NSU to collaborate with students in course redesign process

(Tahlequah, Okla.)--As time passes and technology improves, more college professors find themselves using more than a chalkboard to work with students.

To facilitate the implementation of best instructional practices, the university is instituting a $100,000 two-year initiative, “Through Their Eyes: Northeastern State University Grant Program in Collaborative Course Redesign.” The funding will provide for student collaboration with faculty during the process.

Dr. Erik Terdal, associate professor of biology at NSU-Broken Arrow, foresees digital technology playing an increasing role in the classroom.

“Because many of my students hope to enter the health care fields, it is especially appropriate to use blended teaching and learning methods because those professions have adopted this format,” he said. “Blended biology courses will prepare our graduates for the future of health profession training.”

NSU interim president Martin Tadlock believes that faculty members can work with students to redesign courses around the principles of collaborative learning. He added that higher education research indicates students perform better with hybrid or blended course delivery than with fully online courses or traditional face-to-face classroom teaching.

“I believe that we need to celebrate educational experiences that are rigorous, peer reviewed, and research-driven; experiences that engage students in relevant, hands-on learning and critical thought,” he said.

Dr. Charles Ziehr, interim assistant vice president for teaching and learning, said NSU will share peer-reviewed data and findings about student learning, engagement and retention with other universities.

“We want to implement a thorough and carefully designed research strategy which can withstand academic scrutiny,” he said. “It can then be offered as a conference publication, but of course our hope is that it will be broadly published and shared. Maybe other students across the country can gain something from what we learn. This fits the university’s recent update of its tenure and promotion policy to emphasize the scholarship of teaching.”

The inclusion of student perspectives is indispensable to the redesign process, Tadlock said.

“Planning a course’s design, content, methods and assessments is often conducted in private by a solitary instructor,” he said. "The crush of busy schedules and the false security of the status quo can deprive us of the innovative power of collaboration between colleagues and students.

“We expect students to take responsibility for their learning and to become lifelong learners, but we don’t seem to be very good at teaching them how to do that. Working collaboratively with students to design learning activities and assessments of that learning may be a route to helping us reach that expectation.”

Faculty proposals are due by Oct. 7. Those selected by NSU’s Center for Teaching and Learning are eligible for up to $10,000 to cover costs for instruction, research, materials and student stipends.

Ideally, a faculty member will work with two students who have already completed the course. However, the principal requisite for participating students is full-time enrollment during the proposal and planning stages of the project and continued full-time enrollment or graduation during project implementation.

Initial ideas call for simultaneously offering regular and redesigned versions of the same course, or offering a redesigned course and comparing student performance to previous semesters.

“If both courses were offered in a semester, formulating an assessment that will measure both classes accurately could prove problematic,” Ziehr said. “If we try to compare to past semesters, the assessment of the new course must accurately reflect methods used on the old courses. Accurate evaluation certainly isn’t impossible, but we need to ensure that all comparisons are valid.”

Grant recipients will be announced Nov. 7, and funding of selected proposals begins during the spring 2012 term. Implementation and data gathering is planned for fall 2012 and presentation and publication of results is expected in spring 2013.

For more information about “Through Their Eyes: Northeastern State University Grant Program in Collaborative Course Redesign” call the NSU Center for Teaching and Learning at (918) 444-5855. 

Published: 10/6/2011 10:57:14 AM

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