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Redesigning Courses to Enhance Student Success

September 30, 2013

The Kansas Board of Regents has sent Governor Brownback an extensive proposal by the University of Kansas to transform student success and retention through course redesign and online technologies. Now, the work begins of garnering support from the governor and the legislature for enhancing educational excellence for Kansas for the long term.

Our proposal is in two parts: first, boosting student engagement, particularly targeting at-risk students, through better use of online tools and analytics; and second, and perhaps most important, redesigning courses as online, hybrid, or flipped courses. Increased state funding, if provided, will leverage investments we are already making, guided by the strategies in Bold Aspirations, to transform undergraduate education.

We are committed to improving large-enrollment first-year “gateway” courses and courses with traditionally low success rates by redesigning them to use high-benefit and evidence-based practices. This week, I want to update you specifically on the leadership role KU is taking both in Kansas and nationally.

A national presence …

Our work with three consortia — the Bay View Alliance (BVA), the APLU Personalized Learning Consortium, and the Public Flagships Network — places KU at the forefront of developing hybrid classroom technologies and sharing information and data, ensuring that we improve and upgrade courses through the use of data and best practices.

The BVA focuses upon transforming courses in the STEM fields, and KU is one of only seven member institutions. Members control the analysis and sharing of data, which consists of continuous assessment supported by shared metrics and research.

A key feature of our collaboration with the BVA is the new CLAS Teaching Postdoc Program, an innovative postdoctoral fellowship. Three postdocs are working with the biology, geology, and geography departments on incorporating new technologies and creating hybrid materials for multiple courses.

… with a focus in Lawrence

The C21 Course Redesign Consortium is a new group organized around the Teaching Postdoc Program. Its goal is to build momentum for innovative learning experiences that are collaborative, hands-on, engaging, and facilitative of deep learning. C21 (which stands for 21st Century), led by Prof. Andrea Greenhoot, associate director of the Center for Teaching Excellence, is an intellectual community comprising nearly 60 faculty, staff, and students from both academic and administrative units.

Their major motivation is to broaden the community to include a wide range of disciplines. The consortium is an open group, so if you would like to join please contact Andrea.

Andrea’s chair in psychology, Prof. Ruth Ann Atchley, leads KU’s Course Redesign Task Force. I was pleased to attend the 12-member task force’s first meeting and present them with this charge:

  1. Develop the general principles that KU should follow in identifying courses and departments for course redesign, including setting goals, targets, and expected outcomes for course redesign; 
  2. Consider how best to collaborate within KU to develop shared learning materials, pedagogical practices, and common platforms;
  3. Consider how best to collaborate with other institutions to develop shared learning materials and common platforms, relying at least in part upon the collaborations already formed between KU and other institutions through the Bay View Alliance, the Flagship Partners Network, and the APLU initiative in course redesign;
  4. Recommend resources necessary to support departments in sustainable redesign projects; and
  5. Make recommendations about the relation between course redesign and classroom space, assignment, and usage.

The task force will have a preliminary report ready by the start of the spring semester. I will present the report to the deans at our annual midyear retreat, then ask the task force to refine their recommendations based upon the deans’ feedback. A final report is due by the end of the academic year.

Redesign of our teaching methodologies to increase engagement in the classroom and success of our students is one of our highest priorities this year. Our students deserve our very best.

Bits and Bytes

  • All faculty are invited to join me and Chancellor Gray-Little at a KU Core Celebration on Thursday, Oct. 3 at 4:30 pm at The Commons in Spooner Hall. There will be hors d’oeuvres, drink, and a short program to recognize the tremendous accomplishments of so many individuals that led to KU’s first-ever university-wide curriculum. We should all take great pride in the remarkable progress we’ve made as a community in crafting and launching the KU Core. The celebration is timed to coincide with the assessment workshops that day and the next conducted by Barbara Walvoord, professor emerita at the University of Notre Dame.
  • The third and final round of KU Campus Master Plan open forums is being held on Thursday, Oct. 3 on the 4th Floor of the Kansas Union. Members of the master plan steering committee and the team of consultants will be available to present information and answer questions on the goals and priorities being established and the concepts and options currently being considered. Forums are being held from 11 a.m.–1 p.m. and 4–7 p.m.
  • John Augusto, director of the KU Center for Undergraduate Research, has taken on the additional role of assistant vice provost for experiential learning in undergraduate studies. John will lead the Experiential Learning Collaborative. As I mentioned in the September 3 Provost eNews, the Collaborative is initiating a process to support educational experiences at KU, create a tracking system for students, and oversee assessment. This will allow the Collaborative to forward approved experiences to the University Core Curriculum Committee for inclusion in the KU Core.
  • Finally, congratulations to our 10 new Docking Young Faculty Scholars. The award was established by former Kansas First Lady Meredith Docking to reward, encourage, and retain younger faculty members who have clearly distinguished themselves early in their careers at KU. I know that each of the 10 faculty who has been named will honor the spirit behind Mrs. Docking’s gift — to strengthen exceptional teachers and scholars at KU.
Provost's Message Signature: 

Rock Chalk!
  -- Jeff

Jeffrey S. Vitter

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor

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