NCAT’s Frequently Asked Questions

What does NCAT mean by course redesign?

  • Course redesign is the process of redesigning whole courses (rather than individual classes or sections) to achieve better learning outcomes at a lower cost by taking advantage of the capabilities of information technology.
  • Course redesign is not just about putting courses online. It is about rethinking the way we deliver instruction, especially large-enrollment core courses, in light of the possibilities that new technology offers.

Why redesign?

Course redesign allows institutions to:

  • Accommodate more students without adding resources.
  • Free up faculty members to offer other courses and programs of study that are in demand.
  • Increase student retention and meet goals for student achievement.
  • Decrease time to graduation by adding additional seats in bottleneck courses.
  • Improve consistency and quality across multiple sections.
  • Reduce the cost of instruction.

What results have been achieved with course redesign?

  • The institutions in the original Program in Course Redesign embarked upon a systematic program to 1.) Understand the full instructional cost of delivering courses; 2.) Determine how information technology can be introduced as an instructional aid and labor-saving device; and 3.) Assess how well students are learning. The program produced six flexible yet distinct course redesign models that achieved both positive gains in student learning and reduced costs to the institution.
  • Of the thirty institutions, twenty-five measured significant increases in student learning in the “redesigned” course when compared to the traditional course while the other five showed learning equivalent to traditional formats.
  • Of the twenty-four institutions that measured student retention, eighteen showed significant increases in course completion.
  • All thirty institutions were able to reduce instructional costs, on average by 37%, with a range of 20% to 77%.
  • Through a grant from Lumina Foundation for Education, NCAT was also able to examine the data and determine that these redesign strategies, while effective for all students, have a positive impact on traditionally underserved students (minority students, low-income students, and adult students).
  • Since then NCAT has worked with more than 200 institutions to demonstrate that it is possible to improve quality while reducing costs in higher education. Together, we have developed 150+ successful course redesigns that serve as models for higher education in the United States and elsewhere.

What happens to the cost savings?

  • The elephant in the room of any course redesign project is what will happen to the cost savings that are achieved. Since buy-in at all levels of the organization is critical to a successful course redesign effort, NCAT encourages an early and frank discussion of the topic with all stakeholders.
  • Institutional participants have used cost savings in the following ways:
    • Left the savings in the department that achieved them for continuous improvement projects or for additional course redesigns.
    • Provided a greater range of offerings at the second-year, upper-division or graduate levels.
    • Accommodated greater numbers of students using the same amount of resources to accommodate demand.
    • Left the savings in the departments to reduce teaching load and/or provide greater time for research.