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The Learning MarketSpace, October 2012

A quarterly electronic newsletter of the National Center for Academic Transformation highlighting ongoing examples of redesigned learning environments using technology and examining issues related to their development and implementation.






Offering perspectives on issues and developments at the nexus of higher education and information

A Change Would Do You Good

We, at NCAT, have always agreed with Sheryl Crow: a change will do you good.

NCAT is planning to make a number of changes in the near future. We plan to phase out some activities and programs while putting our time and energy into a series of new ones. Our plan is to 1) create a variety of course-redesign planning resources, integrating what we have learned over the past 13 years, that can be used independently by institutions, systems and states without direct NCAT intervention, and 2) transition from a focus on conducting redesign programs and public events to concentrating on analysis, publications and change strategies, again based on the data we have collected and the experiences we have had over the past 13 years.

Course Redesign Planning Resources

Redesign Cookbooks

NCAT plans to produce a series of guides or “cookbooks” on how to successfully complete a course redesign. These guides will include a discussion of how to use course redesign as a strategy for institutional change leading to greater student success and reduced instructional costs as well as specific information about how to implement NCAT’s course redesign methodology. Initial cookbooks in the series will include: 1) how to redesign a course in any discipline, 2) how to redesign a developmental mathematics course sequence and 3) how to redesign a college-level mathematics course. Subsequent cookbooks will include 1) how to establish an institution-wide redesign program, and 2) how to establish a state- or system-wide redesign program.

Redesign Scholars

Thus far, NCAT has appointed 50 Redesign Scholars: faculty and administrators who have successfully implemented and sustained a whole-course redesign that increases student success and reduces instructional costs.  NCAT will add new Redesign Scholars from its Changing the Equation program and from our statewide Missouri initiative. This cadre of experienced academics will continue to serve as a resource for those in higher education who want to establish redesigns on their campuses.

NCAT Website

The current NCAT website will undergo substantial reorganization, moving from its current programmatic orientation to a “stand-alone” resource orientation. The sections of the site focused on specific programs will be moved to the Archives. (To help put the programs in context, NCAT will create a brief history of the Center.) The individual course redesign case studies will still be available, but they will be organized by discipline, by model and by degree of success rather than by program.

NCAT’s existing Course Redesign Planning Resources will be reorganized and updated to reflect all that NCAT has learned over the last 13 years rather than focusing on the activities of the initial Program in Course Redesign.

Complete Existing Redesign Demonstration Programs

For the past 13 years, NCAT has worked with more than 200 institutions to demonstrate that it is possible to improve quality while reducing costs in higher education. Together, we have developed 150+ successful course redesigns that serve as models for higher education in the United States and elsewhere. We have come to the conclusion that it is not necessary for us to continue providing additional examples of course redesign for the higher education community to emulate since ample examples exist. Faculty and administrators have access to an array of successful models in all academic areas on the NCAT website.

Consequently, NCAT plans to discontinue our formal focus on state-based, national and international redesign programs. NCAT will conclude our existing Changing the Equation national program, our Missouri statewide program and our Australian international program within the next year and disseminate their outcomes. Rather than continuing to conduct state-based, national and international programs, NCAT will extract key ideas from our accomplishments, engage in more comprehensive analysis and provide guidance to institutions, systems and states. We believe that this change in direction will provide a greater service to the higher education community.

Analysis, Publications and Change Strategies

The Learning MarketSpace

NCAT’s quarterly newsletter, The Learning MarketSpace, will also undergo a substantial change.  While the newsletter has always included some “think tank” aspects (particularly Carol’s lead articles), the format has had a programmatic emphasis. This emphasis will end with the October 2012 issue.

Starting with the first issue in 2013, the newsletter will reflect the Center’s new focus on analysis and change strategies. Each issue will include an analytical piece, “Perspectives on Academic Productivity.” The overall theme of these analyses will be, “What have we learned about institutional change that goes beyond an individual course redesign project?”

