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A Collaboratively Designed Course: Student Perceptions, Challenges, and a Critical Reflection

By Meghan Owenz

The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed teaching and learning all over the world, at least temporarily. As someone who does research with students with disabilities, it was my belief that some of those changes helped some students and should be retained. Therefore, when my institution returned to residential “instruction-as-usual” in 2021, I wanted to utilize our disrupted, disjointed, and altered pandemic-era education as an impetus to invite students to collaborate directly with me on course design. My goal was to center the student experience and invite them to create the course policies, assignments, and grading procedures, because I believed this was one possible method to co-design the course with the learners in my classroom, especially those who had been previously harmed and marginalized by higher education structures. 

In two classes, my students and I spent about one week (in a 15-week semester) collaboratively designing our courses. We utilized a variety of active learning strategies including small, shifting work groups, anonymous responding through polling software, and whole class discussions. The activity took tremendous time but created active-learning norms in the classroom and a sense of a learning team. The students made creative decisions to address commonly controversial issues in higher education, including attendance, late work, extra credit, and exams. Student feedback suggest they felt it was time well-spent and that the activity led to a sense of community and belonging. As an instructor, I felt the activity truly centered students as experts in their own learning process and resulted in the most inclusive class structure, policy, and assignments I have ever participated in I thank my students for their willingness to embark on this adventure with me and the collaborative and energetic spirit they brought to it. 

Read the TLI article here.

Photo by Kari Bjorn Photography

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