Technology is changing the way in which education is being delivered and it is no longer enough for higher education institutions to just offer a wide variety of courses for reasonable tuition rates and expect to maintain student enrollment and prosper. As Bowen (2012) discusses, in Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning, that in order to stay competitive in the business market it is now more important than ever for those in higher education to focus on the quality of the education they are providing. So how exactly should educators go about doing that?
Bowen suggests that “deans and provosts need to work with faculty to come to a completely new understanding of how best to design and deliver courses, engage students, and create new curricula.” (2012, p. 247). Bowen (2012) states that deans can support better teaching by setting the tone, promoting the scholarship of teaching and learning, being flexible about faculty work contracts, improving learning outcomes, requiring evidence-based pedagogy, redesigning course evaluations, creating robust teaching reviews, supporting teaching risks, starting a lending library, distributing innovation grants, finding redesign time, and advocating for a teaching center. (p. 247-251). The one topic that I would like to focus on here is that of redesigning courses.
The National Center for Academic Transformation (2014) has been working with higher education institutions and their stakeholders since 1999 and they have figured out what works and what doesn’t for improving student achievement while simultaneously reducing the cost of the instructional process in undergraduate college courses. They call this process course redesign. “Course redesign is the process of redesigning whole courses (rather than individual classes or sections) to achieve better learning outcomes at lower costs by taking advantage of the capabilities of information technology.” (The National Center for Academic Transformation, 2014, p. 3).
Last year I taught a Health Care Assistant: Community Practicum course that I did not feel was designed very effectively. Through student evaluation of the course, I came to realize that the students who were enrolled in this course had feelings along the same lines as mine. As a new instructor at this college I felt somewhat hesitant about bringing my feelings forth to the department, as I didn’t want anyone to take offense to the fact that I felt this course was designed somewhat poorly. When I was asked by the dean if I would be willing to come back again to teach this course this coming year I felt obligated to the student body, and to my own teaching philosophy, to mention the issues I had with the existing course design. I was happily surprised that the dean was on board with having some elements of the course redesigned, to better meet the needs of our student body, and encouraged me to bring forth these ideas at the next department meeting.
We recently had a department meeting, in which I brought up the fact that I would like to work on redesigning some elements of the HCA Community Practicum course, and was pleasantly met with a lot of encouragement to do so. I spoke with the other faculty about the issues students had addressed, as well as other issues I personally felt needed changing. I was amazed by the fact that there were other faculty, who had taught this course in the past, that stated they had been dealing with the same student feedback and feelings of inadequate course design for a few years running yet nobody had done anything to address these issues. How is it that so many people were aware of the design flaws in this course and yet nothing had changed?
As a new instructor I am still working on developing my overall teaching philosophy, however, I have a strong inclination towards the fact that instructors need to be aware of their student body and continually strive to be meeting their needs and expectations. I agree with Bowen (2012) when he states that “now that technology has created a cheaper way to deliver content, faculty should spend more time finding the right entry point, creating a supportive environment, communicating high standards, and guiding student learning.” (p. 246).
As an educator I feel it is necessary to be constant evaluating the work in which I am involved in. As discussed in the article Pedagogy teachers have the responsibility to challenge existing structures, practices, and definitions of knowledge; to invent and test new approaches; and, where necessary, to pursue organizational change in a constant attempt to improve the school. As agents of the public interest in a democracy, teachers through their work contribute to the dialogue about preserving and improving society, and they initiate future citizens into this ongoing public discourse. (INTIME, 1999-2001).
Due to the fact that technology is greatly changing education it is more important than ever for those in higher education to be ensuring that they are offering the best courses possible in order to meet the needs of their student population. Due to this fact, and the knowledge I have gained through recent readings and research, I have concluded that it is imperative that I make the necessary changes needed for the redesigning of the HCA Community Practicum course. So what exactly are the changes I will need to make?
Through the analysis of past student’s course evaluations I have determined what changes are necessary in order to better meet the needs of the students enrolled in this course. Due to the fact that I do not have any face-to-face contact with any of the students after their practicum has started, as they work one-on-one with their preceptors, some students felt that there was a lack of communication with me. During the course redesign I felt that it was necessary to implement a mandatory group skype call, between myself and all of the students enrolled in the course, on a bi-weekly basis. Even though the students are required to submit a journal to me weekly, detailing the activities they have been involved in and a reflection on their learning, there was a lack of discussion on any actual issues or concerns the students had. My hope is that by requiring students to be involved in this bi-weekly skype call the students will be more open about discussing their concerns or any issues that have arisen because they will be aware of the fact that many of the other students are often dealing with the same situations. As a group we would then be able to discuss these issue and concerns, reflect on their experiences and strategize ways in which to address these problems. By involving the students in these types of discussions instructors are able to ensure that a student-centered approach is being taken, and that their concerns are being recognized and addressed.
Another aspect of the course that needed redesigning was the requirements for the reflective journal assignments. Although the students were provided with a journal template and assignment description previously, both myself and the students felt that it lacked clear directions regarding the content that needed to be included in the journal entry. I was receiving a lot of journal entries from students that would describe in detail the personal care and household assistance skills that they had been providing but there was very little content discussing the reflection they were doing on their nursing practice and the learning that had occurred because of it. I, therefore, needed to address this issue and revise the journal template and assignment description in order for the students to have clear and precise instructions so they could better understand what was expected of them for their reflective journal entries.
In nursing it is imperative that individuals reflect on their practice in order to recognize if any changes need to be made to ensure they are providing the best possible care in the most efficient and effective way. I believe that it is necessary in the teaching profession to engage in these types of reflective practice exercises as well. After all, if educators do not take the time to reflect on their teaching practices then how are they able to gauge whether what they are doing is working or not.
Although there are other minor elements that I redesigned, for this HCA Community Practicum course, I believe that the above mentioned changes will have the most impact on helping the students to meet the course learning outcomes and get the most out of their experience. I am looking forward to the upcoming year to see how the redesign components I have altered change the way in which the course runs and the students evaluate it.
In the future I will be committed to continually evaluating my instructional process and diligent about initiating the necessary course adjustments that will enable me to best meet the needs of my students. Technology has changed the way in which education is being delivered. As educators in the 21st century it is necessary for us to recognize and embrace these changes in order to stay competitive in the global market, for if we don’t student enrollment is likely to decline and the success of higher education institutions is at risk.
Bowen, J. (2012). Teaching naked: How moving technology out of your college classroom will improve student learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
INTIME. (1999-2001). Pedagogy. Retrieved from http://www.intime.uni.edu/model/teacher/pedagogysummary.html
The National Center for Academic Transformation. (2014). How to Redesign a College Course Using NCAT’s Methodology. Retrieved from http://www.thencat.org/Guides/AllDisciplines/How%20to%20Redesign%20A%20College%20Course.pdf