What is Innovative Course Design?
The challenge in any course is the design. A course should be designed for learner engagement at the highest level while preparing them academically. Allied health courses are especially challenging in this area. Because these professions have a large amount of content, it can be difficult to creatively present the information. Innovative course design is the solution to increased student engagement in allied health courses. There are a number of effective strategies to use when creatively designing these courses, but there are a few important features to consider first:
- Basic understanding
- Human component
While this may sound similar to the idea of Bloom’s taxonomy, there is a major difference. Creative course design looks at these different levels of learning as interactive, rather than just a ladder to be climbed. Courses that use these more creative designs are incredibly focused on the active process of learning and how each aspect of that process works together. The most important result of these thoughtful, creatively designed courses is the increase in learner engagement.
How Does Learner Engagement Increase?
Simply reconstructing a course doesn’t mean student engagement will automatically increase. So how does creative course design actually accomplish that increase in engagement? By engaging students in the work of learning. It’s a process. Students who actively engage in that process not only learn the content, but are able to master different kinds of learning. The idea here is that learning goals are established, activities are then created that are driven by those goals, and,once completed, students are given feedback specific to them.
So, is this kind of redesign successful? When this type of design is implemented into the classroom almost all scoring categories improve. More importantly, however, the attitude and morale of a classroom is increased. Students begin working harder and find the work more enjoyable, making them more engaged. Students become co-creators of learning, not just receptacles to be filled. This encourages students to see their learning as an investment.
Strategies in Curriculum Design
- Cooperative Learning
A large portion of learning is social. Students should be placed in an environment that encourages that kind of interaction. In implementing a cooperative learning strategy, groups of students are created with a wide range of knowledge and abilities. The students in the group then drive the learning through teamwork. It is imperative when employing this strategy that significant class time is used to discuss the principles of teamwork.
This strategy has been effective in increasing learner engagement in allied health courses. One class was divided into four expert groups to complete a drug information assignment. Each group researched a different part of the assignment, then the members of each group were reassigned to a new group. These new groups were created with members that were “experts” on different aspects of the topic. These experts then taught the other members of the group. The process of learning from peers is extremely powerful for both the “teacher” and the “student”.
- Problem-Based Learning
Similarly, this strategy uses small groups of students as the main component of the learning process. Each group is given an authentic, real-world problem to solve. The group must identify the knowledge they currently possess to solve the problem and where the gaps may lie. Using this information students then set out to research and solve the problem. Teachers and faculty members allow for this process to be self-directed by each group and act as a guide. Clinical tasks are a perfect example of this type of learning. Many allied health courses use clinical scenarios or case studies to provide this type of learning strategy.
- Team-Based Learning
This strategy is used a larger group environment. A class is divided into teams and then use course ideas and concepts to complete activities. These teams do interact with one another in this process to deepen understanding. Additionally, students are given readiness-assurance tests (RATs) individually and as a group to assess knowledge of each concept before embarking on the team activities.
Therapeutic workshops have employed this strategy and saw a significant increase in student assessment scores. Student RAT scores were increased by 20% across the board.
- Case-Based Learning
Case-based learning may sound familiar. This strategy is a more general, active-learning strategy, similar to both problem-based and team-based learning. Students are provided real-world cases for application of their learning. In many instances students are assigned reading or provided a mini-lecture before being given the case.
- Ability-Based Education and Assessment-as-Learning
The active component of this strategy is the assessment. Students are given frequent formative assessments followed by extensive feedback. The feedback is given in many forms: self, peer, and expert. Feedback is given based on performance criteria, supported by specific examples from a student’s performance. Many educators site this strategy as effective. Pharmacy education has seen a dramatic increase in its implementation and have seen great rewards in the achievement of ability outcomes.
For information on active learning strategies check out this Active Learning blog.