The Roadmap to Redesign (R2R): Application Guidelines

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Table of Contents

The Roadmap to Redesign (R2R)

    Background: The Program in Course Redesign (PCR)
    Program Strategy
    Program Focus: Precalculus Mathematics, Psychology, Spanish and Statistics

Program Resources

    Course Materials Mapped to Course Topics
    Discipline-Based Redesign Expertise
    A Streamlined Redesign Methodology

Program Methodology: How R2R Will Work

    Stage 1: Establish Campus Readiness to Participate
    Stage 2: Participate in a Redesign Workshop
    Stage 3: Develop a Project Plan
    Stage 4: Implement a Redesign
    Stage 5: Join a Community of Practice

Application Information

    Application Procedure
    Readiness Criteria
    Eligibility Criteria
    Summary Timeline


Center for Academic Transformation
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
4010 Walker Lab, 110 8th Street
Troy, New York 12180-3590
Phone: 518-276-6519 * Fax: 518-695-5633

The Roadmap to Redesign (R2)

The Roadmap to Redesign (R2R) is a three-year program conducted by the Center for Academic Transformation at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with partial support from the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE.) The purpose of the program is to support the efforts of colleges and universities to redesign their instructional approaches using technology to achieve cost savings as well as quality enhancements.

R2R is not a grant program. FIPSE funding will be used to develop the resources described below that will support new institutions in redesigning large enrollment courses. By providing extensive redesign resources, our goal is to make the redesign process as turnkey as possible and affordable within existing institutional resources.

Background: The Program in Course Redesign (PCR)

American colleges and universities are discovering exciting new ways of using information technology to enhance the process of teaching and learning and to extend access to new populations of students. For most institutions, however, new technologies represent a black hole of additional expense. Most campuses have simply bolted new technologies onto a fixed plant, a fixed faculty, and a fixed notion of classroom instruction. Under these circumstances, IT becomes part of the problem of rising costs rather than part of the solution. In addition, comparative research studies show that most technology-based courses produce learning outcomes that are "as good as" their traditional counterparts-what is called the "no significant difference" phenomenon. By and large, colleges and universities have not yet begun to realize the promise of technology to improve the quality of student learning, increase retention, and reduce the costs of instruction.

In contrast, the Center for Academic Transformation has collaborated with 30 institutions to demonstrate how IT can be used to achieve both quality enhancements and cost savings as part of its Program in Course Redesign (PCR). The 30 institutions were selected from hundreds of applicants in a national competition to participate. The 30 institutions include research universities, comprehensive universities, private colleges, and community colleges in all regions of the United States.

PCR projects focused on large-enrollment, introductory courses, which have the potential of impacting significant student numbers and generating substantial cost savings. Studies have shown that undergraduate enrollments in the United States are concentrated in introductory courses. Just twenty-five courses generate about 50 percent of student enrollment at the community college level and about 35 percent of enrollment at the baccalaureate level. Successful completion of these courses is key to student progress toward a degree. High failure rates in these courses--e.g., 15% at R1s, 30-40% at comprehensives, and 50-60% at community colleges--lead to significant drop-out rates between the first and second year.

The Center required each of the 30 institutions to conduct a rigorous evaluation focused on learning outcomes as measured by student performance and achievement. National experts provided consultation and oversight regarding the assessment of learning outcomes to ensure that the results are reliable and valid. Results to date show the following:

  • 22 of the 30 redesign projects improved student learning.
  • 22 of the 30 redesign projects increased student retention.
  • All 30 redesign projects reduced the cost of instruction by 40% on average, with a range of 20% to 77%.
  • Other outcomes achieved include better student attitudes toward the subject matter and increased student satisfaction with the mode of instruction compared to traditional formats.

To one degree or another, the 30 PCR projects share six best-practice characteristics:

1. Whole course redesign. In each case, the whole course rather than a single class or section is the target of redesign.

2. Active learning. The redesign projects make the teaching and learning process more active and learner-centered, moving students from a passive, "note-taking" role to an active-learning orientation.

