Student Success: Course Redesign Initiative

Student Success is on everyone’s mind these days, and this is a good thing. Goal 2 of the 2007-12 Strategic Plan calls for the promotion of “globally competitive undergraduate, graduate and professional programs that support interdisciplinary inquiry, intellectual development, knowledge and skill acquisition, and student success through a diverse, fully- engaged, learner-centered campus environment.”


To improve year-to-year retention and timely graduation, USF has implemented a number of initiatives, including Living Learning Communities and the Learning Commons. A promising new initiative, one of many supported by the Student Success Council, offers support to faculty teaching undergraduate courses serving large numbers of students. It aligns with and supports the specific recommendations of Goal 2 of the Strategic Plan, which envisions faculty who teach “globally competitive, relevant and distinctive academic programs” utilizing “innovative approaches to curriculum development and delivery.”


The final report of the 2009-2010 Student Success Task Force included a strong recommendation that colleges and departments “investigate the causes of low pass rates in courses with high “D”, “W” and “F” grades to determine the underlying causes of low success rates and then identify ways to reduce those difficulties.”


To implement this recommendation, the Student Success Council funded the Center for 21st Century Teaching Excellence to launch an initiative to work with teams of faculty in departments with large courses in order to support faculty efforts to provide strong learning experiences for their students. 


As USF becomes more selective in its academic admission criteria and develops the advising and tutoring programs so essential to the success of its students, we must ensure that our faculty remains on the cutting edge of teaching technology and innovations in the classroom.


Twenty-first century innovations in teaching and technology offer an array of options for enhancing the effectiveness and improving the efficiency of these large courses. Fortunately, there is an organization that has many years of experience specializing in helping universities to address the needs of large undergraduate courses in systematic ways and without incurring extra costs. In fact, they have a track record for finding ways to reduce costs while increasing quality.


This organization is the National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT: NCAT has a Redesign Alliance of universities in which faculty, administrators, and students have worked together to redesign courses. The NCAT website is packed with evidence from a broad range of universities that course redesign of large courses can be done successfully.


NCAT Vice President, Dr. Carolyn Jarmon, will visit the University of South Florida next week, Friday, January 21, to share with us innovative approaches to course redesign at other universities. The session will be held in MSC2709 from 9 am to 11 am. We are hoping to have a broad representation of academic chairs and faculty at this session. This will be a good setting to get questions answered about the USF Course Redesign initiative that is about to start. Funding will soon be offered to selected departments to embark on their own course redesigns.