The availability and use of technology tools is driving a wave of course redesign in higher education as instructors rush to use the hot new tools.
But it is important to keep the redesign focused on the desired learning outcomes, not just the inclusion of the latest technologies.
Here at Purdue, as faculty are selected for the Instruction Matters: Purdue Academic Course Transformation (IMPACT) program, they start by defining the learning outcomes for their course.
This is what they expect students to know after their course is complete. During this phase, there should be very little thought to the planned use of technology, unless it is explicitly part of the course. The goal here is to set the expected outcomes, independent of model or method of delivery.
As the process moves to looking at defining the learning objectives, a bit more thought can be given to the use of technology, but still held short of defining exact uses. The objectives are the sub-skills needed to meet the overall outcomes.
Where technology consideration and selection fits best is in the determination of assessment methods and lesson planning. The classroom changes in the area of active learning are being led by technology.
Active learning is a move in all education levels where the responsibility for learning is placed more on the student and less on the instructor giving knowledge. This change is shown to lead to more engagement by the student and better overall outcomes when implemented successfully.
That is where technology can help, because getting time for active learning can be a real challenge.
Redesigning a classroom to facilitate active learning will likely create several needs for faculty. The question they may ask during the design of the assessments is: “How do I get feedback to the student quick enough to facilitate their active learning?”
The use of online grading, document collaboration, peer review online, simulations, and adaptive software are all potential answers to that question. Lower level skills such as memorization and identification are often easily moved to a format that is able to be accessed anywhere, anytime.