Redesigning a Course: A Tale from a Self-proclaimed Redesign Addict

Faculty Focus: Kerri McBee-Black, Instructor Textile and Apparel Management

Have you contemplated redesigning your course? Do you wonder if all the work is worth it? Will your students like it? Will you like it? Will the performance of your students improve? I can help answer these questions for you by giving you a look inside my redesign process using a flipped classroom model.

For me, the reason for a course redesign was due to the stagnant nature of my course. My science of textiles course was a traditional lecture course. I lectured but I am not sure students were listening. This course requires engagement with textiles so students used a swatch kit and were expected to bring it with them to each class. They didn’t. As you can imagine WHEN students brought the swatch kit (which was mostly never) they were lack-luster in their attempts to fully engage with the swatches. Not to mention, textiles is a dense subject matter with a lot of details that require application. Talking about it for seventy-five minutes was not cutting it.

So, I began looking into other teaching methods. I had read about the flipped classroom model and thought that it might be a good fit for what I wanted to do, which was to engage my students. Great news! But, I also discovered that it was going to be a lot of work! However, I was not deterred because something had to be done to improve this course; I was getting tired of listening to myself lecture. I began to document what I wanted to do in the class and began visualizing how engagement could be improved.

As an E-Mentor on campus, I knew that ET@MO was a great resource for all things teaching and technology. So, I started there and discovered that there was funding to support course redesign. I applied and was awarded a grant to redesign my course. The goals of the redesign were to improve attendance, improve exam scores, and increase engagement.

I wish, at this point, I could tell you that the process of redesigning a course is easy and quick. What I can tell you is that I knew it would be a lot of work, so I feel as though I went into the process with eyes wide open. You need a team and you need a plan. That is the joy of the redesign process through ET@MO. They help you with both. I worked with a great team of instructional designers and together we developed a plan. They listened to my vision and worked to understand my course, its structure, and its objectives. They helped create a plan that was achievable and goal-oriented. The planning and development phase took a year to complete and it was worth every minute.

I implemented worksheets that students bring to each class, and work in groups and individually to complete. The worksheets relate to the content from each chapter and require that they use the swatch kit to find answers. This, along with the implementation of Top Hat, a student mobile-device engagement tool, encourages students to engage with each other and with the instructor throughout the course. The questions are directly related to the worksheet and are also relevant to the exams. I don’t lecture at all. OK, well, I do but not in the same way. I introduce content at the beginning of the course, they work on their worksheets, I engage with students while they are completing their work and I can interject ideas or comments with the whole class during this process. When we use Top Hat I can take the opportunity to go a bit deeper with content or redirect if the majority of the class got the answer wrong. It is a much more engaging form of content delivery.

The lectures are now pushed to Canvas, with students reviewing the lectures online before they come to class (some do and some don’t). They can start and stop the lectures at their leisure. I also implemented mastery quizzes for each lecture that students can complete as many times as they need. All of the lectures were recorded using Adobe Captivate. The lectures are no more than 15 minutes long, many under 10 minutes in length. This is critical! Short lectures help with engagement.

The biggest benefit for me was dissecting this course and really looking at it from the inside out. It was a luxury, which I am grateful for, to have outside counsels give opinions about what they thought worked and didn’t work. I will tell you, that I now consider myself a redesign addict. I have employed the methods learned from this redesign in other courses. For me, it fundamentally changed my perspective of how a course should operate.

Attendance in my class increased from the traditional lecture format to the flipped classroom. Students are now required to complete worksheets in the classroom which requires them to attend class and participate. Exam scores improved from the traditional lecture course and student attitude was surprisingly positive. If you feel your course could be improved I would encourage you to first speak with the folks at ET@MO. If a redesign is needed, apply for the Course Redesign funding. Your course redesign experience will be a journey you will never forget!