The number of newsletters produced annually will be reduced from four to two, given the substantial content that will be involved in the new format and the amount of research time needed to prepare each newsletter. The new newsletter will be published in April and October of each year.

Here are some examples of the issues we plan to address:

  • Cost Savings: Why Some Saved More and Some Saved Less

Some institutions saved more than 50%, while some saved only 15%. What did they do differently?  The goal is to help the higher education community see the kinds of decisions project teams made and the implications of those decisions.

  • State and System Course Redesign Programs

What were the differences in increased student success and cost reduction in the various state and system programs conducted by NCAT? Why were some more successful than others or sustained more effectively than others? What role does the state or system have?

  • Institutional Impact of Redesigning Developmental Math

Redesigning developmental math can have a big institutional impact. Cleveland State Community College experienced a 7% increase in overall institutional retention after its redesign of developmental math. The message: “You don’t need to change a lot to get a lot of change.”

  • Why Isn’t Everyone Doing It?

NCAT is frequently asked, “Why doesn’t course redesign spread?” Using an interview protocol, NCAT will do follow-up interviews with selected redesign projects and analyze the results of those interviews. The interviews will involve different personnel on campuses such as the chief academic officer, the dean, the department chair and the project leader, seeking different perspectives.

Other Publications

NCAT will also produce a series of written documents which will capture for various audiences what NCAT has learned over the last 13 years. As completed, these publications will be available on the NCAT website.

  • Lessons Learned in Course Redesign Monograph

NCAT will produce a monograph that will summarize the results of the multiple course redesign projects completed over the twelve-year, demonstration project period. This document will supersede the previous monographs which reflected primarily on the results of the Program in Course Redesign, NCAT’s initial program.

  • Lessons Learned in Course Redesign Digest

One frequently used publication has been a short summary of the results of the Program in Course Redesign (PCR) published as a Policy Alert by the National Policy Center on Higher Education. Because it is concise and effectively highlights the results of the PCR, it has been used extensively as part of NCAT’s recommended readings for institutions, states and systems considering a redesign. NCAT will produce an equivalent of the Policy Alert, which will highlight the results we have achieved over the last 12 years.

Transition Membership Programs and Activities

In 2004, NCAT created the Redesign Alliance, a membership organization whose mission was to advance the concept of course redesign throughout higher education and to enable individual institutions to become involved in course redesign. The Redesign Alliance pursued this mission by creating a community of higher education institutions and others who were committed to and experienced with large-scale course redesign.

When the Alliance began, its membership comprised a relatively small group of course redesign pioneers. NCAT believed that it was necessary to create an organization to nurture and grow this group of innovative institutions. Today, course redesign has taken on a life of its own and is much more widespread. Consequently, NCAT plans to conclude the Redesign Alliance for both institutions and companies on 12/31/12 as part of our move to a “think tank” mode of analysis and publication. 

As part of our new focus, we also intend to move our current membership programs and associated activities directed at the general higher education community to more focused activities with highly committed institutions and companies who need NCAT’s guidance and consulting support.

NCAT has found that institutions joining the Redesign Alliance at the $10,000 and $25,000 levels of institutional membership have demonstrated greater commitment to course redesign. Some of these institutions have been awarded national grants to help them move a course redesign agenda forward on campus. These relationships have provided a pathway for institutions that wish to retain NCAT for individually-planned, campus visits and ongoing consulting services throughout the year. NCAT intends to continue to make these options available to interested institutions.  Similarly, corporate partners have always been a valuable component of course redesign since the majority of NCAT’s redesigns have relied on commercial software and services. As in the case of institutions, NCAT intends to continue to make the $25,000 and $50,000 levels of corporate partnership available to interested companies.

