Spotlight on: course-led approach

by | 16 May, 2019 | 0 comments

How the course-led approach works in practice, and why we think it's the best way forward.

The LX Transformation Program is a multi-year program focused on enhancing the student experience of education at UTS. The impetus for this program of work was the decision to move to a single learning management system (LMS), Canvas, and the approach we will take in the move is a course-led one. This post provides a snapshot of some key ideas in education research and practices related to the approach we’ll take in LXT.

So what does ‘course-led approach’ mean?

In short, course-led approach simply means we will consider each part of a whole course when we examine the students’ current experience and how it can be enhanced. This will involve teams of people contributing to that course working together, rather than subject coordinators considering their subject in isolation.

Courses are initially planned in an integrated and comprehensive manner. This is documented and approved through a course approval process. However, the implementation of the approved plans, and ongoing maintenance of the components of the course – the subjects – is typically undertaken by a number of staff teaching those subjects.

The overall aims of the course are consequently interpreted many times by the staff developing curriculum and teaching the various subjects that comprise the course. Thus, it’s important the course is reviewed from time to time to ensure any changes made at the subject level continue to contribute to an overall integrated, coherent learning experience that meets the course aims and provides opportunities for students to develop the related graduate attributes. This is addressed in the course re-accreditation process. However, re-accreditation (internally and by external professional bodies) and course review generally can be done in many ways and doesn’t always involve the whole team of staff who contribute to the course. LXT will provide an opportunity for course teams to come together and collaboratively review the course.

Why course-led?

UTS has chosen to adopt a course-led approach because it provides the best outcomes for students.

Research provides evidence that a course-led approach can:

  • ensure students and their education success is the core driver of the curriculum;
  • allow for practices that provide for multiple pathways and options through a course led to equivalent experience and outcomes and generally a more seamless, integrated and coherent experience throughout the course;
  • provide a mechanism for integrating progressive development of skills and capabilities across a number of subjects and/or throughout the course;
  • extend existing good practice by creating opportunities for peer observation and systematic application across a course;
  • make gaps, inconsistencies and uneven student workload visible;
  • ensure feedback and data collected is addressed systematically;
  • highlight the institutional support required for course delivery and evaluation, including administrative support for students; and
  • ensure curriculum meets regulatory standards.

A course-led approach also supports a more collaborative way of working, which not only provides opportunity for greater peer learning amongst course teams but also increases opportunity for collective learning and creating in the teaching and potential for scholarly investigation.

Why now?

A move to a new LMS provides a fantastic opportunity to not only consider how we can improve how we use a digital space, the balance of face-to-face and online activities comprising the blended make up the subject, and the level of consistency, connection, and integration between subjects in a course.

These are aspects of curriculum we are considering all the time in different ways at different points in time, for example, learning.futures turned a spotlight on blended learning and including opportunities for developing professional skills and integrating work experience in subjects, as well as re-accreditation processes (internal and external) for ensuring the original aim and structure of the course are maintained, or defining a clear rationale for change. Changing the LMS provides an opportunity to consolidate all these processes and initiatives and move forward in a way that meets the goals of the UTS 2027 strategy for the workforce; enabling a shift to new modes of operating, including increased collaboration in teaching and learning related activities.

How does this fit with other work?

The course-led approach adopted to guide the transition to Canvas will be tailored for each course. This will allow for the integration of other learning and teaching related initiatives relevant to the course. And given the approach is intended to be established as on ongoing way of working in relation to courses and learning and teaching activities generally, the support provided to engage the course team and the structure and support for moving thorough the process provided by the LXT team will provide a solid foundation for planning the ongoing work around learning and teaching initiatives and student experience.

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