How Course Redesign at the University of Maryland is Improving Learning, Lowering Costs, and Increasing Graduation Rates

January 2011 / Education / Abell Reports

Instructors and administrators give initiative high grades, making the University of Maryland a national leader in the program.

Four years ago, the University of Maryland (UM) Board of Regents responded to the national crisis in the college experience—the high incidence of student failure and dropout, the cost of a college degree, and the number of years it was taking to earn one—by contracting with Dr. Carol A. Twigg, president of the National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT) and a nationally recognized expert in the field of university course redesign. Defined as the process of revamping entire courses to take advantage of information technology capabilities to achieve better learning outcomes, course redesign embraces modern methods of information dissemination and knowledge development, and rethinks the way instruction is delivered, especially in large-enrollment core classes.

Dr. Twigg formulated a pilot study of nine undergraduate courses with high dropout, withdrawal, or failure rates, or other measurable challenges, at nine universities within the UM system. Associate vice chancellors Dr. Nancy Shapiro and Dr. Donald Spicer directed the project, with the objective of taking the lead in the redesign of selected courses to increase graduation rates, decrease failures, shorten the length of time it takes to earn a degree, and lower costs—to both the students and the university.

The results of these course-redesign initiatives were transformative, and get high praise from UM professors and administrators active in the adapting of course-redesign ideas.