Background Information

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Course Transformation Project (CTP)

Fall 2012, marked the beginning of a bold journey to transform the student learning experience and to make learning better in large enrollment undergraduate courses at the Northern Illinois University. Large introductory courses are most often overlooked as venues for experiential learning activities because class size appears prohibitive to a pedagogy geared toward active student learning and engagement. However, these kinds of courses not only can be transformed but their redesign promotes a learning environment in which students are cognitively engaged (i.e. develop critical thinking skills necessary to deep learning) and socially engaged (i.e. develop relationships with faculty and peers). The CTP turns large lecture courses into blended courses that combine large group lecture, media rich interactive online activities, and small group experiential learning.

Background

Course Transformation Project (CTP) supports NIU’s Vision 2020 goal of becoming the most student-centered public research university in the Midwest and establishing strategic goals for the coming decade in areas of student, faculty and facility excellence. Proposed targets provide an opportunity for NIU to continue to attract, enroll, and retain an ever-diversifying freshman and transfer population while staying true to its residential mission. By increasing the positive culture, NIU becomes more welcoming, student-centered, safe and integrated environment for all students.

Vision 2020 goals:

  1. Increase student participation in engaged learning experiences by 20% in three years, by 30% in five years, and by 50% by 2020
  2. CLA reflects on the quality and curricular strength of NIU’s General Education Program
  3. Reduce the percentage of undergraduates leaving with no degree
  4. Increase graduation and student-retention rates
  5. Improve upon and maintain high-quality teaching effectiveness among faculty and staff

CTP is drawing upon both, the need to adapt to higher and more diverse enrollments and the advances in knowledge of learning and digital tools. As the university aspires to create positive student-centered environment, NIU has an extraordinary opportunity to seriously change how learning occurs throughout the institution. Experiential learning activities are often excluded from large introductory courses due to class size, which appears to be prohibitive to a pedagogy geared toward active student learning and engagement. Faculty who teach such courses may often focus on coverage and the dissemination of facts, preferring as their method of instruction the lecture. However, the Next Generation Course Redesign Project at the University of North Texas has demonstrated that these kinds of courses not only can be transformed but that their redesign promotes a learning environment in which students are cognitively engaged (i.e. develop critical thinking skills necessary to deep learning) and socially engaged (i.e. develop relationships with faculty and peers). The NGen Project turns large lecture courses into blended courses that combine large group lecture, media rich interactive online activities, and small group experiential learning. As a result of the NGen project, which has transformed over 25 courses, the University of North Texas has been able to address the issue of the low percentage of students who succeed in general education courses, to link course learning outcomes with departmental and institutional outcomes and goals, and to demonstrate through assessment practices the “value-added” associated with taking a redesigned course.