Case study

University of Houston Course Curriculum Redesign

By Karen Y. Snyder (KYS Realm), MFA

THE PROBLEM

As an Adjunct Digital Media Professor at the University of Houston, the DIGM 1350 course that I teach was originally developed by other instructors. While the course has brought about successful results, I kept hearing comments from students and other frustrated instructors regarding poor course organization and lack of detailed instruction.

OBJECTIVES

Redesign assignments

reformat project work

reconfigure the course schedule & blackboard

ASSIGNMENT REDESIGN

BEFORE

The former assignment instructions lacked:

  1. explicit and orderly instructions coupled with visuals
  2. a clear emphasis on grade points allotted to each part of the assignment
  3. a clear direction on where to post the work

AFTEr

The new assignment instructions:

  1. start with an objective along with an asset list
  2. detailed step-by-step directions coupled with illustrative examples
  3. a clear direction on where to post the work

BEFORE

AFTEr

added in graphic design skills

For many assignments, I also redesigned the work to better utilize design skills rather than focusing only on technical skills.

BEFORE

Formerly, assignment eight had students select parts from other images to randomly stick into a final composite.

AFTEr

The reworked assignment utilizes design skills mixed with composite skills to create a holistic story-based image.

CLASS PROJECT PROBLEMS

Project instructions and templates were another factor what was radically redesigned. The original instructions did not include a range of examples, and they lacked detailed instructions, along with any point of reference to real-world research skills. Students consistently missed critical technical, or design factors in their project work.

PROJECT SOLUTION

The redesigned project instructions offer numerous examples of quality student work; a project timeline for better time management; design objectives, technical objectives; project resources; and ways that a student could earn extra credit. Separately, the student was also required to develop a research document that noted their project’s target market; their competition, facts on why their chosen design is better than the competition, and a summary of analytical thinking that showcased how they leveraged their technical software skills.

New schedule & Blackboard layout

Beyond the assignments, I redesigned the course schedule to be highly visual with lecture topics clearly separated from lab topics; and color based notations for project due dates. Finally, the Blackboard experience was changed to best present the most pertinent information to the students quickly and effectively on their home page; and to better navigate through materials within the course.

THE RESULTS

Student clarification emails for projects are down 89%
-
In-Class help requests are down an estimated 60%

The caliber of student has risen. With the redesign, 66% are failing to make a passing grade of "C", and now only the best students remain.

“I really like the new design for this semester's course schedule, and I definitely believe the new look makes it easier to read and memorize.”

Austin Stakes, UH Digital Media Student

“The revised instructions were soooo helpful. I even printed out the pages and checked off all the tasks so that I did not lose any points.”

katherine Davies, Wharton community college STUDENT

“The new instruction formating along with examples really helped me know exactly what the instructor wanted which eased my stress in preparing projects.”

Patrick Sepe, UH DIGITAL MEDIA STUDENT

“The new project instructions are much more descriptive in terms of what is needed, and I like having some examples of student work as well as research examples.”

AUSTIN STAKES, UH DIGITAL MEDIA STUDENT
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