Students

Brandman takes course development to a new level

February 13, 2017 by Cindy O'Dell

Developing an academic program doesn’t happen overnight. For Brandman University, that process becomes even more complicated because courses need to be consistent even though taught by a variety of faculty and adjunct faculty members.

That’s where the Center for Instructional Innovation (CII) already plays a part. However, CII Assistant Vice Chancellor Jennifer Murphy thought there was more the CII could do. She thought that creating a course of study that both presented a wealth of resources and created a shared language for course development would bridge the gap.

That’s why the Brandman Course Developer Certification (BCDC) pilot program was created. “It’s really grown out of a series of conversations with the CII and with the faculty that has been happening ever since I took this position,” she said.

The discussion grew more urgent with each program that came due for revision. Thanks to the support of academic Provost Charles Bullock, Murphy and her team began developing a new approach to connecting faculty with designers. The answer is a course that both teaches and models best practices.

“We wanted to push the envelope in every area,” said Murphy.

BCDC Pilot project

Focusing on five areas – foundations, quality, technology, outcomes and transformation – faculty members from across the university began working through the self-paced course being designed by the CII Instructional Design team.

Sheila Steinberg in studio

Sheila Steinberg

“I really loved it,” said Professor Sheila Steinberg, who used BCDC to create the Bachelor of Arts in Integrated Social Sciences program, which launches in Fall 1. “I feel like my knowledge, ability and skills really jettisoned upwards. They held your hand through the process. You got the theory, the underlying reasoning behind why you want to do great student engagement through technology.”

Working with the Director of Instructional Design Andrea Munro, Steinberg said the course helped her translate what she learned from teaching in-person courses for the past 20 years and make that effective for online and in-person courses. “I was approaching it in a flat way. Here’s the content, here’s the discussion board.”

Using the BCDC guidelines, Steinberg and Munro devised assignments that had more real-world application. Instead of a paper about policy development, the assignment changed to writing a policy brief.

“I think students are going to get a much better quality product that is more exciting, more engaging and more hands-on. I feel like I’m going to become a better faculty for having done the class,” said Steinberg.

 Learning as they go

The pilot group had a tight schedule, said Murphy, and that proved challenging for both faculty members and the CII team, which was building the course as the pilot group was going through it.

“We learned a lot. It was good before but now it’s going to be what it needs to be to meet the specific needs of our faculty and their incredibly busy schedules,” said Murphy. The program will have a limited roll out to another select group later this year.

School of Business Assistant Professor Jalin B. Johnson said it was a privilege to be part of the pilot project. “Dr. Murphy’s team created a venue for quality instruction to be paired with innovative techniques where our dynamic instructors can shine while delivering quality instruction and providing academic rigor.”

Recently, Johnson reviewed what she learned with adjunct faculty members who will teach the course she redesigned through BCDC. “I was delighted to learn that both the instructors and students gained from the experiences and were positively challenged by the enhancements to and quality direction of the course.”

That’s just what Murphy had in mind. “The goal of BCDC is to make a dramatic increase in quality of courses so that they are engaging and authentic to the lives of our students. We know adult learners need and want immediate application of knowledge. They’re here to forward their careers. If it’s not up-to-date, it’s not going to work,” she said.

Others who completed the pilot were Kat Ringenbach, Kimberly Greene and Annie Spillane. An overview of the course can be seen here.

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