In the rapidly evolving landscape of higher education, three topics are commanding growing attention: artificial intelligence, microcredentials and z-courses.
AI “leverages computers and machines to mimic the problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of the human mind.”1 A microcredential is a short, competency-based recognition that demonstrates mastery in a particular area or skill/set of skills. Each of these is disrupting markets and higher education in unique ways, and each promises to change how educators develop and deliver learning experiences.
A z-course is a college course that has no, or zero, cost for materials such as textbooks, course packs, subscriptions or homework systems. Open educational resources, which are teaching and learning resources that reside in the public domain and are often released under open license, can be integrated into a z-course, but a z-course can contain materials created by the instructor and that are accessible only to the instructor’s students.
Course of Innovation: Integrating AI and microcredentials in z-courses
Integrating AI and microcredentials into courses will better prepare students to be global citizens and effective participants in the workforce. In addition, designing a z-course will help lower student debt. Accordingly, the Course of Innovation aligns closely with SFA’s mission of fostering a learner-centered environment that readies students to thrive in the global community and with our Quality Enhancement Plan of lowering student debt.
Call for Proposals
As such, SFA’s Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President for Student Affairs welcomes proposals from faculty members of all ranks for a three-hour course reassignment for spring 2024. The instructors of the selected proposal will receive $2,500 in professional development funds to be paid in summer I 2024 for the creation of signature learning experiences (in a single course) that involve AI, integration of industry-recognized microcredentials, and/or a z-course.
All reassigned time and professional development funds must be used for the creation the proposed Course of Innovation with an eye toward broadening the faculty’s base of understanding of AI, microcredentials, or z-courses. For the purposes of this proposal, a z-course can include a cost to students for materials of up to $100.
1 IBM, “What is artificial intelligence (AI)?”. https://www.ibm.com/topics/artificial-intelligence. Accessed 5 August 2023.
A demo of the proposed Course of Innovation must be presented at the end of the spring 2024 semester, and a final presentation must occur at the end of summer I 2024. Delivery of the course must occur in fall 2024.
Proposals that are designed for core courses or high-enrollment courses and that integrate at least two of the three elements of innovation described above (AI/MCs/zero- or low-cost materials) will be given preference. A maximum of two faculty members is allowed per proposal.
Guidelines for Submission
Proposals must include:
- completed submission form
- signature of support from academic unit head
- timeline of development
- week-by-week curricular outline, including details of how AI/MCs/zero- or low-cost materials will be integrated into the course
- sample assessment ideas
- methods for ensuring students can articulate the skills (for example, in a résumé, on a cover letter, in a job interview) learned from the Course of Innovation
- and a feedback collection plan.
All proposals must be submitted to LLC@sfasu.edu by Friday, Oct. 13, at 11:59 p.m. Proposals must be complete to be considered.
Proposal Review Criteria
The proposal selection committee includes SFA faculty and staff with a diverse range of backgrounds and expertise. Successful proposals must incorporate the necessary scaffolding to build student understanding, innovative updates to current course curriculum, creative assignments, and faculty and student feedback methods to ensure successful use beyond one’s own course. We are not limiting the number of proposals we will accept, but we expect submissions to be competitive and we will choose only outstanding proposals.
Proposal selection criteria include:
- extent to which the proposal offers creative, novel, and transformative means of integrating AI, microcredentials, and/or zero-/low-cost materials to improve student learning outcomes. (Again, preference will be given to proposals that incorporate more than one of these, particularly in a core or high-enrollment course.)
- extent to which proposals reflect diverse perspectives, innovations and strategies for change
- explicit plans for gathering feedback from an interdisciplinary collection of SFA faculty members on developed materials, assessments, etc.
- explicit plans for involving SFA students in reflection, discussion, exercises, and other activities that will help them understand AI and microcredentials — both their peril and promise
- potential for the learning experience to foster and sustain collaborations across departments and colleges and to advance campus conversations about AI, microcredentials, and zero-/low-cost materials
- and, if a microcredential is integrated into the course, the degree to which the microcredential is industry-recognized and the level of quality assurance of the skills taught.