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Designing a Tracking System to Ensure Quality, High-Volume Course Development. Nicola Martinez Susan Oaks. Sloan-C/ALN Conference November, 2005. Presentation Overview. Objectives: Identify & discuss issues related to high-volume course development

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Designing a Tracking System to Ensure Quality, High-Volume Course Development

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Designing a tracking system to ensure quality high volume course development

Designing a Tracking System to Ensure Quality, High-Volume Course Development

Nicola MartinezSusan Oaks

Sloan-C/ALN Conference

November, 2005

Presentation overview

Presentation Overview


  • Identify & discuss issues related to high-volume course development

  • Offer ideas on retaining quality while dealing with volume

  • Evoke questions related to what constitutes “quality” in online courses

  • Inspire discussion of an inclusive process (instructional designers, faculty, staff) of resource development

  • Demonstrate CourseTrak database designed to deal with quality and volume issues

Empire state college

Empire State College

  • Multiple locations around New York State

  • The Center for Distance Learning (CDL) serves adult students around the world

Center for distance learning

Center for Distance Learning

  • Offers online courses in five, 15-week semesters per year

  • Leading enroller in SUNY Learning Network

  • Partners with eArmyU, Navy, labor unions, public & private organizations

  • Offers degree programs in eleven areas of study: The Arts, Business, Human Services, Humanities & Cultural Studies, Educational Studies, History, Human Development, Labor Studies, Science-Math-Technology, Social Theory-Structure-Change

Context rapid online growth

Context: Rapid Online Growth

  • Increase in f/t faculty from 8 to 20 (and growing) within the past three years; parallel increase in numbers of courses offered

  • New Director of Curriculum and Instructional Design responsible for managing a team of designers to shepherd faculty through the course development process and coordinate instructional support

  • Development of new courses coupled with implementation of a revision cycle for existing online courses

Center for distance learning course statistics

Center for Distance Learning Course Statistics

  • 350 distinct online courses,

  • many with multiple sections

  • 46 courses developed/revised for Sept 03

  • 50+ courses developed or revised for Jan 04

  • 68 courses developed or revised for Sept 04

  • 70 courses developed or revisedfor Jan 05

  • 55+ courses in development or revision for Sept 05

  • 65 courses in development or revision for Jan 06

  • Over 6,000 enrollments per term

  • all courses on a two year revision cycle

  • managed using the CourseTrak system



An interactive database designed to:

  • Integrate information for all participants

  • Create a public record from course proposal through course development, review, offering, and revision

  • Foster collaboration through its public nature

  • Facilitate course review and evaluation

Coursetrak a community of practice

Information becomes readily available

All users can follow the track of the discussion

Substantive discussions can occur re: course content and approach

Faculty and instructional designers contribute ideas

The community can expand, with access provided to course developers and reviewers

Coursetrak: A Community of Practice

Coursetrak community members

CourseTrak Community Members

  • Curriculum Committee

  • All CDL Faculty

  • Curriculum & Instructional Design Groups

  • Staff

    All have access to CourseTrak database

    at appropriate times

Curriculum committee

Curriculum Committee

  • Representative committee of faculty from 4 main groups of study (business, human services, humanities, science-math-technology)

  • Oversees policies & procedures for course development

  • Reviews/approves specific course proposals

  • Identifies curricular issues on the course and overall curricular levels

All cdl faculty

All CDL Faculty


  • Reminds course developer/Area Coordinator of required information, objectives, content, and learning activities in course proposals

  • Requires rationale for new courses in terms of academic skills, student population, etc.

  • Invites other faculty collaboration, including adjunct faculty involved in the course development process

  • Facilitates quality review

Curriculum instructional design group

Curriculum & Instructional Design Group

  • Advises faculty on curriculum development

  • Shepherds developers through the development cycle

  • Provides pedagogical, assessment, and instructional development training as needed

  • Designs course development processes

  • Facilitates team development sessions

  • Aligns support for course developers

  • Assures academic excellence and design quality of courses

  • Oversees program evaluation and improvements

Course development teams

Course Development Teams

Made up of different configurations of faculty, instructional designers, librarians, including:

  • An Area Coordinator (f/t faculty responsible for curriculum in a particular area of study)

  • A Coordinator of Instructional Design & Curriculum Development

  • One or more Course Developers (content expert/s who develops course content & assessment activities)

  • One or more Instructional Designers

  • A Multimedia Instructional Designer

  • A Librarian



Staff access CourseTrak at appropriate places in the term preparation cycle to access information for:

  • Books & materials ordering for the course

  • Course descriptions for listing in the course catalog

  • Course availability for each term’s listing & scheduling

  • Generic course evaluation information for the student’s narrative transcript evlauation

Wergin argues that

Wergin argues that:

“the desire to belong, to feel part of a nurturing community, one in which the faculty member has an important role to play never goes away.”

“themes of engagement, critical reflection, and honest collegiality” (p.121) are very relevant to the problem of engaging adjunct faculty.

Coursetrak a staged process

CourseTrak: A Staged Process

  • Course Concept

  • Discussion/feedback from Area Coordinators(f/t faculty)

  • Course Proposal

  • Discussion/feedback from Area Coordinators, Course Development Teams

  • Course Review/Approval by Curriculum Committee

  • Feedback listed publically

  • Course Review/Rating by Instructional Design Team

Throughout the process

Throughout the Process:

  • Asynchronous, threaded discussion of entries

  • Curriculum Committee uses the data

  • Instructional Designers assess course and developer needs

  • Creates a visible history of a course



Course concept

Course Concept

Course concept cont d

Course Concept cont’d

Course concept feedback

Course Concept Feedback

Feedback cont d

Feedback cont’d

Course proposal information

Course Proposal Information

  • Course content summary

  • Catalog description

  • Prerequisites

  • Needs assessment/rationale/audience

  • Course topics/learning objectives

  • Texts and materials

  • Assignment description

  • Academic skills development

  • Development plan

  • SUNY General Education Requirements

Additional access granted

Additional Access Granted

Instructional design perspective

Instructional Design Perspective

For large-scale development of pedagogically and academically sound courses, instructional designers need to work with course developers to ensure:

  • Active learning

  • Media-rich content

  • Student interaction

  • Opportunities for teaching, social and cognitive presence

Instructional design approach

Instructional Design Approach

  • Develop a new standard for course information documents and implement them in the courses

  • Create a new design for courses to increase navigability and overall consistencies in look, feel, format

  • Encourage experimentation with design to further link course structure with content

  • Enrich courses with multimedia components and other graphic enhancements

  • Include library referenced materials in all courses, with at least one library-based learning activity per course

  • Identify and implement best practices in the pursuit of academic and pedagogical excellence in online course development for adult learners

Course development resources and support

Course Development Resources and Support

Examples of Resources and Support

Provided to Developers

  • Instructional design assistance

  • Pedagogical advice

  • Library review of course & research assignments

  • Assistance designing learning activities, assessments of learning

  • Media-rich content identification

  • Multimedia learning objects

  • Website identification, evaluation, & compilation

  • Digital image identification

  • Best practice examples provided

The course resource needs analysis

The Course Resource Needs Analysis

Information captured in the Course Resource Needs Analysis Form is used to generate work requests for

  • technical assistance

  • library assistance

  • multimedia learning object creation

  • digital media research and implementation

  • and instructional design/pedagogical support, among other things.

Table 1. Tier 1 Ratings Legend

The course resource needs analysis1

The Course Resource Needs Analysis

Table 1. Tier 1 Ratings Legend

The course resource needs analysis2

The Course Resource Needs Analysis

Table 1. Tier 1 Ratings Legend

Best practices promote deep collaborative visual learning

Best Practices Promote Deep, Collaborative, & Visual Learning

Knowles (1998) & Wlodkowski (1993)

  • Students know why learning is required

  • Students direct their learning

  • Students learn to apply theory to reality

  • Students realize successful learning

    Lave & Wenger (1991)

  • Students learn through collaboration

    Zull (2002)

  • Students learn through images—much work has focused on incorporating images into text-based courses

Visual pedagogy

Visual Pedagogy

  • What Images Give UsWe can visualize the world with our eyes closed. Neuroscience doesn’t have a complete explanation of these images yet, but there is little doubt that they begin with physical maps consisting of connected neurons in the brain. Our brains are full of such networks, and it seems certain that what we call thinking and remembering is based on them. (Zull, 144)

  • Images and AcademicsGiven the centrality of images, it seems that teachers could make extensive use of images to help people learn. If we can convert an idea into an image, we should do so. And whenever possible, we should require our students to show us their images. It should go both ways.

    Zull, James E. The Art of Changing the Brain: Enriching the Practice of Teaching by Exploring the Biology of Learning. Sterling, Virginia: Stylus Publishing, 2002

visual pedagogy:

Sample visual pedagogy

Sample Visual Pedagogy

Best practices

Best Practices

Course review process

Course Review Process

  • We established a three-tiered categorization of courses based on the inclusion of the above recommendations and the application of a new course design.

  • All new and revised courses are reviewed an assigned the following ratings:

Course rating system

Course Rating System

Table 1. Tier 1 Ratings Legend

Course rating system1

Course Rating System

  • Tier information and classification is generated as a result of the information captured in The Empire State College Online Course Evaluation Checklist.

  • All courses are considered unrated until they have been reviewed with this instrument.

  • The evaluation piece associated with The Empire State College Online Course Evaluation Checklist happens at several levels.

Table 1. Tier 1 Ratings Legend

Online course evaluation checklist

Online Course Evaluation Checklist

  • Administered during and after a new course has been developed, before delivery

  • Before an old course is revised to identify specific areas targeted for improvement

  • After an old course has been revised to ensure that it is complete and meets all baseline criteria for a Tier 3 course


Table 1. Tier 1 Ratings Legend

Online course evaluation checklist 1

Online Course Evaluation Checklist 1

Online course evaluation checklist 2

Online Course Evaluation Checklist 2

Table 1. Tier 1 Ratings Legend

Focus on quality assurance

Focus on Quality Assurance

  • Establish baseline criteria for courses

  • Evaluate and review courses

  • Track performance

  • Capture data

  • Make necessary adjustments to courses

  • Create a data driven analysis

  • Develop a report

  • Make recommendations

  • Improve process & performance using results

Applicability to other institutions

Applicability to Other Institutions

  • Level of instructional support

  • Number of faculty developing new courses

  • Number of new faculty needing intense support

  • How to integrate the system with other relevant systems

  • Access control and security issues

  • Analyze your assumptions


Questions ?


  • Director of Curriculum and Instructional Design


  • Associate Professor, Writing & Literature

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