increase interaction among students.
  4. Build in ongoing assessment and prompt (automated) feedback.
  5. Provide students with one-on-one, on-demand assistance from highly trained personnel.
  6. Ensure sufficient time on task.
  7. Monitor student progress and intervene when necessary.
  8. Measure learning, completion, and cost.

So, if there is an agreement that these elements will be part of the plan to offer course redesign in developmental education departments at colleges, then what might that look like? One strategy that colleges are turning to is acceleration of learning. An example of acceleration in course redesign is that a developmental course would be linked to a college level course, like developmental writing with English composition where students who are placed in developmental writing would register for and attend both courses. In this course, the students who are at college level would not know other students were at the developmental level. Another version of an accelerated course is where the developmental course has been changed from a sixteen-week course to an eight-week course and the student does more of the work outside of class. A third option is to modularize the course in order for the student to complete the module(s) that may be an area of concern and may make it more difficult to be successful in college courses. This is just the beginning of ways to incorporate the elements of course redesign.

If you want to learn more about course redesign, then check out the TeamUP virtual workshop “Why Course Redesign Is the Bee’s Knees for Dev Ed.” All registrants can earn continuing education credit for attending the session.


Maggi Miller is a Manager for Cengage Learning’s TeamUP Faculty Programs. Previously, she was a Professor of Reading & Study Skills and the Director of the Learning Communities program at Austin Community College. She served on the Editorial Advisory Board for the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy and on the Media Advisory Board for CRLA. She has been training educators for over 30 years. See some of Maggi’s other projects at //

Ann Wolf is a Professional Educator with Cengage Learning’s Peer-to-Peer Faculty Development team, TeamUP, and she teaches online and face-to-face Developmental Reading courses Central New Mexico Community College.  See some of Ann’s other projects as well as more information on this blog topic at the TeamUP Professional Development Portal by visiting