On May 14 and 16, 2019, McGill’s Teaching and Learning Services (TLS) held its semi-annual Course Design Workshop (CDW), where instructors from across the disciplines worked on (re)designing one of their own courses according to a learning-centered course design framework. Instructors engaged in a variety of activities and peer feedback exchanges as they worked toward (re)designing a course where learning outcomes, assessment and teaching strategies were aligned.
I’m a newly hired Learning Technology Consultant at TLS and a Master of Education Technology student at the University of British Columbia. I’m particularly interested in instructional design and the role technology has in improving the teaching and learning experience. I attended the CDW and had the opportunity to learn more about teaching by observing how instructors engage in their own learning.
The CDW invites guest instructors to present a piece of their own teaching experience that is relevant to course design. These presentations often illustrate how course design principles can be put into practice. Guest instructor Agus Sasmito (Mining Engineering) illustrated how he uses student comments from his course evaluations to make principled changes to the course content, learning outcomes and assessments in his courses. Agus also explained that he highlights to students the changes he makes to his course design as a result of course evaluation comments from previous students. I learned from this presentation that having open conversations with students about positive ways you use their feedback can be an important driver of change. It also made me realize that course (re)design is not a linear process: it can take time and multiple attempts (over semesters) before getting it right. It was helpful to see that you always have room to test things out, get feedback from students and try again.
Over the last academic year, I wrote a blog series called Strategy Bites, with each post describing a different instructional strategy that promotes active learning. A number of these strategies was employed during the CDW. For example, instructors created concept maps so that they’d have a visual representation of their course content. Creating the map gave them the opportunity to show relationships between course concepts or content modules, and to rearrange or eliminate content. After working on their maps, some instructors commented on the value of this activity for helping them take a step back and look at their course structure from a whole picture perspective. I asked one instructor if he would be interested in implementing this type of activity in his course. His response was, “Yes! I would love to use concept mapping as a way to get my students to create effective study aids!” In effect, students could do concept mapping as a way to review and make sense of course content, and then they could use these maps for studying. I learned that having instructors actually experience active learning in the role of the learner can be a way to get them to buy in to the value of such activities.
By engaging instructors in active learning strategies throughout the CDW, they have opportunity to learn about course (re)design through the lens of a teacher and a learner. Attending this workshop has made me, in my new role as a Learning Technology Consultant, feel better equipped to engage in meaningful conversations with instructors when they come to TLS for support.