Undergraduate Units Redesign at ACU and JCU
Project status: Current
The Redesign Project aims to demonstrate how redesigning learning environments can produce better learning outcomes for students at a reduced cost to the institution. The project is a partnership between the two participating universities, James Cook University and the Australian Catholic University, and the LH Martin Institute, the Office for Learning and Teaching and the United States (US) National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT). The NCAT is the architect of the successful large-scale national and state-based course redesign programs in the US. The Australian project will build on the successful models and lessons learned from NCAT’s US programs, and support two unit redesigns at each university.
Goals of the Redesign Project
- Adopt new ways to improve student learning outcomes;
- Demonstrate these improvements through rigorous assessment;
- Reduce institutional costs;
- Free up instructional resources to be used for other purposes;
- Develop the internal capacity of academic and professional staff to continue the redesign process.
The Redesign Project focuses specifically on undergraduate units, ideally with large enrolment. In addition to having an impact on large numbers of students, there are other advantages of such a focus. In many large-enrolment units, the predominant instructional model is the large lecture. While recognising the limitations of the lecture method, many departments continue to organise units in this way because they believe that it represents the most cost-effective way to deal with large numbers of students.
The Project will demonstrate that alternatives that improve quality, and are less costly than lecture-based strategies, are possible.
The Redesign Project will operate from 2011 to 2013.
- Pilot redesigns will be implemented in semester 2, 2012.
- Full implementation will follow in the next teaching semester for the given unit (semester 1or semester 2, 2013).
- A final project report will be published upon completion in 2013.
Following NCAT’s demonstrated methods for course redesign in the US, each unit will implement a curriculum redesign the goals of improving student learning and reducing institutional teaching costs utilising one of the following 6 models:
The Redesign Project participants are required to select and justify the model most suitable to their curriculum requirements and stated goals.
Accounting for the costs
The NCAT has a strict approach to accounting for the costs associated with teaching each unit, and subsequently the realised cost savings through the redesign. Project participants must calculate the workload credit and number of hours for each person involved in teaching the unit under the traditional and redesigned formats. Reducing time spent by individual staff on teaching a section of the unit is an enabler that allows one to translate those “saved” hours into real savings to the institution. This may be achieved by:
1. Each instructor carries more students. This can be done by
a. increasing size
b. increasing the number of sections that each instructor carries for the same workload credit
2. Change the mix of personnel from more expensive to less expensive.
3. Do both simultaneously.
Further details of the NCAT methodology, as well as case studies demonstrating improved student learning occurring alongside institutional cost reduction, are available on their website.
Selected units and financial support
Following a competitive selection process, three units were selected for redesign according to the NCAT’s methodology in February 2012:
- Financial Management (BU2004), School of Business, James Cook University
- Education for Cultural Diversity (ED2990). School of Education, James Cook University
- Realising Professional Practice (NRSG346), Faculty of Health Sciences, Australian Catholic University
A fourth unit was also selected but will not strictly follow the NCAT’s methodology:
- Creating Inclusive, Safe and Supportive Schools (EDFD 271/221/261), Faculty of Education, Australian Catholic University
All four units received financial support for their redesign: a $20,000 grant from the LH Martin Institute and $20,000 in-kind from the participating university.
For more information about the project, please contact:
- Peter Bentley, Research Fellow, LH Martin Institute, phone: 03-8344 0756.
- Carolyn Jarmon, NCAT Vice President, phone: (+1) 518-695 5320.
- (For JCU project only) Kristen Smith, Personal Assistant to the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, James Cook University, phone: 07-4781 5451.
- (For ACU project only) Anne Cummins, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Students, Learning & Teaching), Australian Catholic University, phone: 02-9739 2936.
Support for this publication/activity has been provided by the Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching. The views expressed in this publication/activity do not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching.
Below are some of the resources used in previous stages of the Project.
- Improving Learning and Reducing Costs: New Models for Online Learning
- Five Principles of Successful Course Redesign
- Readiness Criteria
- Four Models for Assessing Student Learning
- Cost Reduction Strategies