Integrating Standards for Quality Course Design

Year: 2017

Author: Auhl, Greg, Thomson, Elizabeth, Whitford, Troy, Wood, Denise

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Integrating Standards for Quality Course Design
Rapid changes in higher education, beginning in the 1980's as a result of the rise of neo-liberalism and discourses of new public management (Olssen & Peters, 2005) have continued to emerge in contemporary higher education contexts. Such changes emphasise the measurement of outputs, strategic planning and other performance indicators (Olssen & Peters, 2005). Part of this evolution has been a move toward requiring courses to meet sets of 'standards' derived from both disciplinary sources as well as wider domains. While many professional fields (such as numerous medical areas) have always had accreditation standards required of graduates, more recently, it has become an expectation that graduates also emerge from tertiary courses with skills and outcomes that go beyond the requirements of their discipline, such that they have the capacity to act within society promoting the wider social good (Bowden, 2000). Descriptions of these include various terms such as graduate attributes, graduate skills or graduate learning outcomes.

Meeting the requirements of multiple sets of standards has provided one of the challenges to academics and others involved in contemporary instructional design in higher education (McKimm, 2003). Often, the approach to this requirement is driven by compliance approaches (e.g. word matching and ticks in spreadsheets), rather than visualising an opportunity to use them to inform quality course design. This paper will describe a process of integration of standards, providing a frame of reference for the development of courses within an iterative design model. While this model, known as the CSU Course Design Process, is based on a backward design approach (Wiggins, & McTighe, 1998), course teams make constant, cyclic modifications at each stage of the design process, in response to stakeholder feedback. The process is supported by a bespoke software application, CourseSpace. With the course as a unit of analysis, integrated standards inform course outcomes, assessments and subject development. This integration can be completed by a three stage process that involves matching standards, merging them, or adding additional standards. The presentation will showcase examples of each of these and will promote the position that such an approach enhances the coherence of courses and the quality of their design.