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November-December 2009

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Next Generation: Course Redesign

We didn't start out planning to transform teaching at the university. Instead, in 2004 we began a modest, one-year project to redesign a few general education courses, and we did so largely because of a collective guilty conscience.


“I learn better having someone explain something to me rather than figuring it out on my own.”
- One of the 25 percent of students who prefer the traditional approach

“I liked being able to get involved as opposed to reading out of a textbook.”
- One of the 75 percent of students who prefer the NGen approach

“I don't want to take the ‘me’ out of teaching.”
- Reaction of an instructor at the prospect of not spending all of the class time lecturing to a 200-student class

“The biggest thing that I have learned is that students will be as responsible for their learning as you let them.” - NGen senior faculty fellow

The university had invested considerable resources in creating a technological and human-resources infrastructure to support online instruction, and it had succeeded beyond its wildest expectations. It had tapped new student populations throughout Texas and in all fifty states, and online programs had begun to account for the majority of the institution's enrollment growth. By 2004, the University of North Texas had emerged as the largest provider of online learning of any public university in Texas and one of the largest in the country. We could proudly point out that we were leaders in the technological revolution in higher education.


Phil Turner is a professor in the College of Information and a learning-enhancement specialist at the Center for Learning Enhancement, Assessment, and Redesign at the University of North Texas. In his previous role there as an academic dean and vice provost for learning enhancement, he led the development of the university’s Next Generation Course Redesign Project. He was the second academic to receive the Annual Award for Achievement in Managing Information Technology from Carnegie Mellon University and the American Management Systems. 

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