Course Redesign Impact on Teaching and Learning
- This redesign project has made us more mindful and intentional educators, compelling us to articulate learning goals for students and map out strategies for helping students achieve those goals. We have been able to more clearly communicate convey expectations to students, hold students accountable for their work throughout the term, and have more honest conversations with students about the effort they are putting into class work and what they need to do meet the requirements for submitting a final portfolio and pass the class.
- In the fall of 2015, Students in redesigned sections of ENGL 105 mastered the student learning outcomes for the course, with over 94% of students receiving final portfolio scores equivalent to a C or higher. The students who did not pass the class withdrew from the University completely over the course of the semester and did not submit a portfolio for scoring.
- The tools that were implemented into the redesign, particularly Google Docs, gave us a surprising insights into students’ writing processes and work habits. Students could no longer assert that they were “working on” their papers when the revision history on Google Docs revealed that not to be the case. Knowing what students were and were not doing over the course of the semester brought into question how well their portfolios would hold up during scoring, but it also made it easier to push students to address the issues in their papers during the drafting and revision process. Ultimately, the students were very successful in portfolio scoring while at the same time mastering tools that will serve them in future courses.
- In the fall of 2015, students in redesigned sections of ENGL 105 performed well in portfolio scoring. No one who submitted a portfolio received less than a C. The only students who did not pass the class are those who withdrew completely from the University during the semester.
- The scores students received in portfolio scoring indicate that they mastered the learning outcomes. Moreover, scores reflected that many students excelled in this regard, with 80% of students earning score equivalent to a B or higher.
- More time will be needed to get a clear picture of how students in redesigned sections of ENGL 105 perform compared to those in traditional sections. Early data, however, indicate that the redesign has reduced the number of students receiving repeatable grades. Generally, about 8.5% of students who take ENGL 105 receive a D or F in their first attempt. In the redesigned sections of ENGL 105 in the fall of 2015, this number was cut in half, with just 4% of students receiving a repeatable grade.
|Spring 2015||Fall 2015|
|Pre Redesigned Course N=72||Redesigned Course N=51|
|Note: D- and Lower was Non-Passing|
- Students were a bit uncertain at first about their ability to work with the tools we implemented in our classes, although in many ways this was consistent with the various aspects of our composition classes that differ from what students have experienced in high school. As students began using the tools and seeing how they helped facilitate their learning, this uncertainty largely dissipated. Students came to see the tools used in our classes as valuable resources, and the confidence they gained as they became adept with using the tools gave them a more positive view of the course overall. The redesigned class demonstrated the value of helping students discover what they are capable of challenged to work with new and innovative tools.
- Students appreciate learning how to use digital software, such as screenshots, screencasting, and Voicethread, in a practical way. Some of the most significant feedback comes two or three semesters after a student has taken the course and they report back to us how they have used the tools we introduced them to in their other classes or in their work environment.
Challenges Our Students Encountered
- Writing in a digital environment: Many students have limited experience composing/writing on digital devices, so learning to write on the computer can be a challenge.
- Devices: Students enter the institution with a wide-range of personal, digital devices. Some devices, for various reasons, presented students with difficulties in accessing the various digital tools used in the course.
- Revision: Students have rarely had an opportunity to revise their work, thus they lack knowledge about what to do when revising beyond fixing surface error mistakes.
- Project management: Most of our students have never managed a semester-long project before. Having to work on something for so long was foreign to them. challenges did the students encounter in the redesigned activities? E.g., technical challenges, organization of course, and redesigned activities.
Lessons Learned & Redesign Tips
- Be patient with yourself and others, particularly during the first weeks of the semester. Both the instructor and the students are getting used to the difference in the course delivery and that takes time.
- Adapt new technologies at a rate the instructor can comfortably manage given the campus resources offered to them. We had lots of support, which made adaptation easier.
- Encourage students to work with and learn from one another more. Often, they will solve their own technology problems when they work together.
Course Redesign Obstacles
- Time: Redesign takes a great deal of time and occurs over a number of semesters. It was important to recognize this fact and come to terms with it. Rather than doing everything all at once, develop a multi-semester plan.
- Enthusiasm: Technology tools are stimulating in their possibilities. An instructor can get so enthusiastic trying to employ all the tools that it can be overwhelming for students and the faculty member. Gradual adoption is advised.
Strategies I Used to Increase Engagement
- Increased opportunities to for students to collaborate with one another, whether in group work or peer review.
- Increased frequency of one-to-one meetings with students to discuss their writing progress.
- Increased writing/project work during class time.
- Increased expectations for student participation in synchronous and asynchronous class discussions.
- The course redesign provided us with an opportunity to more effectively address student writing, the focus of the course. It enabled us to meet more with our students to discuss their work and provided opportunities for student collaboration and learning from one another. Perhaps more importantly, the redesign provided an opportunity to enhance student engagement and raise students’ skills with digital tools, both significant factors in students’ long-term success at the university and beyond. Creating the ePortfolio has been positive in asking us to reflect back on our efforts, see the progress that we have made, and establish goals for moving forward and recruiting more colleagues to redesign their composition courses.