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SUSTAINING INNOVATION: COURSE REDESIGN NATIONAL DISSEMINATION PROJECT DESCRIPTION

October 1, 2006 – September 30, 2009

Table of Contents

Project Overview

As a result of NCAT’s efforts, large-scale course redesigns are numerous throughout the U.S. More than 60 campuses have implemented course redesigns based on NCAT’s methodology, and the vast majority of them have become embedded in the institution. Sustainability is built in to our methodology because we teach institutions how to improve learning while reducing costs. This growth in sustained course redesigns is a direct result of NCAT’s prior efforts. NCAT has supported their development through a constellation of programmatic activities, technical advice, web-based and print resources, one-to-one consultations, site visits to campuses, workshops, publications and speaking engagements. In the process, NCAT has emerged as a national clearinghouse on course redesign and implementation.

It is important to remember what NCAT means by course redesign. Course redesign is the process of redesigning whole courses (rather than individual classes or sections) to achieve better learning outcomes at a lower cost by taking advantage of the capabilities of information technology. Course redesign is not just about putting courses online. It is about rethinking the way we deliver instruction, especially large-enrollment core courses, in light of the possibilities that new technology offers.

NCAT’s goal is now the widespread adoption of these new methods of redesign throughout the broader higher education community. NCAT seeks to build on its successful experience thus far to create a vehicle that will build and extend an organized network of people and institutions working on curriculum reform, teaching improvement and instructional cost reduction through course redesign.

In recent years particularly, NCAT has received a growing tide of requests from all over the country for advice and consultation about course redesign. These inquiries range from requests for materials, to on-site consultations, to ongoing advice about planning, strategies, assessment and evaluation, as well as general administrative troubleshooting. The time it takes to offer appropriate assistance is simply prohibitive, given NCAT's limited staff and responsibilities to its ongoing programs.

In addition, institutions that have completed large-scale course redesigns want to find ways to continually improve their redesigns and to scale their successes throughout their institutions. Constituents in each of the formal course redesign programs (the PGPCR, R2R and the state-based initiatives) have asked us, what’s next? This means that we have already created an informal community that wants to move forward and build on what we have accomplished thus far. What does moving forward mean?

First, it means creating a formal community that will support and sustain ongoing connections among those already committed to course redesign. Whether it’s faculty members who have already implemented a redesign and want to consult with colleagues about how to improve what they’re already doing, institutions that have successfully completed one course redesign and want to move their success to other disciplines, institutions that have completed more than one course redesign and want to scale the process, institutions that want to leverage their success to garner greater state support for their efforts—that’s what we mean and that’s what we want to facilitate.

Second, it means finding a way for individual campuses to become involved in course redesign. As NCAT staff give presentations about our work around the U.S. , we are continually asked, how can we become involved? We need a place for those campuses to learn more than can be conveyed in a speech. Institutions that have not yet embarked upon course redesign want to learn from the experiences of those that have done so successfully, building on those successes rather than reinventing the wheel. They want to collaborate with knowledgeable people to accelerate the process.

NCAT intends to form a new national organization, The Redesign Alliance, dedicated to improving student learning while reducing instructional costs through course redesign. By assessing an annual institutional membership fee of $5,000, this organization will be self-sustaining. The Alliance will sponsor a number of networking activities to facilitate the exchange of ideas, experiences, resources and strategies among institutions interested in course redesign, including an annual conference as well as a series of smaller meetings throughout the year. Participants will include institutions of higher education and companies with an interest in higher education such as publishers and technology companies.

Under the umbrella of The Redesign Alliance, NCAT will create a Redesign Scholars Program to link those new to course redesign with more experienced colleagues to whom they can turn for advice and support. Large-scale course redesigns are demanding to establish and difficult to sustain. Faculty and staff need more than simple generic advice. They also need to contribute to and benefit from a network of practitioners engaged in similar endeavors. Sixteen Redesign Scholars will form a core resource to support novice institutions as they embark on course redesigns.

