Course Design Institutes
Do you need to revise a course…
…because of changes in enrollment or for conversion to semesters? Are you preparing to teach a new course, or are you frustrated or bored with one you are already teaching? These five-part intensive institutes are designed to provide you with the tools, the time, and the collegial support to really dig in and design or re-design that course.
UCAT’s Course Design Institute (CDI) is an intensive five-part workshop in which instructors, with hands-on guidance from UCAT staff, focus on designing or redesigning a specific course. The CDI provides participants with the tools, time, and support they need as they work to build or rebuild effective, student-centered courses.
By the end of each institute, participants will have created the basic structure of a course, including plans for a syllabus, assignments, assessment tools, and a course outline. Perhaps even more importantly, they will have had a chance to exchange feedback with a diverse group of colleagues from across our university, allowing them to share their ideas about teaching and gather new ideas from their peers.
The CDI introduces participants to a process called “Backwards Design,” a concept put forth by educators Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe in their book Understanding by Design. While it is tempting to begin designing a course by deciding what content to cover, “Backwards Design” suggests that instructors start by identifying specific, student-centered goals and objectives before they choose any other elements of the course.
In the CDI, one of the first things we ask instructors to do is to define their goals and objectives-what they want their students to know or care about and what they want their students to be able to do upon successful completion of their course. Then, instructors design specific assignments and assessment tools that “align” with their course goals and objectives. Finally, instructors identify teaching strategies and discipline-specific content such that all elements of their course are “aligned” with the foundational aims identified at the outset. By the end of the CDI, each of these components is arranged into an “Integrated Course Plan” that is designed to best enable student learning.
When designing the CDI, we actually used the “Backwards Design” process to create our course plan! Below, you can see various steps we took and get a sense of the structure of the CDI.
First, we generated our participant-centered goals:
Then, we identified observable and measurable learning objectives — specific things participants would be able to do by the end of the institute that would demonstrate they had met the goals:
Finally, we designed specific activities that aligned with our objectives for CDI participants:
The arrows in the image below show the connections or alignment between each of the various components in the “Integrated Course Plan” for the Course Design Institute:
|Winter Break 2014||Monday–Friday (12/15–12/19)
(overlaps with the end of exams)
|Spring 2015||Tuesdays (1/20, 1/27, 2/3, 2/10, 2/17)||1–4pm|
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How much time outside of the CDI will I need to spend?
A: Each session, you will have time to get started on your work “in class,” and then we will ask that you continue your work at home and respond to others’ work through our interactive Wiki. Your level of participation will directly affect what you take away from the CDI, as well as the other participants’ community experience. Our most successful participants put in about 1-2 extra hour(s) of work between sessions, but ultimately, the amount of time you spend outside the CDI is at your own discretion.
Q: Do I need to have a specific course I will be working on?
A: Yes. The course can be one that you have taught before or never taught before. It can be one that currently exists or that you’ve only imagined. But you will only be able to participate in the CDI if you have a course to work on designing using the skills you’ll be learning.
Q: May I work on 2 courses at the same time?
A: We strongly recommend that you concentrate on only one course so that you do not feel overwhelmed. Furthermore, we will only provide you the Wiki space to work through one course design. However, the skills you learn from the CDI will be directly applicable to any course you will design or re-design from here on out. If you feel you need support and guidance as you work on another course design, UCAT consultants would be happy to meet with you one-on-one after you finish the CDI.
Q: May I take the CDI again for another course I want to (re)design?
A: You may apply to take the CDI for another course you want to (re)design. However, your application will not receive priority consideration as we focus on accepting individuals who have yet to learn the skills and need to apply them most immediately.
Q: Do I need to bring the texts for the course I want to work on?
A: No. In fact, we encourage you to leave all texts and course materials at home! The CDI provides a space to re-imagine your course from a fresh perspective.
Q: What if I don’t know what the content will actually be yet?
A: That’s fine! We prefer when our participants are not thinking about content when they arrive. As long as you have an idea of the purpose of the course and what you hope students will be able to know and do by the end of it, you will be successful. Content should naturally flow from there.
Q: May I take this for a course I may not ever teach here at OSU?
A: Yes, you may. We do not offer top priority to candidates who are proposing to work on non-OSU courses, but we do accept such candidates on a regular basis. We believe it’s important for educators to learn this method and these skills no matter what or where they will be teaching!
Q: I am a staff member – may I take the CDI?
A: Yes, the CDI is open to anyone who teaches in any capacity at Ohio State. In addition to traditional courses, participants have used the CDI to design workshops, trainings, and seminars.
Q: Will I leave with a completed syllabus?
A: No, but you will leave with plans for and components of a syllabus. Writing a syllabus should be much easier after having completed the CDI.
Q: I’m designing a class with someone else. Can we work as a pair in the CDI or do we each have to work independently?
A: Yes, you can work as a pair. Please indicate in the “Additional Notes” section of your application your partner’s name and the nature of your work together.
Q: What if I can’t attend all 5 sessions?
A: We require that every participant commit to attending all five sessions for two reasons. First, the material builds on itself over the five sessions, so missing one session will set you back for the others. Second, it is hard to develop community when we do not have the same people present at each meeting. However, we do understand that unforeseen circumstances may arise and prevent you from attending one of the five sessions. We do our best to meet individually with participants who unexpectedly have to miss a session to help them catch up on the material. If you have to miss more than that, you are probably better off applying for a later CDI. Do note that if you know in advance that you will not make all five meeting times for a particular institute, your application will receive a lower priority level.
“UCAT is an excellent and welcoming resource for curriculum redesign.”
“I am taking with me a real course, that didn’t exist before, that I actually really want to teach!”
“The logic of the [Institute] structure is incredibly valuable. The content was fantastic; broken down into logical steps.”
“Now I will not get overwhelmed with course design because I know how to break things down into manageable units with course design and assessment and grading rubrics.”
“I will use this same process for every course I teach. Thank you so much!”
“I have learned so much from the expertise and experiences from faculty of other disciplines, and that a course should be developed with structure, not just out of thin air.”
“Having this dedicated time really helped me think deeply about the nature of what I’m teaching. While being structured, I felt like I had the freedom to come to my own conclusions.”
“I have a successful, effective go-to approach for revising or creating future courses. Most importantly, I have a plan and thoughtfully-prepared design for the course that I have to teach spring quarter.”