Guest Contributor Sande Johnson, Developmental Studies and College Success Specialist, Academic Services, Cengage Learning.

So, you’ve made the decision to redesign your curriculum in a specific discipline. What are the next steps you need to take in order to move forward with implementation?

Regardless of which program you are planning to redesign, there are three critical considerations that will determine whether or not you are ready to proceed (outlined in our previous article by Dr. Elaine Gray):

  1. Budget: You have the funding to sustain a multi-year implementation plan.
  2. Assessment: You either have a baseline measure and a feasible long-term assessment plan (or you recognize the need for one) that will capture changes in student learning as you move through the course redesign process.
  3. Staffing: You have identified subject matter experts, a team of technology-savvy developers and instructional designers to assist with the development and implementation (or you recognize the need to appropriately staff this redesign effort).

In this article, we are going to focus on key curriculum issues and questions to consider as you begin the process of course redesign.

Once you have determined your funding source for this initiative, your next step will be to put together a committee of key stakeholders to determine the overall goal of redesign, key concepts, instructional design and course structure. Begin with a consensus on the goals of the redesign initiative. What institutional or program outcomes need to be achieved? Complete an analysis of your current course – what is not working and how is that determined? In the case of developmental studies, for example, lecture-based courses with little to no active learning strategies have led to high levels of drop outs and low completion rates. To access examples of course redesign projects completed through the National Center of Academic Transformation, see NCAT‘s Web site.

Consider aspects of instructional design that include learning outcomes, active learning strategies, and eliminating unnecessary topic coverage.

  • What learning outcomes does the learner need to demonstrate in order to ensure success in subsequent courses?
  • Is it important to have a consistent instructional design across all sections of the course?
  • Would a lab component or other digital elements better engage the learner?
  • How much time should be devoted to lab versus lecture?
  • What portion of the class should be on-ground versus online?
  • Should the course be self-paced or will all learners be required to focus on the same topics at the same time?
  • Should some portion of the class or out-of-class time be structured for collaboration?
  • What should be the out-of-class requirements of the learner?
  • Are there additional course elements, such as videos and animations, that would enhance the course?
  • Finally, is the credit hour allocation and length of course adequate for the breadth and depth of the topic coverage?

In addition to faculty, you should involve instructional designers and IT personnel in your course redesign process. Instructional designers will ensure that you have a consistent learner experience regardless of the teacher. You may also want to consult with an accreditation consultant to ensure your changes maintain the viability of the course. The IT professional will either be able to determine the best way to leverage current technologies to create an optimal learner experience or make recommendations for what is needed.

After you have consensus on the goal, course outcomes and structure, you need to develop an assessment strategy. You either need a baseline measure of success rates for comparison before you begin implementation, or you could run pilots of the new course concurrently with the existing course. Specific data will enable you to conduct continuous improvement practices and justify curriculum changes to all key stakeholders, including funders and learners. Many institutions undergoing course redesign have developed pre- and post-assessments to create a more personalized experience for their students.

Now that you have a new course with a strong instructional design, the next step to consider to ensure success is faculty training. Whether adjunct, junior or senior faculty, it will be important to train your faculty in best practices for enriching the learner experience of your newly designed course.

Several of the services outlined in this article – from creating outcomes to developing assessments to faculty training – can be outsourced. Many institutions, trying to quickly achieve results and reduce institutional costs, have outsourced elements of the course redesign process to third parties, such as publishers. Whether or not this is an option largely depends on the goals of the initiative.

Sande Johnson, Developmental Studies and College Success Specialist, began her role as Academic Services Consultant at Cengage Learning in 2011 following a 25-year career at Pearson Education where she developed a wide spectrum of skills including sales, marketing, editorial and market research. After 12 years as the Executive Editor for Student Success and Career Development, Sande spent 2010 through late 2011 consulting on a number of educational publishing and technology projects.

Have you recently implemented a course redesign initiative? What key questions about the curriculum did you find essential to ask as you began the process? Start the conversation below.

Exploring course redesign? Cengage Learning’s trained consultants, instructional designers, subject matter experts, and educational researchers offer a variety of services to guide you through the process of redesigning your curriculum. For additional information, visit our Course Redesign pageTo learn more about Cengage Learning’s full portfolio of educational services—including Peer-to-Peer Faculty Development & Consulting, Curriculum & Program Development, and Student Lifecycle Management—visit our Engagement Services Web site.