Because large-scale course redesigns truly do re-form the curriculum, they require extensive teamwork on the part of faculty and staff across campus. Faculty excitement and new curricular visions often run aground on the unforeseen shores of catalogue publication deadlines, room scheduling, and computer registration systems. Because the course redesign approach is generally new to students, parents, trustees, registrars, and advising staff--not to mention most faculty members--course redesign leaders need to think carefully about how to introduce and describe their initiatives to all of these constituents. In addition, most faculty members have little experience with team-planning common outcomes and common approaches to teaching.

As part of The Redesign Alliance’s programmatic activities, NCAT will establish four-person teams from 60 novice institutions and bring them together with NCAT staff and Redesign Scholars at a series of disciplinary institutes. The institutes will introduce the teams to the NCAT methodology, share strategies and techniques for successful course redesign, and help them develop plans for course redesigns on their home campuses. Four disciplinary institutes (mathematics, natural sciences, social sciences, humanities) will be held in each year of the project—one per quarter—for a total of 12.

Following each institute, NCAT will support collaboration and consultation among NCAT staff, Redesign Scholars and institutional teams to help teams apply what was learned at the institutes on campus and replicate prior successes. Finally, an annual national dissemination conference sponsored by The Redesign Alliance will enable novice institutions to share their experiences and lessons with a larger audience as well as to bring together the growing body of national work in course redesign communities.

Through this series of networking activities, NCAT will build, extend and sustain community among those engaged in individual course redesigns. Many of the novice institutions will join The Redesign Alliance and continue to participate in its programs. Thus, we will create a national resource for the higher education community that will enable and support new learning and stimulate new initiatives leading to the trans-formation of educational practice nationally. By disseminating NCAT’s proven course redesign methodology to additional institutions, by replicating prior successes, and by changing the conversation about what is possible, we will make a major contribution to improving access to high quality, affordable higher education across the U.S.

In sum, the project will achieve the following objectives over a three-year period:

  • Establish The Redesign Alliance to facilitate the exchange of ideas, experiences, resources and strategies among institutions interested in course redesign.
  • Establish a Redesign Scholars Program to enable faculty and administrators experienced in course redesign to serve as a resource for inexperienced colleges and universities interested in course redesign.
  • Establish a national competition to select 60 novice institutions committed to engaging in course redesign to collaborate with NCAT and the Redesign Scholars.
  • Hold four disciplinary-based institutes each year for experienced institutions to share proven course redesign strategies and techniques with novice institutions.
  • Support collaboration among NCAT staff, Redesign Scholars and institutional teams to help teams apply what was learned at the institutes on campus.
  • Hold an annual national conference to disseminate successful redesign strategies and to bring together the growing body of national work in course redesign.

Project Workplan

Objective 1. Establish The Redesign Alliance to facilitate the exchange of ideas, experiences, resources and strategies among institutions interested in course redesign.

Step 1. Solicit interest among course redesign “alumni” about forming a national organization. This task has been completed. Between April and July 2006, NCAT discussed the idea of forming a national association with those most experienced in course redesign. To date, 26 institutions and companies have committed to be founding members and to pay a first-year membership fee of $5,000. We anticipate that the total number of founding members will be about 40, giving the Alliance an initial resource base to support and sustain its ongoing programs and operations.

Step 2. Hold a planning meeting. We will invite the founding members to a planning meeting that will finalize the Call to Participate, decide on the structure and themes of the annual conference, suggest ideas for smaller group meetings and other programmatic activities, and deal with other planning issues. At that meeting, an Advisory Board will be selected from among the founding members. (October 2006)

Step 3. Issue a Call to Participate to the higher education community. A Call to Participate inviting institutions and companies to join the Alliance will be issued to the higher education community. The Call will describe the benefits of participation, the goals and objectives of the Alliance , its areas of work, and its organizational and financial strategies, and will be issued by the founding members. (November 2006)

Step 4. Solidify the membership and plan the first annual conference. Following the issuance of the Call, we will solidify the membership of the Alliance in preparation for our first public event, the annual national dissemination conference to be held in late February/early March 2007 (see Objective 6 below.) The conference agenda will be developed by NCAT staff and the Advisory Board with the support of a Project Coordinator. Additional institutions and organizations will be welcome to join the Alliance at any point.