3. Computer-based learning resources. Instructional software and other Web-based learning resources play an important role in engaging students with course content.

4. Mastery learning. Rather than depending on class meetings, student pacing and progress are organized by the need to master specific learning objectives according to scheduled milestones for completion.

5. On-demand help. Helping students be 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 place either in computer labs or online, enabling students to have more one-on-one assistance from faculty, teaching assistants and peers.

6. Alternate staffing. Support systems of various kinds of instructional personnel allow the projects to apply the right level of human intervention to individual student problems.

Building on the success achieved in the PCR, which ended on December 31, 2003, the Center now plans to teach other institutions how to achieve the same results. The Roadmap to Redesign will simplify the redesign process--making it as close to turnkey as possible--while allowing for institutional individuality in the adoption process.

Program Strategy

In the PCR, the Center encouraged each institution to develop its own unique redesign. From that process, we learned what works well and what does not. Our goal is to enable new institutions to move more quickly through both the planning and the implementation parts of the redesign process and to do so without an external grant .

To accomplish this goal, we have a two-fold strategy.

1. Create virtual repositories of learning materials drawn from the PCR that have been tested with large numbers of students at multiple institutions, demonstrating statistically significant increases in student learning and reduced instructional cost.

New institutions will have a body of course materials from which to choose rather than beginning with a blank slate. Critical to the PCR projects' success in improving student learning has been their use of Web-based learning resources that enable active student engagement with course material. Such resources include interactive tutorials, exercises and quizzes that give students needed practice and automated feedback; digitally recorded presentations and demonstrations; textbooks and other reading materials; examples and exercises in the student's field of interest; links to other online materials; and individual and group laboratory assignments. These Web-based resources also contribute significantly to cost reduction because they allow the transfer of some tasks to technology-assisted activities, reducing the time that faculty and other instructional personnel must spend and thus the numbers needed to teach a course. The materials used in the PCR will be available for new institutions to use so that the cost, the complexity and the length of the redesign process will be reduced.

2. Create a streamlined redesign methodology, a menu of redesign techniques and models that are most likely to lead to improved student learning and reduced instructional cost.

New institutions will have a defined list of techniques from which to choose rather than beginning with a blank slate. A menu of redesign options will be available to support new institutions. The complexity of the planning process will be reduced by moving from a process of inventing each redesign element from scratch to one of selecting from among proven techniques and models. The Center's goal is to reduce the redesign planning and implementation periods significantly. By supplying many of the "pieces" needed, we will accelerate the course redesign diffusion process. The cost of redesign will be reduced to a level that can be supported internally by each new institution.

Program Focus: Precalculus Mathematics, Psychology, Spanish and Statistics

Four academic practices--virtual collaborations of experienced institutional teams drawn from participants in the PCR--have been established to serve as a source of redesign expertise.

Precalculus Mathematics

  • Rio Salado College
  • The University of Alabama
  • University of Idaho
  • Virginia Tech


  • University of Dayton
  • The University of New Mexico
  • University of Southern Maine


  • Portland State University
  • The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • The Ohio State University
  • Penn State University

Five additional institutional teams will be invited to join each practice. Each will complete a large-scale redesign in one of the four target disciplines using a streamlined redesign methodology and the materials, which have demonstrated success in the PCR.

Program Resources

Course Materials Mapped to Course Topics

Each academic practice is working collaboratively to assemble a virtual repository of course materials that map to course topics covered in each discipline. Some of these materials are available from commercial publishers; others have been developed by higher education institutions and vetted by the PCR project institutions. Only materials that have proven to increase student learning and contribute to cost reduction will be included in the repositories.

Each practice has produced an expansive list of course topics such that other institutions can select a sub-set from among them to use in redesigning their courses. A practice may have collectively identified 50 topics covered in a particular course, for example, but a new institution may want to use only 15 of them in its redesign.

