At the 2017 Unizin Innovation Summit, I attended several marvelous breakout sessions. One of my favorites was “Early Lessons from High-Enrollment Course Transformations,” presented by Maggie Jesse, Senior IT Director at the University of Iowa, and Sarah Miller, Leader of Faculty Development in Academic Technology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
High-enrollment courses are a challenge for faculty and students alike. In order to ensure that students have access to equivalent educational experiences and that these are as interactive and engaging as possible, some universities are taking a collaborative approach. The collaborative initiatives employ teams of faculty, technologists, and learning specialists who use digital tools and data in a blended learning environment to achieve improved student outcomes.
Both Maggie and Sarah are working to improve those courses whose size precludes traditional individualized instruction. They discussed lessons learned from their initiatives and offered some best practices for those in the process of redesigning high-enrollment courses. Here are just some of their suggestions:
- Consider the culture, climate, and context of a department to anticipate challenges.
- Create a shared vision with faculty of what the course could be.
- Help faculty understand that active learning and lecture are not mutually exclusive.
- Facilitate discussion and collaboration among team members.
- Reconsider the course structure and identify opportunities for student engagement.
At the end of the session, Maggie Jesse mentioned that there was one element of this process that both she and Sarah agreed was crucial to their success. She said, “One of the most important elements of digital learning is the people. It’s the relationships and the partnerships you build with faculty and staff across the campus. That’s what’s most exciting.”