Course redesign program

The VCU Course Redesign Program, sponsored by the Office of the Provost, is a campus-wide initiative focused on the redesign of large-enrollment, multi-section undergraduate courses using technology-supported active-learning strategies. The goals of the program are to achieve improvements in student-learning outcomes and reductions in instructional costs.

During the period [2020–2023], the program expects to support several course redesign projects. Course redesign teams can request up to $35,000 to design and implement a course redesign.

The objectives of the program are to:

  • Adopt new ways to improve student-learning outcomes
  • Demonstrate the improvements by way of rigorous assessment
  • Reduce institutional costs
  • Increase consistency across multiple-section courses
  • Free up instructional resources to be used for other purposes
  • Develop the internal capacity of VCU’s faculty and staff to continue the redesign process on an ongoing basis


  • December 13, 2019: Call to Participate issued
  • January 17, 2020: Faculty submit email notification of intent to participate
  • February 28, 2020: Course proposals due
  • April 17, 2020: Grants awarded
  • Summer/Fall 2020: Project planning and development
  • Spring 2021: Course redesign pilots
  • Fall 2021: Course redesign full implementations
  • March 2023: Final project reports due


Select a header below to learn more about the initiative's background and to download VCU’s course redesign call for participation document.

VCU, like academic institutions throughout the United States, continues to be challenged by the need to increase access, to improve the quality of student learning, and to control or reduce rising costs. These issues are, of course, inter-related. As tuition costs continue to rise, access may be curtailed for those least able to afford an education. Promises to increase access ring hollow when high percentages of students fail to graduate. The solutions to these challenges appear to be inter-related as well. Historically, improving quality or increasing access has meant increasing costs, while reducing costs has generally meant reducing both quality and/or access. To sustain its vitality while serving a growing and increasingly diverse student body, higher education must find a way to resolve these familiar trade-offs among quality, cost and access. Many colleges and universities, including VCU, have adopted exciting new ways of infusing technology to enhance the teaching and learning process and to extend access to new populations of students. But VCU, like most, has not fully harnessed the potential of technology to improve the quality of student learning, increase retention and reduce the costs of instruction in courses that have the broadest impact.

Since April 1999, the National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT) has managed a number of programs in course redesign that demonstrate how colleges and universities can redesign their instructional approaches by using technology to achieve quality enhancements as well as cost savings.

NCAT has now worked with more than 200 institutions to redesign large-enrollment courses at all levels of the undergraduate curriculum. Learning outcomes have improved in 72 percent of redesigns, with the remaining 28 percent producing learning equivalent to traditional formats. On average, costs reduced by 37 percent in redesigned courses, with a range of 9 to 77 percent. Based on the participating institutions’ experiences, NCAT has identified six redesign models that represent different points on the continuum, from a fully face-to-face course to a fully online course. NCAT has also established (1) a number of proven approaches to assessing student learning and (2) a variety of strategies for overcoming potential implementation obstacles.

Further information about NCAT and its course redesign programs is available at

Learn more about NCAT’s seminal Program in Course Redesign and institutional outcomes »

An orientation workshop was held on September 27, 2018 from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at VCU’s Cabell Library. It featured Dr. Carolyn Jarmon, vice president of the National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT), who discussed NCAT’s successful national and state course redesign programs, on which the VCU’s initiative is based. The purpose of the workshop was to offer all interested members of the campus community the opportunity to learn about the program and why they might want to participate.

View recording of workshop (requires valid VCU eID) »

VCU will build on the successful models and lessons learned from NCAT’s national and state programs to create its own course redesign program for multi-section, large-enrollment courses. As part of that program, VCU will develop internal capacity to support the course redesign process on an ongoing basis.

Program Focus: Large-Enrollment Undergraduate Courses
In order to have maximum impact on student learning and achieve the highest possible return on the VCU investment, redesign efforts supported by this program will focus specifically on undergraduate courses with high enrollments. In addition to having an impact on large numbers of students, there are other advantages of such a focus. In many large-enrollment courses, the predominant instructional model is the large lecture. While recognizing the limitations of the lecture method, many departments continue to organize courses in this way because they believe that it represents the most cost-effective way to deal with large numbers of students. The program will demonstrate that alternatives that improve quality and are less costly than lecture-based strategies are possible.

In addition, many large-enrollment courses are introductory. Introductory courses are good prospects for technology-enhanced redesign because they have more or less standardized curricula and outcomes that can be delineated more easily. They also serve as foundation studies for future majors. Successful learning experiences in introductory courses influence students to persist in key disciplines like the sciences. Finally, because introductory courses are feeders to other disciplines, success in them will help students more easily make the transition to more-advanced study.

To learn more about course redesign, view chapters I and III of How to Redesign a College Course Using NCAT’s Methodology. This is a summary of the redesign techniques that are essential to improving student learning while reducing instructional costs.