Each new institution that is accepted to participate in R2R will redesign a course in one of the four target disciplines using the materials assembled by the practice--evaluating and revising them as necessary. Because the course materials will be mapped to specific course topics, it will be it easy for new institutions to identify which ones meet their particular course goals and can be used in their redesigns and also to identify materials gaps. To fill those gaps, new institutions may need to identify additional materials from free sources (e.g., NSF, MERLOT) or from commercial publishers or to develop them themselves. After completing their course redesigns, new institutions will contribute additional materials to the practice repositories once they have proven to increase student learning or contribute to cost reduction.

Discipline-Based Redesign Expertise

Each academic practice is a virtual collaboration of experienced institutional teams made up of multiple players from each institution: faculty (key to creating high-quality content and sound pedagogy), IT staff (key to creating the technological infrastructure to support redesign), assessment experts (key to establishing reliable and valid measures of student learning), and administrators (key to making it possible for redesigns to be implemented and sustained.)

Each academic practice has substantial experience in how to use the course materials. For example, our experience has shown that supplementing classroom experience with low-stakes quizzes (the resources) may lead to increased learning, but by giving points for student participation (how to use them), instructors can increase student learning substantially. Thus, we will embed a method of transfer by pairing experienced institutions with less experienced institutions to ensure that the resources will be used successfully.

A Streamlined Redesign Methodology

Based on our experience with and analysis of the 30 PCR projects, we know that

  • Some pedagogical techniques used in the redesigns consistently led to better student learning whereas others had no impact on student learning;
  • Some redesign techniques consistently led to reduced instructional cost with no loss of quality whereas others that were used had no impact on cost reduction;
  • Five distinct redesign models emerged from the 30 individual approaches;
  • Five distinct cost reduction variables emerged from the 30 individual approaches;
  • Five distinct assessment models emerged from the 30 individual approaches;
  • A number of excellent ideas were used in projects not in the target disciplines that are easily transferable to the four target disciplines.

The Center will assemble descriptive lists of techniques with examples from the PCR projects; cases illustrating redesign, cost reduction and assessment models; narrative descriptions of good ideas that cross disciplinary boundaries; and explanations of why an institution might choose one versus another or how it might mix and match among them. Rather than starting their redesigns from scratch, new institutions will be able to choose from among these redesign resources to construct their redesign plans.

Program Methodology: How R2R Will Work

The Center will conduct a national competition to select 20 new institutions (5 per practice) to join each practice and to complete a large-scale redesign using the streamlined redesign methodology. A two-stage application process will require applicants to assess their readiness to participate in the program and to develop a plan for redesign in one of the four target disciplines. Prospective new institutions will be supported as they develop their redesign plans through a workshop that will teach participants how to use the program's streamlined tools and techniques and through individualized consultations with academic practice teams and Center staff.

Stage 1: Establish Campus Readiness to Participate

Any institution interested in participating in R2R should first identify the course that it wishes to redesign in one of the four target disciplines. Follow the links at to see a list of potential courses.

Campuses must then assess and demonstrate their readiness to participate in the program. The Center has established a set of readiness criteria that will be used to pre-qualify prospective applicants. To be considered, send a brief narrative addressing each of the readiness criteria listed below, focusing on evidence that demonstrates the way in which the campus meets each criterion.

Campuses may submit applications to join more than one practice.

Deadline for submission of readiness statements: April 1, 2004

Stage 2: Participate in a Redesign Workshop

Forty institutions (10 per practice) will be selected from those that submit a readiness statement and will be invited to attend a June 2004 workshop. This workshop will teach participants how to redesign using the streamlined methodology. The workshop will also give participants an opportunity to share ideas and experiences and to obtain feedback from Center staff and from the academic practices.

The Center will support the lodging and workshop expenses of a two-person team from each institution. Invited institutions must support the team travel expenses. Institutions may send additional team members at their own expense.

Stage 3: Develop a Project Plan

Institutions that participate in the June 2004 workshop will be invited to submit a final application to join R2R. The Center staff and the academic practices will provide individualized consultation and assistance as prospective new institutional participants prepare their redesign plans. Institutions will be encouraged to submit drafts of their plans for review and feedback before the final submission.

