Table of Contents
- 5 Questions to Ask When Redesigning a Course
- What You Put In Is What You’ll Get Out
Bob Dylan once said, “The times they are a-changin’,” and this is particularly true in education. As new technologies emerge and cultural norms evolve, the courses we teach must start a-changin’, too. In a recent Course Hero survey, 42% of educators said that preparing existing or new courses was their top priority.
Revamping an existing course is time-consuming work, but it may be essential to keep students engaged and maintain relevance. This brings up an important question: How do educators determine which courses are ripe for redesign and which ones are valuable as-is?
In this article, we offer five crucial questions to ask yourself when entering the course redesign process. We also explore ways you can use generative AI to streamline this process, so that you don’t have to choose between efficiency and keeping your coursework fresh.
5 Questions to Ask When Redesigning a Course
1. What feedback have I received about this course?
Effective course redesign begins by addressing the concerns of those who experience it firsthand—your students. Feedback is more than a collection of comments and scores; it provides valuable insights into how your course affects student learning.
To use feedback for course redesign, follow these steps:
- Ask for student feedback at least twice per semester.
- Observe patterns among student responses.
- Determine whether the patterns point toward actionable changes in course design.
Some patterns in student feedback will be useful, while others may not warrant structural changes to the course. For example, if numerous students say they don’t enjoy the lecture style of your course, this may be a sign to switch up your teaching style. But if a student says they didn’t like the course without providing clear reasons why, there’s not much you can do to improve.
Use your judgment to determine whether feedback points toward a review of course materials or teaching methods.
🤖 Try This With AI:
Input student feedback into your AI tool of choice and ask it to analyze them. AI can provide key takeaways, patterns among student responses, and actionable steps for what to do next.
2. Are my course materials representative of all students?
Inclusion and belonging is necessary in classrooms. When students see themselves represented in the curriculum, they feel a stronger sense of belonging and engagement. Increased representation also exposes students to different cultures, viewpoints, and voices.
To prioritize inclusivity in your course redesign, start by reviewing your course materials. This may include a review of powerpoints, case studies, articles, and books you’ve used in the past. Are there biases or gaps in representation? If so, it’s time to make some changes.
Seek resources that offer a more inclusive perspective on your subject. One example is the Mind the Gap handbook, which seeks to increase diversity in clinical images.
🤖 Try This With AI:
Use AI to improve your assessments and activities in favor of inclusivity. For example, input an assignment and ask AI to make the material more inclusive of individuals with disabilities. You can also ask AI to suggest alternative, more representative readings and activities.
Inclusivity extends beyond race and gender. When redesigning your course, consider other dimensions of diversity like: socioeconomic background, disability, body size, and sexual orientation. Encourage open discussions in your classroom that respect and value these diverse experiences.
3. Are my course materials culturally responsive and relevant to students’ lives?
Culturally responsive teaching (CRT) is more than an educational buzzword. It’s a research-based teaching approach that connects learning to students’ backgrounds and life experiences. When you use CRT strategies, you help students see themselves in the course material and feel more confident in their learning.
Some CRT strategies you can use include:
- Activating prior knowledge.
- Building caring relationships with students.
- Incorporating multiple perspectives in your instruction.
- Using diverse teaching methods, like whole-class instruction, partner work, and small group work.
To keep your course relevant, tie course topics to the outside world. Stay informed of both national and local news, and update your materials as events develop. For example, during election seasons, you might explore topics related to specific policy issues or candidate debates. When addressing recent natural disasters, you can discuss relevant scientific and environmental concepts.
🤖 Try This With AI:
AI can help you identify ways to modernize your course content to align with student interests. For example, ask AI what are common characteristics of Gen Z students (tech-savvy, socially conscious, etc.) then choose a characteristic and ask AI to align your course content accordingly.
4. What are the learning objectives of this course?
Learning objectives define what students should know and be able to do by the end of the course. Clearly articulated objectives help students understand what’s expected of them and allow you to design assessments and activities that measure their progress effectively.
Start by reviewing your existing learning objectives. Are they specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART)? If not, consider refining them to ensure they meet these criteria. Feature these objectives in your syllabus so students can refer to them throughout the course.
Example of how to make your objectives SMART:
Broad Learning Objective: Students will improve their research skills in this course.
SMART Learning Objective: Students will improve their research skills by using library resources and taking notes from the recommended readings for the course. They will do this every class period for six weeks. By the end of the semester, students will display mastery of evidence-based analysis by completing a final research project.
🤖 Try This With AI:
Use GenAI to analyze the course content and suggest learning outcomes that align with your goals. Direct AI to turn your objectives into SMART goals.
Don’t forget to review your daily course objectives. Daily objectives break down the larger objectives into manageable steps, which provides students with a clear path to success.
Ask yourself: Do I have clearly defined (and communicated) daily objectives? Are these objectives aligned with the broader learning goals?
5. What can I change to increase student engagement?
Student engagement is key to creating a rich and exciting educational experience. When students are engaged, they are more likely to participate, retain information, and apply what they’ve learned.
To increase student engagement, reflect on your experiences teaching this course. Think about the moments when you felt students were most engaged. What teaching strategies or activities contributed to their engagement? Then identify instances when engagement was low and consider what factors may have contributed to this.
Once you’ve assessed your experiences, brainstorm ways to increase engagement in your course. Some strategies include:
🤖 Try This With AI:
Use AI to generate thought-provoking questions or prompts that are tailored to your course content.
Increasing student engagement is an ongoing process. It may require experimentation to find strategies that work best for your particular course and student population.
What You Put In Is What You’ll Get Out
Course design—whether new or old—is never easy. But the effort you put in can result in more relevant, inclusive, and engaging experiences for students.
The long-term benefits of course redesign are also worth mentioning. When your course is relevant to students, the information is more likely to sink in. Engaged students are also 4.5 times more likely to be hopeful about the future than their actively disengaged peers.
By reflecting on these critical questions and leveraging the power of GenAI, you can increase efficiency while feeling confident that your courses are meaningful.
About the Author
Morgan Westling is an Associate Content Specialist at Course Hero. She holds a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Portland and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from The University of the South. She lives in Portland, Oregon, and has been writing for over 7 years. Find more of her work at www.morganwestling.com.