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Who’s Teaching Who? What Can Be Learned from Students about Curriculum Design
Declining numbers of traditional-age high school graduates, changing student demographics, and struggles with student retention are creating what can be termed a “perfect storm” in higher education. Faculty and administration in the College of Applied Science and Technology of The University of Akron have been exploring possible tools to attract students as well as increase retention and graduation rates. One of the most valuable sources of information on how to achieve these goals is students themselves. This presentation discusses what has been learned from students and explores strategies for riding the storm.
Having a diverse, ever-changing college population is challenging. It is crucial to understand what current and prospective students want and need in order to increase retention and encourage degree completion. The 2015 Horizon Report of the New Media Consortium notes “All over the world, universities and colleges have been gradually rethinking how their organizations and infrastructures can be more agile” (Johnson et al, p. 7). It is clear that improving enrollment is a complex task that involves the entire university structure. However, student retention and course completion begin at the foundation of the educational pyramid: individual programs, departments, and advising.
The presenters noted that students were not responding to the traditional mathematics curriculum prescribed for engineers. It is important for students to see logical connectivity among courses while following program curricula and for curriculum designers to think far beyond traditional methods of teaching and learning. Further, it was found that students are looking for time flexibility in course scheduling and structure as well as clarity in course content and delivery. These observations by faculty over several years guided curriculum redesign for the engineering mathematics sequence.
Faculty are exploring possible tools to attract students and help them stay on a curriculum path so they can graduate within a reasonable time (Chernikova and Varonis, 2015). Two strategies emerged as the most effective ways to make a difference: 1. Redesigning the curriculum with logical connectivity among sequential courses (e.g., a Course contextualization/Linked Courses/Integrated model); and 2. Developing a wide spectrum of delivery modes and scheduling options to accommodate learners’ preferences and schedules. This also involves the analysis of which student categories benefit from which delivery mode.
Such strategies can be implemented more agilely at a local rather than university level. In the context of the overarching goal of creating a flexible schedule utilizing a variety of course delivery methods (including online, hybrid, and accelerated sequels), presenters will document how traditional face-to-face technical mathematics courses were redesigned for online or hybrid delivery while ensuring accessibility and the achievement of learning objectives.
References: Chernikova, I. & Varonis, E. (2015). Designing and delivering online curriculum in higher education: riding the perfect storm. International Journal of Information and Learning Technology, 33(3), 132-141.
Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., & Freeman, A. (2015). NMC Horizon report: 2015 higher education edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved from http://cdn.nmc.org/media/2015-nmc-horizon-report-HE-EN.pdf