The central feature of the foundational course initiative is the recognition that these courses are special: rare among course offerings, outsize in importance, and unusual in the instructional challenges they present. The collaborative course design model was developed to meet these challenges by bringing together an instructional team with the most appropriate mix of expertise, background, training, and professional ambitions.
Many members of the instructional team – faculty, students, staff – will come from the host department. But a number of roles within the CCD team will be filled by full-time professional instructional consultants housed within CRLT. They will join CCD project teams as full-fledged collaborators, typically committing 20% of their full-time effort to each of the teams they join. These individuals will fill a variety of roles:
Instructional design is an emerging role in higher education. Its purpose is to fill a gap present at the center of this initiative: while disciplinary faculty members at a research university like Michigan are experts in subject matter, they often have little or no training in pedagogy or education research. As a result, they tend to teach the way they were taught, rather than taking advantage of the decades of education research which has been conducted since they attended college. Instructional designers join the course design team to help fill this gap, ensuring that the learning goals developed by the faculty can be supported using the best engaging, inclusive, evidence-based methods. Elements of the instructional design role have always been a part of the work of CRLT. What is new here is the intensity of engagement.
The collaborative course design team includes professional support for the use of digital tools. Each project will include a technology concierge, who will ensure that the best possible array of tools is developed and deployed to make the course more personalized, engaging, and effective. This concierge will connect with existing instructional technology support teams, along with the larger campus community of educational research and development, including the Office of Academic Innovation’s Digital Innovation Greenhouse. Technology is another area where rapid advances in best practice are being made, advances which may be unfamiliar to disciplinary faculty. Searching for, implementing, and operating these technologies in support of a foundational course is executed by dedicated professionals.
Analytics and Assessment Support
Most faculty members lack explicit training in the educational analysis needed to carefully assess the relationships between student background variables, in-course activities, and learning outcomes. Even when they do, the time needed to carefully monitor large classes like this is not available to even the most heroic instructors. Adding professional support for analysis and assessment to every foundational course design team will help to ensure that design decisions are informed by the best possible evidence.
Student Success and Classroom Climate
Diversity of student background, interests, and goals is another defining feature of foundational courses. Too often, disciplinary instructional teams struggle to appreciate and understand students so different from themselves. The collaborative course design process will include individuals who focus on tailoring the course experience to support a diverse array of students, understanding and improving classroom climate, and working to achieve equity. Student success work of this kind is closely aligned with analytics and assessment support: equity in the classroom is most likely to be absent when it is not carefully monitored. This effort will include facilitated coordination between the instructional team and other on-campus support mechanisms like the Science Learning Center, the Sweetland Center for Writing, and the University Libraries.