Supporting College Program and Faculty Goals: Leveraging CourseMaps for Quality Educational Experiences
Goal Defined: Expedite Program Redesign
Towson University’s College of Education (COE) created the Instructional Technology Masters program using classroom delivery. In 2019, the COE’s Department of Educational Technology & Literacy decided to make their Masters program 100% online. The Department had an ambitious plan to convert the classroom delivered program AND reduce course length from 15 to 7 weeks. The Department leaders knew that program changes would align with their target learners’ needs, whether they are seeking career advancement or skills training. Having the program online also fosters the development of online pedagogy skills.
The task of converting to a seven-week online delivery was given to the faculty teaching the courses. In addition to their teaching load, they had a two-month window to substantially change and complete their new course designs. While some had significant online teaching experience others were left feeling lost and without guidance for going forward. The resources available to the faculty were Office of Academic Innovation (OAI) workshops and a few hours collaborating with OAI’s instructional designers. A third option was using ClearAlignment. This option included faculty interactions with instructional designers at the start and end of the redesign process. These coaching sessions were designed for helping faculty focus on their pedagogical talents, resources and strengths.
Since July 2018, the ClearAlignment team has been collaborating with TU’s faculty related to course design, rubrics, online teaching management strategies and instructional strategies. With an introduction from the OAI staff, we began working with the Department’s faculty to scale the conversion of courses for their new 100% online program. There were 11 courses needing redesign and ClearAlignment provided CourseMaps (course design documents) for six of those courses.
For each professor, the ClearAlignment process started with a conversation to hear expectations and experiences with teaching online. After inputting syllabus content into the ClearAlignment website, the automated course design software produced a CourseMaps. These draft course design document went through quality assurance reviews by ClearAlignment instructional designers before our second conversation with the professors. These were our opportunities for ensuring expectations were met and receiving feedback on their ClearAlignment experience.
For this case study, we interviewed participating faculty and present the interview data in three categories: Distance Education Pedagogy; Instructional Design & Technology; and Moral Support. Each category addresses crucial issues for quality courses, teaching and student outcomes.
Distance Education Pedagogy
- It was great having someone who knew what can be done virtually- what works/doesn’t work virtually; what bells and whistles can be used to make the course ‘zing.’
- The suggestions re learning activities were wonderful because I wasn’t familiar at all with online courses & had no idea what was possible to make the course richer. In the end I felt very proud of what we created!!
- The designer offered me guidance and support on how to moderate online learning activities such as chats and discussions and techniques that might help me best support online learners.
- Designers provided suggestions on how to make course interactive and ideas of how to develop a quality course.
Instructional Design & Technology
- Having a third party look at the syllabus helped identify strengths and weaknesses
- I didn’t know all the options since I’m the content expert. The instructional designer opened up a whole world of options for me.
- They helped make my course more engaging.
- Another important strategy was being encouraged to develop a more structured learning activities with concrete evaluation rubrics.
- She always provided me with options and alternatives and then, let me make the decision.
- Their positive attitude allowed me, without online teaching experience, to do it. This helped motivate continued development and add confidence
- The instructional designers were about all the possibilities for online course, it was infectious!
- Everyone’s attitude made for a positive experience. This was especially important at the beginning of the project and was probably very time-consuming on her part.
- She fit my personality and my way of doing things. When I had doubts about this project, she made me feel like I could accomplish it successfully.
The operative ideas are timesaving and efficiency. On top of research, administrative and service duties, all faculty were teaching three or four courses. The faculty chose to work with ClearAlignment when they learned their CourseMaps would be delivered within three days. Faculty involved with curriculum reviews were impressed with how the CourseMaps would make future curriculum reviews so much easier. They also appreciated the guidance and support regarding instructional strategies. ClearAlignment provided strategy recommendations that would help their students learn in a deep manner resulting in knowledge transfer and retention. ClearAlignment benefited from faculty feedback. They shared ideas about improving the CourseMap making their task of organizing courses in Blackboard easier.
The success of any educational program depends on quality teaching. But quality is hard to ensure when faculty face overwork and isolation. With ClearAlignment, faculty received pedagogically sound advice and encouragement so that their enthusiasm and expertise got transferred to their students. Faculty also benefited with time-saving strategies and tactics not only in their course design but also with managing their time grading and interacting with students. These tactics and resources finally led to improved student success. As more programs are evaluated with student success and retention data, the ClearAlignment difference shows.
ClearAlignment’s CourseMaps align assessments and activities with learning objectives, but they also provide, at a modular level, alignment with regional/specialized standards. This transparency helps you achieve consistency, conformity, and agreement among the courses and reinforce program goals.
Alignment is assured with ClearAlignment.