course-design.jpgWhy work at a course level?

Redesign at any level involves change, and as we are all only too aware, change is daunting, difficult, sometimes threatening and often very slow. When we redesign at course level, this is compounded by the larger implications of the design, the greater number of stakeholders to be accommodated, and the sometimes overwhelming complexity of the task at hand. No longer do we just need to consider our own patch of grass...we need to think about the student experience holistically: 'OK, so I'm happy with what I'm doing, but how does that fit with what everyone else is doing? What does the whole student experience look like?'

The introduction of the CSU Degree framework adds to this complexity. A focus on discipline content alone is no longer enough to help our students become the 'rounded, grounded practitioners' (McKenzie, 2009) that they need to be in today's world of rapidly changing knowledge. CSU is now making several 'commitments' to our students, from being exposed to various values and perspectives to providing good practice in terms of a range of learning and teaching dimensions. These all add additional 'layers' to course redesign that need to be considered.

Yet despite its complexity and daunting nature, as Simpson and Anderson (2009) note, course level redesign offers the greatest potential for change, through the vast range of possibilities it presents. It offers the opportunity for a richer, more integrated and holistic learning experience for our students; a chance to consider what that rounded, grounded practitioner might look like in our own context, and how we might best support students to move towards that ideal.

Luckily, we don't need to do it all at once. The process of course redesign is a long one, full of iterative changes as we work with evolving ideas, policies and principles that are still emerging and a society which is constantly on the move. So how can we go about this? Alan Bain from CSU's Faculty of Education is embarking on a three-year project to help course teams within that Faculty uncover a redesign process that works. Alan and his team have published and won various awards for their course redesign process in the past, so we're keen to hear more from them, but this isn't expected for a couple of years yet.

Sharpe et al (2006) found the most successful blended learning implementations had the following characteristics:
  • They completed an analysis of the successful and less successful features of the current course, including student feedback.
  • They designed as a team, ensuring that all staff had time to properly integrate blended and online tasks (e.g. by only reworking part of a subject).
  • The designs were based on explicit underlying principles, either pedagogical principles (e.g. 'being sensitive to the needs of learners as individuals (Graff, 2003), active learning (Hinterberger, Fassler and Bauer-Messmer, 2004), repetition and elaboration (Boyle et al., 2003), the requirement for prompt and frequent feedback (Morris and Walker, 2006) or design principles related to the course outcomes e.g. ‘attention to detail’ (Stubbs, Martin and Endlar, 2006)).
  • The course was developed iteratively over a number of years, with often three or four iterations of course design, development and implementation to complete the transition from traditional to blended e-learning course (Trevitt, 2005; Danchak and Huguet, 2004; Ellem and McLaughlin, 2005).

Take a look at our strategies page for more ideas on building a course team and tackling your course redesign. Also, make sure you talk to your Educational Designer about the course redesign process.



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When it comes to course design or redesign, one of the greatest resources a course team can have is their educational designer, so get them involved early. LTS has been working on course design methodology with respect to the CSUDegree for some time, and will have a range of strategies to share.

Remember that there's a wide network of your peers who are more than willing to offer guidance and resources on the Yammer community. We're collecting the best of what we find in our Delicious site, tagged to make it easier to find what you need. The most recent additions are included here: