How to improve course design engagement by involving your students

March 20, 2024 By Barnana Sarkar

Involving your students in course design is a significant way to increase their engagement and create courses that are tailored to their needs. In her study ‘Students as co-creators of teaching approaches, course design and curricula: Implications for academic Developers’ Alison Cook-Sather (who is a scholar and educator known for her work in the fields of educational research, particularly in student voice, teacher education, and student-faculty partnership in educational development) emphasized the importance of equity in education through student-faculty collaboration. The study showed that involving students in course design and inclusive efforts boosts student engagement and enthusiasm, benefitting both faculty and learners.

Although the study was published in 2011, it remains relevant for institutions of higher education, especially with the rapid adoption of online learning. Nowadays, students are often encouraged to give feedback and suggestions on their courses, which has increased the study’s relevance over time.

In this article, we will look at how educators can involve their students in contributing to course design. We will also explore how you can create learning environments that meet academic objectives and resonate with your students’ interests and learning preferences.

Why involve students in course design?

The idea of active learning means more than just moving from being passive to being proactive; it represents a change from simply completing assigned tasks to developing a deeper understanding of the learning process. When students go beyond just performing tasks, such as completing assignments or taking class quizzes, to analyzing how their learning experiences can be improved, their perspectives undergo a significant transformation. 

They become more aware of their own learning abilities and how to enhance them. Inviting students to participate in course design encourages them to bring their unique perspectives on teaching and learning preferences, which can be valuable insights for educators to consider and respond to. Moreover, it helps students take ownership of their education process. 

The idea of involving students in designing courses is not a new one. It dates back to 1916 when the education reformer John Dewey explained that education is a two-way process. While students are encouraged to participate in class, it’s important to involve them in decision-making processes that can give them a real-world perspective on how courses affect their learning experience.

Motivated by their desire to shape their educational experiences, students have expressed a keen interest in contributing to courses that are significant to their discipline or personal interests. Collaborating with students on course design leads to a mutual exploration of the basic tenets of teaching and learning. 

Ways to involve students in course design

Involving students in course design can be a multi-step process. You need to decide at which point it is best to include them, whether it’s before, during, or after the term. You also need to determine who would be included – selected students or the entire class – and what they should focus on, such as redesigning the curriculum or co-creating courses. Once you have made a decision, you can opt for a method that is suitable for you. Here are some of the key methods of involving students in course design.

The partnership classroom 

This involves actively involving all students in your subject to cultivate a sense of ownership and agency in their learning journey. With this approach, you can empower students to contribute their ideas, perspectives, and feedback, ultimately enhancing the overall learning experience.

Pedagogical consultation 

In this method, educators engage with select students as the subject unfolds to improve teaching and learning practices in real-time. This ongoing dialogue allows educators to adapt their teaching methods, assignments, and assessments based on student feedback, ensuring that the learning experience remains relevant and effective.

Curriculum co-design 

Engaging with students before, during, or after a subject to redesign the curriculum or co-design a whole new subject is another effective way to involve students in course design. You can also involve students in the decision-making process regarding course content, structure, and goals.

Knowledge co-creation 

Students can participate in research and inquiry that contribute to new disciplinary knowledge, including pedagogical knowledge. This hands-on approach allows students to apply theoretical concepts to real-world problems, deepening their understanding of the subject matter and enhancing their research and analytical skills.

Co-creating course design with Moodle

Based on the theory of social constructionism, Moodle recognizes that everyone can both teach and learn. With features like discussion forums and collaborative activities, Moodle creates an environment where students are encouraged to share their ideas, give their perspectives, and develop a sense of ownership of their own learning journey. Moodle emphasizes the importance of flexibility and adaptability in a learning environment. With students bringing diverse expectations and needs to the table, Moodle provides educators with a platform that can be tailored to accommodate various learning preferences. Whether it’s through customizable course formats, adaptive learning pathways, or personalized feedback mechanisms, the platform enables educators to create the space for students to actively participate in the co-creation of knowledge and the design of their learning experiences.

You can also check out our Moodle Teaching Skills program, where you’ll learn how best to include and engage your students. 

Ready to increase student involvement in your teaching?

Get in touch with our team to create engaging eLearning experiences with our customizable learning management system, Moodle LMS.