Public Events

In the past, NCAT has held a series of conferences, workshops and seminars. NCAT has organized four national conferences, which helped develop a national awareness of course redesign and a sense that those engaged in the process were part of a movement. Numerous smaller workshops and seminars were held in partnership with Redesign Alliance institutional members. All of these events, both national and regional, were designed to foster the national conversation on course redesign and were quite successful in doing so. Through the multiple opportunities provided, faculty and administrators were able to connect with others from institutions like theirs and to understand how other colleges and universities had overcome challenges faced in course redesign. These public events also provided a venue for those engaged in redesign projects to share their successes and outcomes with others in the higher education community.

Face-to-Face Events

NCAT will continue to have a limited number of focused face-to-face events. We will continue to hold our seminar, Getting Started on Course Redesign, twice annually in partnership with institutional leaders in the field of course redesign. These seminars have been quite successful in the past, and the topic seems best addressed during a face-to-face situation. Once our “cookbooks” (see above) are complete, we may hold face-to-face events on how to use these resources.


NCAT will conduct a series of webinars that will make heavy use of the NCAT Redesign Scholars.  Some webinars will have a disciplinary focus; others will focus on specific course-redesign techniques such as using undergraduate learning assistants, team-based strategies and quizzing.

New Types of Events to Meet New Goals

Past events, both national and regional, have had a general appeal: participants have included all levels of faculty, administrators and technology professionals. In the future, as NCAT moves actively into the “think tank” mode, the kinds of issues that arise may lead to more focused kinds of events. For example, as we think more about the policy issues and potential solutions, NCAT may focus on seminars related to institutional leaders and/or policy makers. These kinds of decisions will be made as we move forward.


When we founded NCAT in 1999, we said:

The need to increase access, improve student learning and control or reduce rising costs continues to challenge American higher education. These issues are, of course, interrelated. As tuition costs continue to rise, access is curtailed. Promises to increase access ring hollow when large numbers of students fail to graduate.

The solutions to these challenges are also interrelated. Historically, improving quality or increasing access has meant increasing costs; reducing costs has meant reducing both quality and/or access. To sustain its vitality while serving a growing and increasingly diverse student body, higher education must find ways to resolve the familiar tradeoff between quality and cost.

We at NCAT believe that these statements are as true today, if not more so, than they were in 1999. In partnership with more than 200 colleges and universities, NCAT has shown how using information technology to redesign courses can improve student learning while reducing instructional costs. Each participating institution has found that success depends upon collaboration among faculty members, professional staff and administrators. Institutions that have completed a large-scale course redesign want to find ways to continually improve their redesigns and to scale their successes throughout their institutions. Institutions that have not yet embarked upon a large-scale course redesign want to learn from the experiences of those that have done so and to collaborate with knowledgeable faculty and staff to accelerate the redesign process.

We look forward to an ongoing new relationship with you in the future as we seek new avenues to enable the higher education community to meet these important goals.

A change would do you (and us) good!

--Carol A. Twigg


Featuring updates and announcements from the Center.

Feds Focus on Innovation and Productivity

On October 1, 2012, Carol Twigg, NCAT President and CEO, was a featured speaker at a symposium convened by the U.S Secretary of Education in collaboration with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy titled "Innovation to Drive Productivity in Postsecondary Education."  Carol was part of a plenary panel designed to delve more deeply into innovations that are transforming teaching and learning with the potential to be scaled. She was joined by Candace Thille, Project Director, Open Learning Initiative; Sebastian Thrun, CEO, Udacity; Mark Surman, Executive Director, Mozilla Foundation; and, Ralph Wolff, President, Senior College Commission of WASC. The Department of Education's goal for the symposium was to encourage innovation in higher education teaching and learning to drive productivity, quality and equity. About 175 people (including college and university leaders, educational technology innovators, foundation officials, higher education association leaders, accreditors, researchers, policy analysts, state and federal officials) participated. In response to a pre-symposium survey question about which innovation (course redesign, social media, open educational resources, personalized data, competency-based education, online gatekeeper courses and MOOCs) will impact educational quality in higher education, participants rated NCAT's course redesign the highest (95% were positive, 0% were negative.)

