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Revamping a Course As Part of a Program Evaluation

2020 has some unique challenges for me as an instructional designer. One of those is taking a successful online program and moving all of the courses from one LMS to another. The migration process is the first that I'll be involved in and I know that there are some extreme learning curves I'll need to get used to - learning a new LMS, learning what works and what doesn't, making sure over 30 courses are ready to go and are converted by a hard deadline (August 2020). More on this process in later blog posts, I'm sure...

In 2019, the program I work for conducted a five-year program evaluation. As part of this evaluation, we looked at ways to integrate technology, improve consistency among courses, looked at relevancy, significance and potential gaps of information being covered. In addition, alignment between program competencies were an important element of the evaluation as we recently moved to a competency-based program testing student knowledge using digital badges. Specific attention was given towards student-faculty engagement, technology, and accessibility.

While revamping a course alone can be an intriguing and intensive process, revamping a course as part of program evaluation is a new beast. Not only are you addressing concerns at a course level, you are looking at the course as a puzzle piece and identifying where and how this course fits into the larger picture. The process becomes a lot more time intensive and looking at all of the different elements becomes a vital part of the process. Below are some of my tips and tricks for addressing course redesigns as part of a full program evaluation.

1. What is the goal of the course? Look at the course and its topics. Become super familiar with it's goals and outcomes. The first thing I would do before you move forward with anything else is compare these to the other courses in the program. Is there any overlap? Are topics being covered elsewhere? If so, you'll need to check the vision and goal of the course before moving forward with any redesign pieces. After the course has been reviewed and checked across the program as a whole, you are now free to move forward with the redesign process. You have a better idea of what needs to be changed if anything.

2. What do the assignments look like? Are the assignments meeting the goals and learning objectives of the course? Are there any assignments that are closely related to other courses (similar types of assignments). The last thing you want in a program is to be repeating the same assignment over-and-over in different courses with different topics (i.e. write a paper on the use of technology in education). You want to be able to test your learner's knowledge through different types of assessment. It is also important to note that there is not a one-size-fits-all assignment that works for all topics.

3. What gaps exist? During a program evaluation, you'll receive or identify potential gaps of topics that may not be covered in a specific course or the program as a whole. Finding a home for these potential topics is crucial. Don't be trying to fit in topics all willy-nilly into courses where they don't necessarily align or fit. Guess what? Your students will know that this was thrown in - and they will pick up and recognize that this may not be an important key element - just that it needs to be covered at some point. Any topic you add into a program or a course must make sense. It should fit into the general vision of the program or the course. This is important. I cannot stress this enough.

4. Make sure faculty or instructors are open to change. One of the top roadblocks that I've experienced thus far is working with inflexible faculty. If members of the program are unable to change and are not open to ideas, this whole process will be difficult. I'd even go as far as impossible. Everyone needs to be open to criticism and notes and willing to make changes - minor and major. This is a tricky part to manage as instructional designers, you don't want to offend the hard work and all of the efforts that the faculty member has already put into the original course design. However, you want to make sure to recognize their work and support them in making their course better for not only the students but also the program as a whole.

5. Maps. Schedule. Prioritize. Looking at a program evaluation, you will quickly realize the weakest courses and the ones that maybe just need a few minimal changes. As an instructional designer, make sure to map out your plan - which courses need the most work? Which courses will take the most or least amount of time to work on? Develop a schedule and a course map to help you go through the process. Having a game plan for your process and your schedule is crucial.

Have you went through a program evaluation where a lot of courses needed to be redesigned or redeveloped? If so, what were your experiences? Do you have any helpful tips and tricks for those? I'd love to hear them below!

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