DIY renovations project: Course redesign

Happy couple looking at each other while renovating a house

A few of you reading this might simply be doing so because you are curious as to why an article about “This Old House” is posted on an education blog. It is a little bit about an old house, but more importantly, a good analogy for us. As we’ve worked on restoring an 1840s farmhouse we bought, we’ve learned a few things along the way. Let’s take a look at a few springboard ideas from Forbes’ Top Ten Things to Know Before You Remodel… and how that can impact someone in the midst of a course redesign.


  1. Ask an expert

I am amazed at what my husband has been able to do; however, he freely acknowledges that a lot of it included research on best practices, some YouTube videos, browsing of websites to get ideas, and of course our new friends the experts at the lumber supply stores, Home Depot, and contractors. Even if you are planning a complete do-it-yourself course design, you have access to Getting Started Toolkits, training guides, videos, case studies, sample courses, and specialists to help you. You know summer is a great time to work on those DIY projects!

  1. Consider energy efficiency

Energy efficiency plays a role in our courses, too. Small changes such as adding adaptive features, creating a learning path for students, hiding unused materials to reduce confusion, and more can make a big difference. You can be “energy efficient” in your work and create a course that is also designed to be energy efficient for students.

  1. Windows…to your course

We have an old home, and we did notice quite a few chilly drafts coming in from old windows. One of the first things we did was replace broken or single pane ones, and then we made sure to clean up the cracks in window sills. You may have a great course with just some cosmetics that need to be cleaned up so it’s more aligned with Quality Matters for assessment purposes.

  1. Basements & Foundations

“If you’re already insulating the house, you should definitely include the basement and foundation in your renovation plans.” In our courses, sometimes you have to start from the very beginning and develop a new foundation. Consider your assessments and alignment with your syllabus. Set your gradebook settings.

  1. Repurpose old materials

I love the fact that my husband has kept much of the old lumber and our house still retains its history while coming into the twenty-first century. Similarly, you can use materials from your old course and not have to start from scratch.

  1. The “interior details”

Sometimes you have great course materials and all you want is a MyLab & Mastering “facelift.” It can be as simple as rearranging a course menu, or it can become more involved with the design of customized learning paths, modification of HTML coding, and more. Ask your technology specialist to show you some samples.

  1. Materials DO matter

If you are spending the “money” (ie., time) for this project, you want to make sure you are using the best materials. Yes, there are some “free” or “really cheap” materials out there, but you probably want to use well-tested, durable materials. It’s always good to know that others have used these and gotten results you would like. If we can’t find consumer reviews that are reputable and verifiable, we might rethink our plans. And, I want the best for my house AND my students. So yes, it might take longer or the materials might cost more, but in the end my time and investment results in greater satisfaction.

  1. Getting assistance

Determine what skill set and experience you have, and then reach out for assistance as needed. Don’t enlist colleagues to help you that aren’t interested in your project or don’t have the experience in HTML but promise to “do this for you over the weekend.” Get them on board with the concept, but again, reach out to your “contractor” if you need to.

  1. Budget  

Keep in mind your “budget” might not be what you estimated. As those of you who have worked on a house know, you may find some surprises–both good and bad. In your course design, be sure to allot the time needed to complete the project. And then allot extra time just to be safe; you can’t assume it will “only take the weekend.”

And never assume that renovation is impossible. We’re moving this summer. 🙂


About the Author
Diane Hollister

Diane Hollister

Diane Hollister has been teaching college courses since 1992. In June 2015, she resigned from her full-time position at Reading Area Community College in Reading, Pennsylvania, where all the math courses have undergone some level of redesign. She still teaches online there and now is part of Pearson’s Efficacy team, helping instructors to implement programs and strategies that bolster student success.

She is intrigued by neurobiological research and learning theory, and she was quick to adopt adaptive learning as a new tool in her courses. Not only does she strive to help her students succeed, but Diane enjoys the collaboration with her peers. She has taught a variety of courses and loves learning how new technology and resources can help students be more successful.

Read more of her articles about math, ICTCM, and quantitative reasoning.