The Dutton Institute doesn’t have a set schedule at this point for revising courses, but even the best courses need to be revised from time to time. Whether it is a simple revision to update links that have changed, or changing out a graphic for one that is more up-to-date, or finding that a full-fledged redesign is needed for a section because a major component of the course has changed, revisions are necessary. To kick start the course evaluation and redesign process, you might want to ask yourself the following questions. Links are recommended based on each question, but you can also use any of the links to the right to help you as well. Your Learning Designer is a valuable resource if you have any questions about how to get started.
Do I need to update my course content?
Since most fields are constantly updating themselves, it is vital for the instructors to update their course content from time to time. In some cases, content update can be as simple as checking that all the external URLs are still working. However, at other times, there might be ground-breaking research findings that you want your students to know about, or maybe you have identified a better example than the one used in your course, or there are new in-demand skills or competencies you want your students to acquire, or you have realized that some of your webpages didn’t meet the accessibility standard. Those new concepts, instructional materials, competencies, and standards should be properly reflected in your course redesign. To ensure that all of your content is up-to-date and meets the high quality standards of Penn State, you might want to further review the Penn State's Quality Assurance Standards.
What are the possible changes to my course next semester and how should I adjust to those changes?
You probably have noticed that your courses are facing new changes each semester. For example, there might be a large increase of enrollment, or the demography of your students varies greatly from your last class, or you are advised to make your course more “mobile learning friendly” (whatever that means). As a result, you might ask yourself: Is my current course design sufficient to accommodate those changes, or do I need to make adjustments? We recommend making adjustments each semester. Think about the opportunities and affordances brought by the new technologies and applications, think about the content and activities that are more relevant to the student population, and think about the strategies and techniques that are appropriate to the new instructional context. It is also very helpful to talk to other instructors whose courses have undergone similar changes and to learn from their experiences.
To learn more about how to redesign your course to accommodate the changing characteristics of student population, learning environment, and instructional requirements, please see The National Center for Academic Transformation website.
Are there any problems in my existing course and how should I address those problems in my redesign?
I am sure you had an excellent course that was well designed and implemented last semester. However, you might have also noticed that some components in the course didn’t go as planned. For example, you may observe that students didn’t show much enthusiasm toward an instructional unit or a learning activity, or you found students complaining about the course load and certain assignments in their SRTEs, or you realized that students rarely used the discussion forum or other tools in the course and the level of interaction was below expectation. Sometimes, you don’t need to remove or revise those components but rather ensure that students understand their importance. In other times, you might want to further investigate what went wrong. Can certain instructional content be better presented in other medium (e.g. diagram, video, animation)? Do students receive enough guidance and feedback during the instruction? Does a learning activity provide sufficient higher-order thinking opportunities (e.g. problem-solving, decision-making, discussion, reflection)? What are the alternate ways to facilitate communication and collaboration in the course? Your decisions to redesign the course should be based on well-established theories, your teaching experience, and the student feedback.
The following is a list of rubrics that guide faculty of other universities to evaluate and revise their courses. They might also give you some insights and ideas on how to identify and address the problems of your current courses.