Semester ConversionSemester ConversionUniversity of Cincinnati

Semester Conversion

Program and Course Redesign Checklist

Semester Conversion provides the University of Cincinnati with an historic, extraordinary opportunity to effect transformational changes throughout UC’s academic calendar, curriculum, and pedagogy. At the heart of the semester-conversion process lies curriculum redesign.

This checklist provides faculty with an inventory of considerations and resources to guide them in rethinking and redesigning the curriculum. It is not a list of requirements but rather a map to those emerging best practices that can produce energizing change.

Hot-linked items throughout this checklist will lead you to further information, if desired, whether information on the web or else in the form of appendices at the end of this document.

Our efforts around semester conversion will leave a profound legacy for the next generations of UC instructors and students. If we fully realize the potential behind semester conversion, then that legacy will embody those pedagogical considerations that are designed to produce the best in improved access, transferability, learning, and success for our students.

Integrated Planning

Prior to the creation of individual courses, each unit should design a holistic plan for the range and quantity of courses to be offered within the semester framework.
__ Yes   __ No     Specified student learning outcomes for the programs and courses have been identified.

__ Yes   __ No     Individual courses have been internally coordinated to contribute to overall program goals. 

Program Modernization and Accreditation

The program and courses have been updated to meet state-of-the-art professional and disciplinary standards and accreditation requirements:

__ Yes   __ No     In the case of an accredited program, we have determined that this program meets the designated and appropriate semester standards.

__ Yes   __ No     In the case of a program that needs but fails to meet designated and appropriate standards, we have determined the means by which the curriculum will address these deficiencies and come to meet the necessary professional or disciplinary standards. 

Assessment for Accountability and Program Improvement

The program and courses redesign has been informed by existing assessment data and by reflection upon the most recent program review:

__ Yes  __ No     The program has developed an assessment plan that addresses each of the learning outcomes.
__ Yes  __ No     The program has established feedback mechanisms for reviewing and updating the curriculum in light of assessment data.  

Assessment for Accountability and Program Improvement

The program and courses redesign has been informed by existing assessment data and by reflection upon the most recent program review:

__ Yes  __ No     The program has developed an assessment plan that addresses each of the learning outcomes.
__ Yes  __ No     The program has established feedback mechanisms for reviewing and updating the curriculum in light of assessment data.  

Cross-Unit Coordination and Collaboration

Because semester conversion requires the simultaneous revisioning of the curriculum across all units, it provides a unique opportunity to forge new or strengthened interdisciplinary linkages and to create a foundation for integrative learning.

__ Yes  __ No     We have discussed course and program redesign with other programs that require our courses so to assure that their needs are being considered, especially in the case of foundational courses and service courses.

__ Yes  __ No     We have provided opportunities by which our courses and program might be broadened through interdisciplinary linkages and perspectives.

Pedagogy Considerations

__ Yes  __ No     Specified student learning outcomes for all courses will be identified on course syllabi.

__ Yes  __ No     In the case of courses that will be taught by more than one faculty member, the appropriate conversations have taken place to arrive at commonly agreed upon student learning outcomes and a fundamental identity that is consistent across all of its class sections.

Where appropriate, the following active-learning pedagogies have been integrated into one or more courses in the program:

__ Yes  __ No     Service learning and/or community-based learning
__ Yes  __ No     Undergraduate research

__ Yes  __ No     Internships

__ Yes  __ No     Problem-based learning and/or inquiry-based learning

__ Yes  __ No     Collaborative projects based on small-group activities

__ Yes  __ No     Interdisciplinary projects involving other classes

__ Yes  __ No     Study-abroad opportunities

__ Yes  __ No     Electronic portfolios

__ Yes  __ No     Class wiki or blog

__ Yes  __ No     Case studies

__ Yes  __ No     Simulations

__ Yes  __ No     Other: ________________________________

Considerations for Undergraduate Semester-Based Major programs only

__ Yes  __ No     We have determined that our program will include all courses and experiences required by the semester-based General Education Program.

__ Yes  __ No     We have determined that our program intentionally contributes to the achievement of the Baccalaureate Competencies (critical thinking, knowledge integration, social responsibility, and effective communication).