Objective 2. Establish a Redesign Scholars Program to enable faculty and administrators experienced in course redesign to serve as a resource for inexperienced colleges and universities interested in course redesign.

Step 1. Announce and publicize a competition among course redesign alumni. In conducting various course redesign programs, NCAT has worked with literally hundreds of dedicated faculty and administrative staff who are knowledgeable about how to implement large-scale course redesigns. We will choose the “best of the best” to serve as consultants to new institutions for the life of this project and beyond.

Step 2. Develop position description and application guidelines. We will develop a position description for the Redesign Scholars, including their responsibilities (e.g., campus site visits, ongoing consultation to novice institutions) and benefits (e.g., travel to annual conferences will be supported by the project.) Applicants will be asked to assess their readiness to offer their expertise and support novice institutions.

Step 3. Select 16 Redesign Scholars, in four academic areas. Redesign scholars will be selected in four academic areas: mathematics, natural sciences, social sciences and humanities by the Project Director.

Step 4. Orient and train 16 Redesign Scholars. In J anuary 2007, we will hold an initial organizational meeting in one location with NCAT staff and the Redesign Scholars. The agenda will be to bring all of the Scholars up to speed regarding NCAT’s past work, plans for the Alliance , plans to work with novice institutions; to establish a detailed work plan and timeline for each discipline over the life of the project; and to clarify the role of the Scholars. Subsequent meetings to assess how well the Scholars program is working will be held in conjunction with each annual conference.

Objective 3. Establish a national competition to select 60 novice institutions committed to engaging in course redesign to collaborate with NCAT and the Redesign Scholars.

Step 1. Announce and publicize the national competition. NCAT will invite campuses to apply to participate in the project through a competitive application process. Sixty new adopting institutions will be selected over the three-year project period. In 2006-07, 20 institutions will be involved in Round I of the project; 20 more will join in Round II in 2007-08; 20 more will join in Round III in 2008-09. We will utilize the following vehicles to publicize the competition each year: 1) NCAT’s current listserve of 4,500 members of the higher education community; 2) an announcement distributed to the Alliance founding members; 3) a mailing to 3,600 campus presidents; and 4) a mailing to those individuals and campuses who have contacted NCAT about course redesign within the past five years.

Step 2. Develop and distribute guidelines for prospective new institutions that focus on readiness for participation. Not all institutions are ready to engage in large-scale course redesign using technology. A set of preconditions—or readiness criteria—must be in place before an institution can successfully implement such an effort. Applicants will be required to submit written responses to a set of readiness criteria that will address: 1) the impact changes in the course will have on student success, 2) the experiences faculty members have had with developing curriculum collectively, identifying learning outcomes and measuring their achievement, and integrating elements of computer-based instruction into existing courses; 3) the support of personnel key to the project: the senior academic administrator, the senior technology officer, the initiating department, and the college's curriculum committee; and 4) their commitment to participate fully in all the elements of the project. Guidelines for participation will be posted on the NCAT web site, and all announcements will direct interested institutions to the site.

Step 3. Select 60 participating institutions . NCAT staff and the Redesign Scholars will review the readiness responses and rank-order them according to the institutions’ level of readiness and commitment to participating in the project. The project director will review the rankings and make the final selection. NCAT will create a balance of institutions in the project (campuses in the beginning stages and campuses farther along, two-year and four-year; urban/rural; large/small) and will choose campuses with a geographic balance across the country. Twenty institutions per Round (60 total) will be selected and invited to send teams to disciplinary institutes.

Objective 4. Hold four disciplinary-based institutes each year for experienced institutions to share proven course redesign strategies and techniques with novice institutions.

Step 1. Create institutional teams and establish baseline assessments. Campuses chosen to participate will establish a course redesign leadership team, comprised of faculty and administrators key to the effort. A subset of this group will be the Institute Team, who will attend a disciplinary-based institute. Institute Teams will consist of the chief academic officer, the chief technology officer and two lead faculty members. The leadership team will undertake a self-assessment process in which they analyze the traditional course format and assemble baseline data on student learning achievement and course completion rates and the current cost of offering the course to document their starting point in the project relative to the project's goals.

