Eric Kunnen\’s GRCC Blog

From a Good Course to a Great Course!
December 22, 2008, 6:02 pm
Filed under: Articles, Work Activities | Tags:

While reading the Blackboard Blog, I came across an excellent post entitled “What Makes a Difference?” by Susan M. Zvacek,  Ph.D., who is the Director of Instructional Development and Support at the University of Kansas.

In this post Susan highlights the Blackboard Exemplary Course Program and in her post makes the following to-the-point statement, which I have also been working to convey at GRCC:

“…that all courses – face-to-face, blended, online, and everything in between – should be evaluated rigorously with less regard for the instructional environment than for factors that are more likely to influence learning and achievement.”

Rather than holding online and hybrid courses to a higher standard, or treating them as “special”, let’s focus on effective teaching and learning and hold ALL courses to a quality standard that is aimed at continuously improving courses regardless of the delivery method.

Susan goes on to say:

“By segregating e-learning in this way, we’re encouraging the idea that it is different enough from traditional practice to require “special treatment,” and it’s a very small leap from “special” to “inferior.””

I couldn’t agree more.  Too often, institutions place  a “special” status on Distance Learning courses, and hold them to higher standards than “regular” or dare I say “OLD” ways of course delivery.  Often the assumption is made, I suppose, that we have already figured out how to “do” face-to-face instruction… so we don’t need to spend our time improving them.  Or perhaps your institution only evaluates courses every 3 (or other x number of) years… thinking that 3 years is probably a long enough time to circle back and re-evaluate a course to improve it.  3 years?  How much technological change occurs in 3 years.  A LOT! Think about how many improvements could be made in those 3 years.  Think about how many students could be impacted in those 3 years if the course was taught differently or if technology was used or used differently.

So how do you take a good course and make it great?  How can you improve teaching and learning at your institution?  Well… for starters, you can:

  1. Apply the Blackboard Exemplary Course Rubric to your course.
  2. Encourage your colleagues, department, or college to adopt a common course evaluation rubric that is timely and effective.
  3. Review other courses that have been awarded as exemplary for ideas and teaching or design strategies.
  4. Apply to be an exemplary course reviewer so you can learn how to create a great course by applying a rubric to the courses submitted.
  5. Then, take the time to submit your course as an exemplary course and in the process of submitting your course, you will see how your course meets, exceeds, or could be improved based on the rubric.

What are your thoughts?  How can we improve courses?  Is it the faculty member’s responsiblity?  The college’s?  How can students get involved in improving a course?


1 Comment so far
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Excellent post Eric. On your question of who is responsible to make courses better, I believe it is both the faculty and the institution. The faculty who “owns’ the content must want to make their course better, and the institution must help the faculty by providing development resources (expert technologists, and instructional designers) and possibly buy out one of their classes (time off) to work on improving the course.

The classes that shine at our institution have had some additional funding behind them, and very motivated faculty.

Comment by Kevin Reeve

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