Sloan Consortium Webinar Features NCAT

Well known for its pioneering efforts in supporting the growth of online education, the Sloan Consortium hosted a webinar, “Scaling Online Education,” on September 6, 2012 as part of its Online Education Research Symposium Series. The webinar focused on the multiple issues that arise when institutions seek to scale their innovative efforts on campus and across campuses. The webinar originated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and was moderated by Jan Poley, president of the American Distance Education Consortium. The discussion began with an overview by Frank Mayadas, senior advisor to the Sloan Consortium, who addressed such topics as what is scale and what factors drive scale in online education including access and cost-effectiveness. Carolyn Jarmon, NCAT Vice President shared NCAT’s experience and successes with scaling course redesign in multiple institutions to high numbers of students in large-enrollment, introductory courses as well as across courses at a particular institution. Other presenters from Rio Salado College in Arizona, the University of Florida and the University of Maryland University College provided case studies of their experiences. To view the webinar, see

Changing the Equation Produces Strong Results

The community colleges participating in Changing the Equation have fully implemented the redesigns of their developmental math sequences, using the Emporium Model and a modularized curriculum. Twenty of the projects reported their findings at a workshop in Dallas, TX on March 30, 3012.  After collecting data from a second term of full implementation, the remaining 12 institutions reported their outcomes at a workshop on August 7, 2012, in Baltimore, MD. The results presented in the July issue of The Learning MarketSpace will be updated to include data from the second group. A full report including summary data charts, individual case studies and a discussion of lessons learned from the program will be posted on the NCAT website in November 2012 at NCAT is also in the process of selecting Redesign Scholars from the program. These new Scholars will be particularly helpful to those higher education institutions seeking to improve student learning and reduce instructional costs in developmental mathematics.

Getting Started Seminar Scheduled for February 1, 2013 in Baltimore

Due to popular demand, NCAT is offering another Getting Started on Course Redesign seminar for those who are thinking about beginning a redesign project. On February 1, 2013, NCAT and the University System of Maryland will co-sponsor a seminar to be held at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County Technology Center. The seminar will provide participants the opportunity to learn about how redesign efforts have begun at both two- and four-year institutions and how these initial redesigns have spread to other departments on campus and/or throughout a university system. The program will include an overview of course redesign by NCAT’s vice president, Carolyn Jarmon, as well as case studies of completed course redesigns that have been sustained over time. Participants will interact with those who have successfully launched a redesign and learn about the issues they faced and how they resolved problems that arose. This event is open to the higher education community, but registration is limited to 80 participants. To view the agenda and register, see A second Getting Started seminar is planned for October 2013.

Save the Date:  New NCAT Webinar Series

NCAT will launch a new program of free webinars during spring 2013. Webinars will feature NCAT Redesign Scholars and will highlight either a successful course redesign in a specific discipline or a successful redesign tactic that has been used in multiple course redesigns. Each hour-long webinar will be held on the second Tuesday of the month at 1 pm eastern time. In spring 2013, the webinars will occur on February 12, March 12 and April 9.  More specific information about the webinar topics and how to register will be available soon.


The National Center for Academic Transformation serves as a source of expertise and support for those in
higher education who wish to take advantage of the capabilities of information technology to transform their academic practices.

  • To subscribe to The Learning MarketSpace, click here.
  • To submit items for inclusion in this newsletter, please contact Carolyn G. Jarmon,
  • Archives of this newsletter are available here.
  • This newsletter is a merger of The Learning MarketSpace and The Pew Learning and Technology Program Newsletter.
  • Archives of The Learning MarketSpace, written by Bob Heterick and Carol Twigg and published
    from July 1999 – February 2003, are available here.
  • Archives of The Pew Learning and Technology Program Newsletter, published from 1999 – 2002,
    are available here.
  • You are welcome to re-post The Learning MarketSpace without charge. Material contained in The Learning MarketSpace may be reprinted with attribution for non-commercial purposes.

Copyright 2012, The National Center for Academic Transformation