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Defining Course Redesign


NCAT identifies a number of common elements in successful course redesigns:

1. Whole course redesign. In each case, the whole course--rather than a single class or section--is redesigned. Faculty members begin by analyzing the time that each person involved in the course spends on each kind of activity. This analysis often reveals duplication of effort. By sharing responsibility for both course development and course delivery, faculty members save substantial time and achieve greater course consistency.

2. Active learning. All of the redesign projects make the teaching-learning enterprise significantly more active and learner-centered. Lectures are replaced with a variety of learning resources that move students from a passive, note-taking role to active learning. As one math professor put it, “Students learn math by doing math, not by listening to someone talk about doing math.”

3. Computer-based learning resources. Instructional software and other Web-based learning resources assume an important role in engaging students with course content. Resources include tutorials, exercises and low-stakes quizzes that provide frequent practice, feedback, and reinforcement of course concepts.

4. Mastery learning. The redesign projects offer students more flexibility, but the redesigned courses are not self-paced. Student pace and progress are organized by the need to master specific learning objectives--often in a modular format, according to scheduled milestones for completion--rather than by class meeting times.

5. On-demand help. An expanded support system enables students to receive assistance from a variety of people. Helping students feel that they are a part of a learning community is critical to persistence, learning and satisfaction. Many projects replace lecture time with individual and small-group activities that take meet in computer labs--staffed by faculty, graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) and/or peer tutors--or online, thus providing students more one-on-one assistance.

6. Alternative staffing. Various instructional personnel–-in addition to highly trained, expert faculty--constitute the student’s support system. Not all tasks associated with a course require a faculty member’s time. By replacing expensive labor (faculty and graduate students) with relatively inexpensive labor (undergraduate peer mentors and course assistants) where appropriate, the projects increase the number of hours during which students can access help and free faculty to concentrate on academic rather than logistical tasks.

Models of Course Redesign

Based on its nationwide experiences, NCAT has identified six different models for applying these elements. The six models represent different points on the continuum from a fully face-to-face course to a fully online course:

The Supplemental Model  The supplemental model retains the basic structure of the traditional course and a) supplements lectures and textbooks with technology-based, out-of-class activities, or b) also changes what goes on in the class by creating an active learning environment within a large lecture hall setting.

The Replacement Model  The replacement model reduces the number of in-class meetings and a) replaces some in-class time with out-of-class, online, interactive learning activities, or b) also makes significant changes in remaining in-class meetings.

The Emporium Model  The emporium model replaces lectures with a learning resource center model featuring interactive computer software and on-demand personalized assistance.

The Fully Online Model  The fully online model eliminates all in-class meetings and moves all learning experiences online, using Web-based, multi-media resources, commercial software, automatically evaluated assessments with guided feedback and alternative staffing models.

The Buffet Model  The buffet model customizes the learning environment for each student based on background, learning preference, and academic/professional goals and offers students an assortment of individualized paths to reach the same learning outcomes.

The Linked Workshop Model   The Linked Workshop model provides remedial/developmental instruction by linking workshops that offer students just-in-time supplemental academic support to core college-level courses.