Digital Learning Initiative: Partnering with Faculty to Redesign 100 Courses in 3 Years

Concurrent Session 1

Brief Abstract

In an effort to impact student learning by increasing successful course completion, particularly in GEP & STEM courses, UCF’s Board of Trustees made a strategic investment in a course redesign process that leverages the benefits of online, blended, adaptive, and active learning. Join a discussion on implementing innovations at scale.

Sponsored By


Thomas Cavanagh, Ph.D. is Vice Provost for Digital Learning at the University of Central Florida. In this role he oversees all classroom technology and the distance learning strategy, policies, and practices of one of the nation’s largest universities, serving 68,000 students, where online learning represents more than 47% of the university's annual credit hours. In his career, Tom has administered e-learning development for both academic (public and private) and industrial (Fortune 500, government/military) audiences. He has been recognized with a number of awards including the WCET Richard Jonsen Award, the USDLA Outstanding Leadership Award, and been named an Online Learning Consortium Fellow. He is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and serves on a number of national advisory boards. He is also an award-winning author of several mystery novels.

Additional Authors

Dr. Wendy Howard is the Program Director of the Pegasus Innovation Lab at the University of Central Florida, which is an incubator of experimental projects focused on digital learning innovations that can be developed and refined through rapid prototyping and then promoted throughout the university to maximize collective impact on student success at scale. With over twenty years of experience in both instructional design and teaching, her current research is focused on faculty development, collaborative online learning and internationalizing the curriculum through technology.

Extended Abstract

Purpose and Objectives

The Pegasus Innovation lab at the University of Central Florida is spearheading a three-year initiative to partner with faculty to redesign 100 courses. The goal of this session is to share our initiative with others and exchange ideas on how to effectively implement innovative change at scale. In addition to discussing the planning and implementation of our Digital Learning Course Redesign Initiative, we’ll also share several examples of specific faculty led course redesign projects, so this session would be appropriate for institutional leadership, administrators, instructional designers, and faculty.

The general outline for the educational session is:

  • Introduction and Background
  • Initiative Goals
  • Process and Timeline
  • Faculty Incentives
  • Examples of Course Redesign Projects
  • Discussion


Introduction and Background

At the University of Central Florida (UCF) and elsewhere, data have shown that when well-designed and delivered, online (W), blended (M), adaptive, and active learning outperform face-to-face instruction. In a longitudinal study over 20 years at UCF, the blended course modality consistently outperforms both traditional classroom and fully online courses on three scales: student success (final grade of A, B, or C), withdraw rate, and student satisfaction (SPI overall Excellent). Combining the design and development experiences of the Divisions of Digital Learning and Teaching and Learning to facilitate the application of evidence-based instructional practices and support strategies has the potential to bring about more successful learning experiences for students in our most challenging courses.

Based on our historical success with online, blended, and adaptive courses, the University of Central Florida’s Board of Trustees made a strategic investment in the Digital Learning Course Redesign Initiative. With the release of a significant amount of university reserve funding, the Pegasus Innovation Lab (iLab) under the leadership of Vice Provost of Digital Learning Dr. Tom Cavanagh, is managing this initiative in partnership with multiple units across campus to provide resources and support faculty in the redesign of their courses to digital formats.


Initiative Goals

Aligned with Collective Impact objectives, this project is designed to increase learning gains by:

  • Increasing successful completion rates in benchmark courses
  • Improving student success, retention, and satisfaction
  • Targeting key courses such as success marker, foundation, and STEM
  • Increasing classroom utilization

The goal of this initiative is to impact student learning by increasing successful course completion (reduced DFW rates), particularly in GEP & STEM courses, and to improve FTIC & Transfer student persistence through a strategic course redesign process that leverages the benefits of online, blended, adaptive, and active learning.


Process and Timeline

Program Director of UCF’s iLab, Dr. Wendy Howard, will outline the timeline and process for this three-year initiative. This includes project planning, faculty recruitment, strategic planning with academic departments, faculty development, instructional design support, summative course reviews, and evaluation. In addition, eight traditional classrooms are being reconfigured as active learning classrooms with new furniture and technology as part of this initiative.


Faculty Incentives

A large portion of the funds from the Board of Trustees is allocated to faculty incentives. Initially we planned to offer faculty course releases to free up time for them to work on their course redesign. Rather quickly it became apparent that alternative incentives were needed for those who were unable to take advantage of the release time due to department scheduling demands. We’ll share the alternative incentives that were offered and open it up for group discussion of faculty incentives that have worked for other participants in the session.


Examples of Individual Course Redesign Projects

We’ll also highlight a collection of specific course redesign projects such as:

  • Implementing Realizeit in an Organic Chemistry course to provide students with personalized adaptive instruction to prepare for in-class activities and to help students who have prior knowledge gaps from previous classes
  • Converting an International Politics Course to a blended, mixed-mode format utilizing digital media sources compiled on a Fulbright trip to Russia
  • Develop active learning activities in classroom to accompany open educational resources online for a Foundations of Discrete Math course redesigned as mixed mode to better accommodate the working schedules of students typically enrolled in the course



Finally, we’ll wrap up the session with a group discussion focused on participants' experiences with similar initiatives in an effort to explore and share best practices for implementing innovation on a large scale in higher education.