A BRIEF HISTORY OF
From 1999 through 2018, The National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT) was an independent, not-for-profit organization focused on American higher education. Its mission was to provide leadership in using information technology to redesign learning environments to produce better learning outcomes for students at a reduced cost to the institution. NCAT was headed by Dr. Carol A. Twigg, an internationally recognized expert in the field. The NCAT staff had extensive experience in higher education as faculty members, administrators and researchers in both traditional and non-traditional higher education environments.
NCAT was committed to providing the expertise necessary to help higher education institutions achieve their student access, success and retention goals while reducing their instructional costs. Through constant testing and refinement of its course redesign methodology and by working with a diverse group of public and private colleges, universities and community colleges, NCAT demonstrated that all post-secondary institutions are capable of achieving improved outcomes at a reduced cost. NCAT has been internationally recognized for translating its vision for achieving improved learning outcomes at a reduced cost into a proven track record of success.
Altogether, NCAT worked with more than 200 institutions to demonstrate that it is possible to improve quality while reducing costs in higher education. A total of 195 redesign projects were initiated, 80% of which were completed. These redesigns impact about 250,000 students annually and serve as models for higher education in the United States and elsewhere.
Of the 156 completed projects, 72% improved student learning outcomes; 28% showed equivalent student learning. Overall, these redesigns reduced their instructional costs by 34% on average, ranging from 5% to 81%. Other positive outcomes included increased course-completion rates, improved retention, better student attitudes toward the subject matter and increased student and faculty satisfaction with the new mode of instruction.
Established in 1999 with funding from an $8.8 million grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts, NCAT was initially a virtual university center at Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute. Building on her experience as vice president of Educom (now Educause), Dr. Twigg created the Program in Course Redesign (PCR). From 1999 to 2003, NCAT worked with 30 diverse two- and four-year colleges (50,000 students annually) to prove that it is possible to improve quality and reduce cost in higher education. Course redesign using information technology is key to achieving both outcomes.
The results of the PCR were exceptional. Twenty-five of thirty course redesign projects showed significant increases in student learning; the other five showed learning equivalent to traditional formats. Of the twenty-four projects that measured retention, eighteen reported a noticeable decrease in drop-failure-withdrawal rates, ranging from 10 to 20%, as well as higher course-completion rates. Most dramatically, all thirty institutions reduced their costs by 37% on average, ranging from 20% to 77%, and produced a collective annual savings of about $3 million.
In 2003, NCAT became an independent, not-for-profit organization.
NCAT Board of Directors:
Dr. Peter Ewell (2003 - 2018)
Mr. William C. Ferrero (2004-2018)
Dr. William H. Graves, (2003 - 2016)
Dr. Robert c. Heterick, Jr., (2003 - 2004)
Dr. Jack M. Wilson, (2003 -2018)
How NCAT Worked
The National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT) worked through a four-stage iterative process to advance the use of information technology in improving student learning and reducing instructional costs.
1. Proof of Concept:
NCAT created innovative programs that used technology to improve learning and reduce costs in partnership with colleges and universities. Between 1999 and 2012, NCAT conducted four competitive national programs funded by private foundations and government agencies. Each national program sought to demostrate a particular aspect of improving learning and reducing cost. Full descriptions of these national programs can be found by following the links listed below.
The outcome of each effort was a proof of concept.
NCAT analyzed the results of these programs to identify and document specific techniques and practices that led to success, to develop models for future practice and to learn what next steps were needed to scale the proof of concept.
NCAT communicated these lessons learned by writing and speaking for professional and general audiences about successful patterns and practices that led to improved student learning and reduced instructional costs.
NCAT worked with institutions, systems and states to scale the proof of concept to impact greater numbers of students, faculty members and institutions and achieve significant educational change. Each program was funded by the state or system partner. For example:
Full descriptions of these state and system programs and their outcomes can be found by following the links listed above.
Feedback and Continuous Improvement:
NCAT then used the feedback and experience gained in each stage of the process to create additional analyses and course redesign resources for colleges and universities to use to demonstrate new ways of achieving improved student learning and reduced instructional cost.
NCAT leaves behind a rich array of resources now housed at the University of Central Florida in its Division of Digital Learning. Institutions, organizations and companies are encouraged to take full advantage of the resources which include:
Course Redesign Case Studies: descriptions of more than 150 large-scale course redesigns sorted by discipline, by model and by degree of success, including data on increased student learning, improved completion and reduced instructional costs.
Course Redesign “How-To” Guides: a series of step-by-step guides for campuses and systems that want to initiate a course redesign program drawing on our experience since 1999. Four guides have been produced: 1) How to Redesign a College Course Using NCAT’s Methodology, 2) How to Redesign a College-Level or Developmental Math Course Using the Emporium Model, 3) How to Redesign a Developmental Math Program Using the Emporium Model, and 4) How to Organize a Campus-Wide Course Redesign Program Using NCAT's Methodology.
NCAT Redesign Scholars: faculty and administrators who have successfully implemented and sustained a whole-course redesign that increases student success and reduces instructional costs. Scholars serve as a resource to link those new to course redesign with more experienced colleagues to whom they can turn for advice and support
NCAT Webinar Series: Recordings of disciplinary course redesign webinars (American and European history, chemistry, college algebra, computer literacy, developmental English and mathematics, developmental math, developmental reading, economics, psychology, statistics, and women's studies) as well as webinars on How to Get Started on Course Redesign, How to Increase Enrollments without Additional Resources, How to Deal with Budget Cuts without Affecting Quality, and How to Organize a Campus-Wide Redesign Program.