Putting Data To Work

February 6, 2017 Eric Ermie

Putting Data to Work
Incorporating Technology into Curricular Review

The need for curriculum redesign is inevitable. Even in fields where the basic facts stay the same, the best ways to teach them change as new tools and information become available.

Curriculum redesign isn’t a simple process. It requires planning, resources, and may come with some faculty backlash. When it’s time to implement changes to a program’s curriculum, you want to be confident those changes will produce results that make the work worth it.

The (mostly) simple solution to reducing the challenges and risks around curriculum redesign is data. If you already have data on how students are performing now, you’re one step ahead in implementing the right curriculum changes, making a convincing case for faculty buy-in, and tracking the progress of the changes you make.

If you aren’t yet collecting relevant data, starting now will still help you determine if your curriculum changes achieve the results you hope for. In the case that they don’t, you’ll have the data you need to figure out what additional changes should be made for better results.

 

The Primary Causes Driving Curriculum Redesign

Curriculum design doesn’t (and shouldn’t) happen in a vacuum. It needs to serve a purpose. There are a few main reasons for schools to tackle an overhaul of a program’s curriculum. The reasons determine the goals, which should be top of mind in shaping the new curriculum.

 

Pressure from Accreditors

The consequences of losing accreditation are dire for both a school and its students. If the accrediting agency your program depends on pushes for a change, compliance is important.

 

Changes in Board Exams

Similarly, if the exam your students must pass to work in their chosen field undergoes a change, your curriculum needs to adapt. If students aren’t able to put the knowledge they learn into practice upon completing your program, you’re not serving them well.

 

Student Expectations

Students need to trust that they’ll be coming away from your program fully prepared for the job they’re training for. If there are any key subject areas your program doesn’t adequately cover, they’ll either go with someone else, or graduate unsatisfied.

 

The General View of Best Practices is Changing

All of these come around to the same basic cause: something’s changed in what people expect to get out of the kind of program your school offers, and you need to adapt.

While the consequences of the causes listed above may vary, the real point behind all of them is making sure your curriculum works for the students it’s there for to begin with.

 

The Necessary First Step to Any Curriculum Redesign

 

Know your goals.

That’s the long and short of it. You can’t figure out whether or not your changes are successful unless you know what kind of progress to look for.

Before you do anything else, take the time to sit down and work out what specific outcomes you want your curriculum design to achieve. Then make a plan to track the results once the new curriculum is in place.

If you have baseline data to measure against, you’ll have an easier time figuring out the specific results of your changes. If you don’t, you can still measure your progress against the metrics you choose to aim for.

 

Common Challenges in the Process

Regardless of the type of school or program working on a curriculum redesign, there are a few common themes behind what the changes look like and the challenges that arise. While not necessarily a comprehensive list, the themes below are those that most commonly drive how a curriculum design works and the specific challenges that come with it.

 

Curriculum Integration

An integrated curriculum can give students a better understanding of the relationships between different topics. It can also enable the program to cover more subject territory in the limited time available in a higher education program.

Course integration can have some valuable learning outcomes, but it can also make it more difficult for faculty to make sure coverage of the integrated subject areas is well balanced. Bringing a wider variety of subjects into one classroom also presents complications in tracking how well students are doing in the individual areas.

 

Shifting to a Competency-Based Curriculum Model

Competency-based learning can appeal to many students because it allows them to shift the focus of their work from credit hours to filling in the gaps in their knowledge.

For the school, that means identifying the main skills and knowledge the students need to get out the program, and re-designing the curriculum to better help students achieve them. It also means working out an effective method for gauging the student’s competence in all of the main areas determined, both throughout the program and at the end to determine credit.

 

Adapting to Changes in a Board or Licensure Exams

If a degree requires licensure, schools have to be aware of the trends and updates in the yearly board and licensure exams that graduating students face. In order to provide students with the skills they need not just to succeed in their chosen profession, but to also get the licensing they need to work in their field at all, programs need a curriculum that matches the subjects covered on the exams.

 

Change in Curriculum Delivery Method

Between the ease of creating podcasts and videos, and the growing interest in eLearning modules and flipped classrooms, many programs are considering changing up just how the content in their courses is delivered. It’s hard to predict just how this will influence a student’s learning experience, and results will likely vary by subject. You don’t want to continue using delivery methods that don’t improve the student experience, but you also don’t want to avoid trying something new when the results could bring improvement.

 

Re-Ordering Content

Re-ordering content can be tricky, because sometimes a change that seems like it will be an obvious improvement will have a domino effect with consequences you couldn’t predict. Learning the right information in the right order can make a big difference in how well students learn. As in all the other scenarios listed here, you want to be careful to get it right.

 

The Importance of Data in the Process

Whatever the reasons behind a curriculum redesign and the particular challenges that arise, the ability to collect good data can help.

With ExamSoft, you can take action to identify any problem areas and make the changes you know will have the best results for your students and program. That will result in a stronger curriculum redesign in any of the scenarios described above, and the means to further improve the curriculum on an ongoing basis using actual data.

 

Here’s How it Works

  1. You can link questions with specific categories. Everything from board subject areas and competencies to learning outcomes and accreditation standards can be linked.
  • This produces reports after each exam that clearly show the level of knowledge students have in each subject area.
  • When you’re working with an integrated curriculum, this shows you more clearly whether your exams are balanced in their coverage of different subject areas while you’re creating them.
  • It also helps you determine if all subject areas are getting the right amount of coverage based on student performance.
  • Categorizing questions by competency area will give you a read on how students are performing throughout the program in a competency-based curriculum.
  • Identifying the specific subject areas and question formats students struggle with shows you exactly how to help them through targeted student remediation.
  • You can easily ensure you’re incorporating the question formats common to the board or licensure exam students will be taking so they’re better prepared.
  • You can gain insight into which delivery methods are working for specific subjects.
  1. You can track the performance of a class in aggregate.
  • This lets you determine the areas where the class is weakest so you know where to focus your changes to the curriculum redesign.
  • It also creates a compelling case for faculty buy-in for curriculum changes, as it’s easier to show where actual needs lie.
  • Shows any areas where the class as a whole is falling behind due to the changes you’ve made in the curriculum.
  • Makes it easy to compare the success of class wide learning outcomes based on the content delivery method used.
  • Allows you the opportunity to catch problems in the curriculum order in the midst of a semester, so you can make new changes as needed.
  1. You can track the performance of specific individuals over time.
  • This allows you to see the long-term progress students make with the curriculum as it is. • You can compare a specific student’s success with a new delivery method or learning technique with the old model.
  • Helps you identify early on which individuals need focused student remediation to realize their potential in the program.
  • Enables you to provide data to the students themselves to help them better focus their study efforts for the board or licensure exam.
  • Provides you the ability to track performance in any type of category across all assessments or across an entire program instead of just an individual assessment. A curriculum redesign is a risk. It can help your students learn and achieve their goals better than before, or it can throw off everything about your previous curriculum that worked. Data lets you minimize the risk and more confidently move forward with changes that will help your students.

 

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