__ Yes  __ No     We have considered various opportunities for Minors and Certificates.

__ Yes  __ No     Where appropriate, we have identified pathways for students interested in completing a double major involving this program.

__ Yes  __ No     We have determined the ways in which the program is consistent with the goals of Integrated Core Learning.

__ Yes  __ No     We have identified First Year components (e.g., suggested courses, experiences, activities, etc) for students in this program.

__ Yes  __ No     We have considered various forms of experiential learning (e.g., co-op, internship, study abroad, clinical placements, exhibits and performances, service learning, undergraduate research) that are appropriate for students majoring in our program.

__ Yes  __ No     We have developed plans for advising students in our program, including guidelines for how to build experiential learning into a program of study.

__ Yes  __ No     We have designated appropriate opportunities for student reflection as part of these experiences.

__ Yes  __ No     We have provided opportunities for broadening of learning through interdisciplinary perspectives in this program.

__ Yes  __ No     We have provided opportunities for writing and for developing writing skills throughout the degree program. 

__ Yes  __ No     We have discussed course genealogy for quarter-to-semester courses, including guidelines for grade replacements for quarter courses. 

Considerations for Graduate Semester-Based Programs Only

__ Yes  __ No     We have established doctoral-level orientation courses for new students that cover: the Graduate School and program policies; the selection of advisors and committee members; the qualifying examination process; development of research agendas; dissertation writing; student professional development; career opportunities; and other topics.

__ Yes  __ No     We have established doctoral courses preparatory for dissertation work.

__ Yes  __ No     We have created preparation and training opportunities for graduate students who will be teaching in our program.

Considerations for Co-op semester-based programs only

__ Yes  __ No     We have worked with Professional Practice to devise an appropriate co-op calendar and scheduling plan.

__ Yes  __ No     We have worked with Professional Practice to understand employment market conditions which may impact co-op placement (i.e. seasonal hiring needs of target industries, availability of co-op students from competing universities, etc).

__ Yes  __ No     We have considered which experiential opportunities to include as a co-op option.

__ Yes  __ No     We have devised a plan for students who cannot stay within a given cohort because of course failure, illness, ROTC requirements, athletic requirements, and the like.

__ Yes  __ No     We have worked with Arts & Sciences to coordinate the scheduling of any required courses taught by A&S for this program.


General guidelines for “foundational” courses

Overall definition: A foundation course should be viewed as either a GenEd BoK; an introduction to a field, discipline, or profession; an introduction to college; or a course with a Transfer Assurance Guideline (TAG) or one that is part of the Ohio Transfer Module (OTM).

  • Entry-level courses and course sequences should be assigned the "lowest" course numbers, with the “higher” numbers going to more rigorous courses and course sequences.
  • BoK designated courses should be introductory and should also be appropriate as a "complete" introduction to a field, one that could be the only course that students take in a particular discipline. These courses should be of general value and interest and might be ones that programs recommend to their students on a routine basis. Generally they have few or no pre-requisites. The BoK designation is usually reserved for freshman (1000) and sophomore (2000) level courses. In a very few instances, programs may provide a BoK designation to 3000 level courses, although the above characteristics should apply.
  • Introductory courses that currently exist at the 300 level but are intended ideally for students in their second year, should probably be given a 2000-level number for semester purposes.

This information (including some links to relevant resources such as the TAG web site) is from the Course Construction Template C-1.

Program Redesign within Semester Conversion

These guidelines are designed to aid academic programs in considering possibilities for transformative change – at the program level – within the conversion to semesters.

Student learning outcomes (SLO’s) for an academic program: the knowledge, skills, or behaviors that a program’s students should be able to demonstrate upon program completion. Program outcomes represent broad statements that incorporate many areas of inter-related knowledge and skills developed over the duration of the program through a wide range of courses and experiences. They represent the big picture, describe broad aspects of behavior, encompass multiple learning experiences, and are representative of an end stage of performance.

SLO’s for a course, on the other hand, refer to the knowledge, skills, or behaviors that a student should be able to demonstrate upon completion of a specific course.