Step 2. Establish relationships with the campuses and plan the disciplinary institutes. This documentation and information will be communicated to the Project Coordinator, who will work with a lead contact person on each campus to develop a sense of each adopting campus's course redesign ideas, resources, needs and issues. The Project Director will work with the Redesign Scholars and the Project Coordinator to design each institute in response to specific needs and questions articulated by the participating campuses and to the particularities of the discipline.

Step 3. Hold disciplinary institutes. Four disciplinary-based institutes in mathematics, natural sciences, social sciences and humanities (one per quarter) will be held in each of the three project years (total = 20). Four-person teams from five novice institutions will participate with four redesign scholars and two NCAT staff. In addition, up to 14 individuals from the institutional members of the Alliance will be invited to participate in order to generate interest in sending teams to future institutes. The FIPSE grant will support the travel of two of the four-person teams; the institutions will support the other two team members.

Objective 5. Support collaboration among NCAT staff, Redesign Scholars and institutional teams to help teams apply what was learned at the institutes on campus.

Step 1. Maintain contact with participating campuses . Frequently, dissemination projects conclude their relationship to campuses and individuals at this point. It has been our experience that a continuing, iterative relationship to involved campuses is key to strengthening and sustaining whatever new effort is undertaken. Each institute team will return to its campus and, working with their campus-based course redesign leadership team, begin work on the plans developed at the institute. Throughout the year(s) after the institute, the NCAT staff and the Redesign Scholars will be available to each campus via telephone and email for ongoing consultation. Institute participants can also be in touch by email, sharing ideas and resources, as well as airing problems. The Project Coordinator will be in touch by telephone with the lead campus contact person at regular intervals to discuss progress and problems. Each campus will send a formal progress report and relevant documentation to NCAT a year after their participation in the institute.

Step 2. Conduct campus site visits and consultations . During a process of curricular change, issues arise in the day-to-day life of faculty and their students. Redesigned courses are thriving across the U.S. because colleagues have been able to provide both formal and informal consultations in the campus context in which redesigned courses are being developed. Following each institute, each adopting campus will have resources made possible by the FIPSE grant to invite one or more consultants drawn from among the Redesign Scholars to their campus for follow-up consultations and workshops. Each campus will be able to spend up to $1000 toward honoraria and up to $1000 in travel support for such visits. Campuses may bring a consultant to campus at additional times at their own expense. Campus leaders will consult with the Project Coordinator regarding the most appropriate timing, design and consultant(s) for the visit. The site visit will focus on issues of curriculum and pedagogy, administrative matters, assessment and evaluation efforts, and implementation progress. After the visit, the consultant will write to the leadership team, copying the Project Director, reflecting on the visit, offering insights and clarifying issues.

Step 3. Provide feedback to participating campuses at designated intervals. Throughout the project, we will be alert for lessons learned, resources developed, promising ideas implemented, problems addressed. We will distribute ideas and examples to participating institutions and the higher education community through our quarterly electronic newsletter, The Learning MarketSpace. We will also communicate with individual campuses to share specific ideas gathered from consultations (both formal site visits and informal consultations) with the novice institutions as a means of addressing continuing problems and strengthening practice.

Objective 6. Hold an annual national conference to disseminate successful redesign strategies and to bring together the growing body of national work in course redesign.

Step 1. Announce and hold first annual conference. NCAT is in the process of planning a national dissemination conference on course redesign as described in Objective 1. Attendees at the first conference will be drawn primarily from Alliance founding member institutions and organizations, although participation from the higher education community will be sought and welcomed. (March 2007)

Step 2. Hold subsequent national conferences each year. While 60 campuses will be the primary beneficiaries of this project, it will be critically important to share their experiences and lessons with a larger audience as well as to bring together the growing body of national work in course redesign communities. During each year of the project, NCAT will host a national dissemination conference on course redesign. The work of the novice institutions will be prominently featured as case studies in course redesign. These reflective histories will assess those factors that contributed to the success of these programs, or the lack of success. The conference will be designed to illuminate progress and problems and to generate next steps in this reform work.