Application requirements will be thorough but not onerous. Final applications will consist of a narrative plan that describes the goals of the redesign, the choices made from among the practice course materials and the menu of redesign techniques and models, how those choices enable the institution to meet its redesign goals and how the institution will evaluate the outcomes of the redesign.

Deadline for submission of project plans: August 1, 2004.

Each application will be judged by a program selection committee on the evidence it presents for institutional readiness to undertake a large-scale course redesign; the articulation of a rationale for its project plan, and its willingness to participate in the academic practices. Twenty institutions (5 per practice) from among those that submit a final proposal will be selected by August 15, 2004 and invited to join the academic practices.

Stage 4: Implement a Redesign

Prospective new associates must plan to conduct a pilot during the spring 2005 term (or earlier) and implement the full redesign during the fall 2005 term (or earlier).

Fall 2004: Complete redesign preparations: finalize project teams, complete redesign activities, modify existing practice materials when necessary, and incorporate additional content into course materials.

Spring 2005: Conduct pilot implementation of course redesigns and offer feedback to the academic practices regarding course materials.

Summer 2005: Refine and revise redesign plans based on pilot experiences and prepare to scale up for full implementation.

Fall 2005: Fully implement course redesigns; collect data on comparative student learning outcomes and on final instructional costs; and continue to offer feedback to the academic practices regarding course materials.

Stage 5: Join a Community of Practice

June 2005: An initial workshop, "Mid-Course Sharing" will be held to enable new institutions to share and assess their pilot experiences and to provide an initial evaluation of the practice materials and the streamlined redesign methodology. Participants in the workshop will be one representative from each new associate institution, representatives from the academic practices and Center staff. All expenses of participating in the workshop will be supported by the Center. Participating institutions may send additional representatives at their own expense.

July 2006: A second workshop, "Assessing the Results," will be held to enable new institutions to assess their experiences and provide a final evaluation of the practice materials and the streamlined redesign methodology. Participants in the workshop will be one representative from each new associate institution, representatives from the academic practices and Center staff. All expenses of participating in the workshop will be supported by the Center. Participating institutions may send additional representatives at their own expense.

Application Information

Application Procedure

Campuses that wish to propose a redesign project must assess and demonstrate their readiness to do so. The program has established a set of readiness criteria that are used to pre-qualify prospective applicants. To be considered, the first step is for the campus provost or chief academic officer to send a brief narrative (no more than eight single-spaced pages) addressing each of the eight readiness criteria listed below, focusing on evidence that demonstrates the way in which the institution meets each criterion.

The application must include the completed application cover sheet and the narrative response to the Readiness Criteria. (Download a pdf version for paper submission.) Please send one electronic copy of your completed application to Pat Bartscherer, and four paper copies to:

    Ms. Pat Bartscherer, Program Manager
    Center for Academic Transformation
    17 Cramer Path
    Gansevoort, NY 12831

Readiness statements, both electronic and paper, must be received by April 1, 2004.

Readiness Criteria

The level of interest and enthusiasm in higher education for infusing information technology into the teaching and learning process is notable. It is clear, however, that certain institutions more than others have progressed farther along the learning curve about what is required to do so successfully. Because of their prior investments and experiences, those institutions are, in essence, more ready to engage in large-scale redesign efforts that achieve the program's goals.

Just as some institutions are more ready than others to engage in large-scale redesign, some courses more than others are more ready to be the focus of that redesign effort. Because of prior experiences with technology-mediated teaching and learning, and because of numerous attitudinal factors, some faculty members are more ready to engage in large-scale redesign efforts to achieve the program's goals. They have, in essence, a head start on the process.

  • Will changes in the course have a high impact on the curriculum?

    Is there a significant academic problem in this course such as substantial failure rates? Does the course face a serious resource problem such as how to manage increased enrollment demand with no commensurate increase in resources?

  • Are decisions about curriculum in the department made collectively--in other words, beyond the individual faculty member level?

    Decisions to engage in large-scale course redesign cannot be left to an individual faculty member. He or she may leave the institution, grow tired of the innovation, change his or her mind, and so on. A collective commitment is a key factor for sustainability of redesign project. Are the faculty ready to collaborate? Have they engaged in joint conversations about the need for change? Does the course redesign idea have departmental as well as institutional support and ownership?