In the case of SLO’s for both programs and courses, here are two basic questions:

  1. What do you want students to learn and be able to do by the end of the program/course?
  2. What can you put in place that allows you to determine if students are doing that or not? 

When writing these SLO’s, define them from a student’s perspective and not from an instructor. Also, outcomes should be measurable and described in behavioral and observable terms.

Within the overarching sense that “curriculum redesign drives course redesign,” the CET&L’s “Semester Conversion Discussion Series” has developed some guidelines that may be helpful in clarifying these distinctions. The discussion for March 18, 2009, for instance, led to these questions that we might ask of individual courses:

  1. What level of mastery should we require of students for successful advancement beyond this course?
  2. What would a successful student be able to do differently as a result of completing this course?
  3. What would a successful student know and be able to do two years from now as a result of completing this course?

To get a sense of appropriate student learning outcomes for a whole academic program, we might use Prof. Michael Zender’s concept from DAAP of the student “portrait.” In a CET&L discussion on May 7, 2009, Zender described the questions that his program asked in developing learning outcomes for that program:

  1. What would a successful graduate of that program look like today?
  2. What would a successful graduate of that program look like in the future?
  3. What skills would that graduate need in order to excel in the 21st century?
  4. What kinds of people would that graduate collaborate or work with?

Answers to such questions, perhaps further developed in conversations with alumni, might help a program to develop a “portrait” of a graduate with the traits deemed necessary or desirable to help that graduate to be successful. Within this same discussion, Marianne Lewis (CoB) emphasized the importance of students gaining experience collaborating across college and disciplinary lines so as to mimic the environment that students will encounter in their careers. Steve Kroeger (CECH) further noted the value of identifying the mandates that might be imposed by external accreditation agencies as a way to define student learning outcomes for a program. And Joyce Malek (A&S) described the benefits of a cross-college disciplinary group such as UC’s Composition Committee as a way to assess student learning in one program relative to expectations in another.  

The Fundamental Identity of a Course

It is expected that a “course” will be consistent in its targeted learning outcomes across all class sections offered for that course each term, for as long as the course is offered. Notwithstanding instructor variances in delivery methods, content selection minutiae, and evaluations schemes, the fundamental identity of the “course” should be consistent across all of its class sections. If it is your vision that a class section of this course will differ significantly in terms of learning outcomes or pedagogical imperatives, such that this “class“ is invested with a unique identity, then it is not appropriate for this “class” to carry the same course number, title and course description as the primary “course.” You must create a unique course, complete with a unique course number, title and description. 

Department Template for Assessing Your Students’ Learning, prepared by Peggy Maki for AAC&U (PDF)

Has your department:

  • Collaboratively articulated department-level learning outcome statements?
  • Mapped where and how students progressively learn these outcomes and identified points along the curriculum, as well as at the culmination of the program of study, when students build upon and demonstrate these collaboratively agreed upon outcomes?
  • Discussed the design of the curriculum as reflected in a departmental curricular map, focusing on (1) pedagogies or educational practices that chronologically foster desired learning outcomes and on (2) how faculty intentionally build upon each others’ courses and educational experiences to continue to foster students’ learning?
  • Oriented and chronologically acculturated students to these outcomes?
  • Oriented new and adjunct faculty to these outcomes?
  • Integrated these outcomes into syllabi so that students continue to think about and reflect on their learning?
  • Created times along students’ program of study to position them to assess their learning gains across their program of study, such as in focus groups or at the end of courses, and used these results for departmental discussions?
  • Collaboratively developed and distributed criteria and standards of judgment, scoring rubrics, to assess students’ progress towards and achievement of your department-level outcomes and to position students to self- or peer assess?
  • Identified times to convene department members to analyze, interpret and use results of assessment to identify patterns of strength and weakness in student work that lead to discussion about and reflection on ways to improve student achievement through changes in pedagogy, curricular and instructional design, or other educational practices?
  • Identified times to implement collaboratively agreed upon changes to ascertain how well these changes improve student learning?

Other guidelines available from an AAC&U Institute, “Our Student’s Best Work” PDF

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