Project Dissemination Plan

Our dissemination strategy has two facets. The first is that the heart of our proposed project is to diffuse a proven educational reform and to accelerate the pace of change at other institutions, as described in the project work plan. The second is to continue to increase awareness in the higher education community about how course redesign using technology can improve learning and reduce costs.

NCAT has established a number of communication vehicles, all of which will be employed in disseminating the results of this new initiative. Specifically, we will:

  • Continue an active speaking program, targeting national and regional conferences as well as individual campuses wanting to engage in redesign. (Ongoing)
  • Encourage participating institutions to engage in an active dissemination process. (E.g., PGPCR recipients collectively engaged in 900 dissemination activities.)
  • Publish articles in mainstream journals describing project outcomes. (Ongoing)
  • Produce and distribute our quarterly electronic newsletter, The Learning MarketSpace, to its more than 4,500 subscribers, describing project outcomes, examples of course redesigns, and issues related to their development and implementation. (Ongoing)
  • Expand the NCAT web site to include campus plans, progress reports and final outcomes from the adopting institutions; additional tools developed as part of this project; and news from The Redesign Alliance. (Ongoing)
  • Issue a final synthesis of the findings and themes of this project and an analysis of the next challenges in this reform work in The Learning MarketSpace. (Fall 2009)

Improving on Current Practice

Large-scale course redesigns themselves improve prevailing practices in undergraduate education by engaging students in active, intensive learning experiences that produce increased learning, by engaging faculty and staff in an analytical process that enables them to reduce instructional costs, and by connecting faculty members with each other, with administrative staff and with students in a stimulating common enterprise. Our proposed project will create an organizational structure that improves practice by engaging institutions in sustained efforts that interweave curriculum reform and cost reduction with faculty development, assessment and planned organizational change. By staying closely linked to institutions and individuals over time in order to transfer lessons from one generation of involved institutions to the next, NCAT will create an effective network of course redesign practitioners throughout the U.S. This national dissemination effort will also produce additional demonstration sites and experienced individuals to support further iterations of large-scale course redesign.

Project Formative and Summative Evaluation

Both formative and summative evaluations will be central activities in this project. They will occur on two levels--at the new campus participant level and at the project level--and will be conducted by a mix of evaluators including the new institutions, the Redesign Scholars, the NCAT staff and an external evaluator, Dr. Peter Ewell.

New campus participant level. As mentioned earlier, NCAT has seven years of experience working with multiple campus efforts to embed formative and summative evaluation into their course redesigns. In collaboration with Dr. Ewell, NCAT has established a rigorous evaluation process for gathering both quantitative and qualitative information about the impact of course redesign on improved student learning, increased retention and reduction of instructional costs. The new campus participants will be asked to conduct an evaluation plan based on that process during their association with the project. The teams will also collect formative data such as student and faculty opinion surveys and self-reports that will be used to improve their redesigns as they move from the pilot stage to full implementation.

Each novice institutional team will also assess its experience as a case study in developing, implementing and sustaining course redesign. They will focus on peda-gogical techniques that improve student learning, cost reduction techniques, and implementation issues that contributed to the success of the redesign or were barriers to completion. The campus team will gather this information at intervals throughout the project and will synthesize it in a case study presentation at the annual conference.

Project level. The project itself will undertake a similar evaluation process to determine and describe the effectiveness of its dissemination model, that is, to evaluate whether the structure succeeds in providing new institutions with the support and guidance they need to engage in large-scale course redesign, and whether it succeeds at extending the lessons of these redesign efforts to a national audience. Each stage of the project will build in feedback loops to gauge progress and gaps. Through the gathering of documentation and reports from each campus, questionnaires and reflective interviews, evaluation will occur at the following points: at the beginning of the project (though applications and baseline information); at the start and end of the institutes; during site visits by consultants; and at the project's end.