A Proposal for Collaborative Course Design

By 2025, University of Michigan foundational courses will be nationally recognized as a model for delivering essential introductions to diverse students in core disciplines at scale.  

In this information age, with higher education focused on digital technologies and active learning strategies that support engaged and personalized learning at scale, the University is uniquely positioned to enhance the next generation of courses that deliver the “foundations of learning” across campus.  The largest of these courses (i.e., those with enrollment greater than two hundred students) represent one third of all student credit hours at U-M. Thus, improving their delivery presents a substantial opportunity to enhance the University’s success in achieving its educational mission.

REBUILD is partnering with the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT) to generate a university-wide vision of institutional support to bring these “foundational” courses to the next level of teaching and learning excellence.

Foundational Courses
Foundational courses often have large enrollment, are regularly offered over many years, employ a large number of GSIs, and serve students with especially diverse backgrounds. They are recognized by departments as essential to a discipline – for example, as prerequisites in a major or foundational instruction to non-majors. These courses are commonly lecture-based with high-stakes exams and other pedagogical elements derived from tradition (what has been done in the past) rather than evidence (what has been proven to work).  Many of them are characterized by significant achievement gaps based on gender or other variables.

Benefits of Course Transformation
Education research and new digital tools create opportunities to design instruction to respond to student differences that cut across not only gender and race, but also learning style, career goals, socioeconomic background, and other characteristics that form our identities as learners. Transformation is an opportunity to infuse this special category of courses with evidence-based, high-impact teaching methods that foster a positive, student-centered learning environment for all students. Ultimately, enhancing these courses will promote recruitment and retention in the majors, support University recruitment efforts, and improve the capacity of the University to serve the learning and development of all students.  This vision aligns with the goals of Academic Innovation and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at U-M.

University-Wide Input on a Proposal for Collaborative Course Design
Based on university-wide input from administrators, faculty, staff, and students, the Foundational Course Initiative is developing a proposal to U-M higher administration recommending a program of collaborative course design that provides critical forms of support to the teams responsible for teaching these essential introductions.  In our focus groups and other discussions, faculty have emphasized the need for professional assistance in areas of instructional consultation, educational technology, support for student success, and assessment.