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Refreshing Courses

Changing your course is a wonderful way to reinvigorate your teaching experience and to keep it fresh.

Updating Your Course

The secret to refreshing your course is to make changes that are aimed at enhancing student learning, without overwhelming yourself with too much work. Here are a few high-impact strategies for enhancing your course.

Add new technologies.

Breathe new life into your course by integrating instructional technologies that increase student engagement. Get started by talking with other faculty members about technologies that worked for them. Connect with Saint Mary’s educational technology staff at edtech@smumn.edu. Browse reputable online learning websites, such as merlot.org, educause.edu, and edtechmagazine.com to see what’s trending and looks interesting to you.

Enhance your presentations.

Whether you are enhancing your PowerPoint slides or the way you present, consider enlivening what students see, hear, and feel.

  • Add emotion through images, videos, or stories.
  • Remove the “clutter” by reducing unnecessary words, content, and filler.
  • Incorporate analogies and metaphors that create a bridge for understanding.
  • Include novelty by adding cognitive dissonance or surprising facts and research findings.
  • Consider bringing music into the learning.
  • Incorporate times for silent thinking and reflection.

The list is endless. It is just a matter of using your creativity, searching the Web for new possibilities, and watching and listening to others for new ideas.

Upgrade learning resources.

In this information age, it is much easier to provide students with the most current and relevant information possible. The key is to find resources that are of high-quality and sharable within copyright laws. Our librarians can help you with both, particularly copyright assistance. As you upgrade your learning resources, consider providing a variety of resources, including videos, Slideshare PowerPoints, journal articles, white papers, websites, and ebooks. The library website has many resources to consider, and the educational technology team (edtech@smumn.edu) can help you upload many of these resources to your Blackboard course.

Incorporate new active learning activities.

Most faculty spice up their courses with learning activities that actively engage their students in learning. The most rewarding activities encourage students to do something with course concepts and then think about what they just did. This can be accomplished by using:

  • short writing assignments
  • debates
  • case studies
  • role playing
  • student demonstrations
  • teach-backs
  • think-pair-share
  • anonymous polling
  • gallery walks

The key is to debrief after each activity, so students think about what they just learned (i.e. metacognition). To learn more about active learning activities, read the Faculty Focus article, “From passive learning to active learning,” and the Educause article, “Socially engaged learning.”

Flip your course.

Flipping your course is an excellent strategy for engaging adult learners. What’s a “flipped course”? In a flipped course, you ask students to read the course materials before coming to class, reserving class time for application, practice, refinement, and oftentimes working on the course assignments. If you have never done this before, you might want to consider gradually moving to a flipped model. Experiment by flipping two or three class sessions before flipping your entire course. Learn more by watching recordings of events related to flipping your course.

Revise assignments.

One way to reenergize your enthusiasm for your course is to revise assignments. This is especially true if you have lost interest in grading them over the years of teaching. Consider creating or recreating authentic assignments that lead to relevant and real-world cognitive skills. Examples include:

  • real-world case studies
  • problem-based projects
  • inquiry-based projects
  • simulations
  • video recorded role plays
  • creation of real-world professional products and deliverables.

Before you change your assignment, be sure to check with your program director to ensure there are no concerns regarding changes to your assignments and syllabus approval processes.