  • Are the faculty able and willing to incorporate existing curricular materials in order to focus work on redesign issues rather than materials creation?

    R2R will give faculty a "head start" in the redesign process by identifying a large body of technology-based curricular materials that lead to success. Are the faculty willing to use these materials if they meet course objectives? Will they employ an appropriate blend of using these materials and created "home-grown" materials in a non-dogmatic fashion? Are they willing to partner with other content providers such as commercial software producers or other universities who have developed technology-based materials?

  • Have the course's expected learning outcomes and a system for measuring their achievement been identified?

    Successful large-scale redesign efforts begin by identifying the intended learning outcomes and developing alternative methods other than lecture/presentation for achieving them. Have those responsible for the course identified the course's expected/intended learning outcomes in detail? Has the curriculum been built backward from the intended outcomes? Does your campus have assessment processes in place-e.g., the ability to collect data? the availability of baseline data? the establishment of long-term measures? Is there a system for measuring the achievement of these outcomes at both the individual student level and the class level?

  • Do a substantial number of the course faculty members have an understanding of and some experience with integrating elements of computer-based instruction into existing courses?

    Some faculty may have a great deal of enthusiasm for large-scale redesign but little prior experience in this area. It is difficult to complete a successful project by starting from scratch. Having experience with integrating smaller IT elements into courses helps to prepare for large-scale redesign efforts. Some experts have said that 13 - 15% of the faculty constitutes critical mass. What evidence can you provide to demonstrate faculty experience with integrating computing into existing courses?

  • Does the institution have a mature information technology (IT) organization(s) to support faculty integration of technology into courses? Or does it contract with external providers to provide such support?

    How do you characterize a "mature" organization? Can the IT organization provide more than technical support? Does it see the "big picture?" Does it have an understanding of the goals and objectives of the academic program? Does it include instructional design capabilities? Does the IT organization have specific experience with supporting course redesign? What evidence can you provide to demonstrate the ability of your institution to support faculty integration of technology into courses?

  • Is there a recognition on the campus that large-scale course redesign using information technology involves a partnership among faculty, IT staff and administrators in both planning and execution?

    Does the institution understand that substantive changes cannot rely on faculty initiative alone because they are systemic and involve changes in such areas as

  • policy (class meeting times, contact-hour requirements, governance approvals),
    budgeting (planning and processes that support innovation),
  • systems (registration systems, classroom assignments), and
  • infrastructure (equipment purchase and deployment.)
  • Is the institution committed to providing needed support for the redesign project?

    Some redesign plans may require institutional support in addition to the support provided by the academic practices and the Center for Academic Transformation. Will the campus need to provide release time for faculty to prepare for the redesign? Will hardware or software purchases be necessary? Will space need to be reconfigured? Is the institution willing to support the redesign project as needed?

Please see on the Center's Web site for sample responses to the criteria.

Deadline for submission of readiness statements: April 1, 2004

Eligibility Criteria

Institutions of higher education in the United States are eligible to apply. Companies are not eligible to apply, but institutions of higher education are encouraged to partner with companies--such as instructional software producers, publishers, course management system producers, and instructional technology outsourcers--where appropriate to their redesign projects. Institutions may participate in more than one practice if the proposal is competitive.

Summary Timeline

April 1, 2004 Application deadline
April 15, 2004 40 institutional teams invited to workshop
June 2004 Workshop for 40 institutional teams
August 1, 2004 Full proposal deadline
August 15, 2004 20 new institutions selected
Fall 2004 20 new redesign projects begin
June 2005 Mid-Course Sharing Workshop
Summer 2005 Campus course revisions
Fall 2005 Campus full implementations
July 2006 Assessing the Results Workshop

To have your name added to the Center's electronic mailing list, which ensures that you receive periodic updates and information about this new effort, send e-mail in plain text format (with the subject line left blank) to In the body of the message, type SUB LFORUM-L and your name.