HOW TO REDESIGN A COLLEGE COURSE USING NCAT'S METHODOLOGY
IX. How to Address Specific Faculty Concerns
Clearly, faculty members are crucial to the redesign and are involved at every stage. Certain issues, however, are particular to faculty members’ situations—such as their changing roles, responsibilities, workloads, and training, all of which we address in this chapter. Some institutions are fortunate to have all instructors buy into and support the redesign, but most encounter some resistance along the way—resistance that ranges from mild to severe. Thus, we also provide some ideas about how others have dealt with faculty resistance to the new way of teaching.
The Faculty Role
Q: How does the instructor’s role change?
A: In redesigned courses, the faculty role frequently changes from that of the sage on the stage to the guide on the side. Faculty members become facilitators of student learning, architects of meaningful learning activities, and managers of a diverse group of instructional personnel with distinct roles of their own. Faculty members spend decreased amounts of time preparing and presenting lectures, grading homework, or preparing and grading tests. Therefore, they can dedicate more time to helping students. Redesign represents a huge adjustment for many experienced instructors and for inexperienced instructors as well. At the same time, it is a very rewarding experience for instructors, as reported by experienced redesign teams.
Q: Doesn’t course redesign reduce the interaction between students and instructors?
A: On the contrary, there is more interaction between students and instructors than ever before, and that interaction is more meaningful, more individualized, and more focused. The main reason students learn better under a redesign model is that they become less passive about and more actively involved with course content, and they receive help based on their individual needs.
Q: Who should be responsible for the course?
A: Someone must take overall responsibility for ensuring that the course works well, that all students have the same learning experiences and assessments, and that all course policies and procedures get implemented consistently. Make sure you have a course coordinator or project leader who can offer the necessary leadership. In smaller institutions, the department chair usually has overall responsibility for ensuring that the course works well, that all students have the same learning experiences and assessments, and that all course policies and procedures get implemented consistently. In larger institutions, a course coordinator might assume that responsibility. At the same time, it is important to emphasize teamwork and to involve others in the decision-making process. As in the traditional format, instructors themselves are responsible for their individual sections.
Q: Doesn’t reducing costs suggest a negative impact on faculty such as loss of tenure track lines, deskilling the professoriate, or loss of funding to the department or program?
A: The goal of course redesign is not to threaten the faculty role in instruction but rather to re-envision it. The idea is to enable faculty to use higher-level skills and knowledge to design and offer the course while assigning lower-level skill-based activities to other instructional personnel, as discussed in Chapter IV.
In the past, cost reduction in higher education has meant loss of jobs, but that’s not the NCAT approach. In the vast majority of NCAT course redesign projects, the cost savings achieved through redesigned courses remained in the department that generated the savings; and the savings achieved were used for instructional purposes. NCAT thinks of cost savings as reallocations of resources that enable faculty and their institutions to achieve their wish lists of things they would like to do if they had additional resources.
Institutional participants have used cost savings in the following ways.
Q: What redesigned teaching load is equivalent to a traditional three-credit-hour course?
A: There is no simple answer to that question because every institution and every department has a different set of rules (policies and procedures) in regard to faculty load. Redesign will require revisiting some of those rules because of the way that redesigned courses are structured. For instance, a teaching assignment that used to consist of a three-day-a-week hour-long lecture with paper assessments may now be very different because the software can provide most of the lecture and can automate most of the assessments, and other kinds of personnel can carry out different instructional tasks.
A common assumption in higher education is that instructors spend two hours outside class (preparing and grading) for every one hour spent in class. That means that a three-credit course typically requires the instructor to spend nine hours per week on the course. Because both the in-class time and the preparation and grading time are reduced in a course redesign, instructor time must be reallocated accordingly. You will need to make decisions based on your own institutional rules and the changes you made to achieve the redesigned course structure. In addition, many institutions ask instructors to schedule some of their office hours in a lab or help center so that they can provide assistance for all students in the lab when they don’t have scheduled appointments with their own students.
Q: Are there tools that help instructors see how much time they are spending in the redesigned format versus in the traditional format?
A: NCAT developed the Scope of Effort Worksheet (see Appendix D) to help campuses document that the number of hours faculty devote to a redesigned course will be the same or fewer than those devoted to the traditional format of the course, even if class size increases or the number of sections that faculty carry increases. This is possible because the course redesign off-loads to the technology certain tasks like lecturing, grading, and monitoring student progress. Explaining how this occurs and documenting the changes by using the Scope of Effort Worksheet enable redesign leaders to help others on campus understand the benefits of redesign for both students and faculty.
Q: How much training is needed for instructors?
A: Many institutions experience problems because they underestimate the degree of training—both initial and ongoing—that is required in order to implement their redesigns successfully. The new format inevitably requires very different kinds of interactions with students from those in the traditional teaching format. Developing a formal plan for initial and ongoing training of all personnel—rather than assuming they will pick up the new methods on their own—will go a long way to ensuring a successful redesign.
Q: What should instructor training include?
A: The most important aspect of instructor training involves how to “teach” in the redesign, because the redesigned format may be very different from the teaching format the instructors have used and/or experienced in the past. Instructors need to be coached in ways to facilitate—and engage students in—problem solving rather than instructors’ resorting to lecturing or providing answers for students. Training should include:
Q: How often do we need to train instructors?
A: The desire to go back to old ways of doing things has to be overcome. Ongoing mandatory training of instructors is the only way to ensure that success will be achieved. All personnel need to be reminded of the policies and procedures and learn about changes in the software. We recommend holding a meeting with all experienced instructors at least once each semester to review old policies and point out any new ones.
Q: How should we train adjunct faculty members?
A: In addition to involving adjuncts in instructor training sessions, full-time faculty need to mentor part-time faculty during the latter’s initial term of working in the redesigned model. Although time-consuming, doing so will ensure greater consistency in the redesign. Mentoring is an investment that will ensure the continued success of the redesign.
Q: How do we ensure ongoing consistency among instructors?
A: Even when initial training is provided for all instructors, most institutions discover inconsistencies in application of the redesign, especially during the pilot period. For example, students may be required to complete guided-lecture notes before taking a quiz, but some instructors do not monitor guided-lecture-note completion. Despite policies against accessing external resources during class or lab, some instructors allow students to listen to music with headphones, check e-mail, or use non-course-related Web resources while in class. Despite policies to the contrary, some instructors permit use of notes on proctored exams.
The faculty need to formulate firm rules about such matters. Faculty need to adjust to the concept that they are not permitted to make decisions based on their individual interpretations; rather, all have to follow the same rules and guidelines. If an instructor has an idea for improving student learning and/or the process, the idea should be agreed upon and applied by all instructors. Because unforeseen issues arise regularly, weekly staff meetings are necessary—with results recorded, published, and distributed so that all faculty and staff can consistently implement the decisions. Although time-consuming, this investment ensures the continued success of redesign.
Q: How can we overcome faculty resistance to the redesign?
A: There are a number of ways to overcome faculty resistance.
It is important to remind all faculty why the redesign was undertaken. Some may argue that the institution should return to the traditional, old way of offering the course, but they should be reminded that that would not improve the situation for students, because fixing the old way was the reason the redesign began. Faculty should be reminded of the successes other institutions have achieved and the benefits to faculty, such as working more closely with students who need their assistance and reducing the tedious task of grading.