Curriculum Change in a Time of Transformation

This piece was previously published in the GMCTE publication Bridges.

As the University of Saskatchewan wrestles with program prioritization and all academic programs are thoroughly scrutinized, analysed, and criticized, there is a temptation to hunker down, do nothing, and wait for better times.  Academic units have just completed a major self-assessment of their core programs and naturally have put forward a strong case for continued support (and perhaps worked hard to justify the status quo).  It is risky to openly contemplate curricular change in an environment where admitting the need for change may risk resource loss or even program elimination.

Yet if the self-examination of academic programs has revealed some warts, redundancies, gaps, or misalignment, a tremendous opportunity is within reach.  In 2012 a major investment was made by the University of Saskatchewan in curricular innovation and experiential learning.  The University Learning Centre and Gwenna Moss Centre became the trustee of substantial central funds to support curricular renewal.  A $1.5 million fund for curriculum innovation and a slightly smaller fund for experiential learning projects was established – with the firm commitment to move every dollar into the academic units to support improvements to academic programs, enhancement of the student experience, and alignment with university areas of priority.  These funds span IP3, i.e. the years 2012-2016.

Many academic programs have received financial support through these funds; many more have utilized the curriculum design and instructional design help freely available from the Gwenna Moss Centre.  Many units have now established their desired program specific graduate attributes / program-level learning outcomes.  Some have not.  Many units have explored using the “Curriculum Alignment Tool” available through the Gwenna Moss Centre, to examine how individual courses contribute to their overall programs.  Some units have begun to explore, through surveys of their faculty, students, recent graduates, alumni, employers, and community stakeholders, what changes to their programs might be plausible and attractive.  If you haven’t, there’s no time better than now!

I want to add that consultations with our curriculum design specialists and instructional designers can be candid and confidential.  Units may feel vulnerable when taking an honest look at their programs during times of program prioritization, but an honest assessment with a neutral third-party can open exciting new possibilities.  The Gwenna Moss Centre is available to coach, facilitate, and even help to finance innovation ideas that will make academic programs and learning experiences richer for your students.

Find out more on our Curriculum Innovation Fund  or our Experiential Learning Fund web pages.

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