LEARN Center

Information on Improving Learning/Academic Productivity



Banister, S., & Herman, T. (2005). The synergy of course redesign: Multimedia technologies impacting student learning and the bottom line. Computers and Advanced Technology in Education, ??

Abstract: This study documents the transformation of a graduate level course for teachers. The course, The Curriculum, had traditionally been taught in a face-to-face model, in multiple sections, at a large university. By designing the course for online delivery and developing various interactive multimedia modules, the university was able to offer the course at a considerable savings, while maintaining quality. Faculty worked in close collaboration, strategizing creative solutions to maintain the academic rigor and integrity of the course. Student papers and projects were analyzed and compared from both the face-to-face and online versions of the course, to determine academic quality and learning outcomes.

Breslow, L. (2000). Education innovation moving ahead at full speed. MIT Teaching & Learning Laboratory Library, 13(1). Retrieved March 29, 2009, from http://web.mit.edu/fnl/vol/131/breslow.htm

This author describes the “Educational Change Seminars” and the various changes taking place for educational reform at MIT. In the article, she stated “in this time of educational reform at MIT, the differences between and the needs of individual departments and disciplines are certainly being kept in mind; at the same time, ‘maximum impact’ and ‘high return on investment’ have also been defined as important goals.”

Fry, G. (2002). The interface between experiential learning and the internet: Ways for improving learning productivity. On the Horizon, 10(3), 5-11.

Abstract: This paper addresses the persisting problem of stagnant productivity in the education sector and its contribution to escalating costs. An approach to improving learning productivity is proposed which emphasizes the integration of ICT, service learning, experiential learning, and cooperative learning. Thus, the fundamental theme of this paper is to link these four learning domains as a basic strategy to improve the quality and productivity of education and at the same time to reduce costs or limit cost increases. The advances in ICT and the concomitant “death of distance” greatly strengthen the potential for teachers to become facilitators to organize creative autonomous learning in diverse settings. Concrete examples are described from diverse cultural settings such as South Africa, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Chile, Japan, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and Oregon. The paper concludes by offering a number of specific recommendations to improve learning productivity.

Ho, C., Tseng, S., & Huang, H. (2005). Academic Productivity, coordinated problem and cultural conflict in the scientific collaboration community. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association. Philadelphia, PA. Retrieved March 17, 2009, from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p22717_index.html

Abstract: Collaboration has been recognized as an effective way of enhancing academic productivity in scientific communities. Different field scholars like Cohen (1995), Walsh and Roselle (1999) and Russell (2001) suggested the use of computer-mediated communication facilitates information and knowledge exchanges, and enhances group discussion and trust in collaboration. However, some suggest scientific collaboration may create new problems in coordination. This paper addresses the productivity debates by examining relationships among the purpose of email, collaboration structures, cultural conflict and academic productivity. A survey of 229 scholars from three fields was conducted in this research. The findings suggest the use of CMC on routine affairs and on relational affairs neither decrease coordination problems in research collaboration, nor does it help solve culture problems in a research group. Those who perceived high competition in academic fields also express more serious coordination problems. More of the team members in a collaboration team come from varying academic fields would cause a team worsen culture conflicts. Younger scholars and professors show a high perception of both coordination and culture problems, although younger scholars worry about more on getting others to see their points, keeping others informed, and the time cost to complete tasks. Professors perceive more serious problems of misunderstand in their research groups.

Hu, S. & Kuh, G. (2003). Maximizing what students get out of college: Testing a learning productivity model. Journal of College Student Development, 44(2), 185-203.

Abstract: A study examined a learning productivity model for colleges and universities. Data were obtained from 44,238 full-time undergraduate students at 120 four-year colleges and universities during the period 1990-1997. Results revealed that perceptions of the campus environment had an influence on student learning productivity by affecting student effort, student gains, and learning efficiency. Specifically, results showed that similar students expending similar amounts of effort on similar activities in different institutions reported making different amounts of progress toward several desired college outcomes, due in part to some institutions being more learning efficient. Other results showed that features of institutional environments can have nontrivial effects on what and how efficiently students learn and that student participation in educationally purposeful activities has a strong positive impact on student self-reported gains. Further results and implications are presented.

Johnstone, B., & Maloney, P. (1998). Enhancing the productivity of learning: Curricular implications. New Directions for Higher Education, 103, 23-34.

Abstract: The learning productivity approach to higher education attempts to gain productivity, not so much by reducing or cheapening inputs but by enhancing higher education's major output: student learning. In the learning productivity perspective, the principal problem is in teaching and learning inefficiencies such as excessive non-learning time, redundant learning, excessive course-taking, and poor learning.

Lara, T., & Hughey, A. (2008). Implementing the team approach in higher education: Important questions and advice for administrators. Industry and Higher Education, 22(4), 245-251.

Abstract: Many companies have implemented the team approach as a way to empower their employees in an effort to enhance productivity, quality and overall profitability. While application of the concept to higher education administration has been limited, colleges and universities could benefit from the team approach if implemented appropriately and conscientiously. The authors discuss some of the issues and concerns that are relevant to implementing the team approach in an academic environment. Suggestions for implementing teams in higher education are provided, including the difference between the team approach and traditional administration, the importance of a preliminary needs assessment, the development of an implementation plan, the critical role of leadership, dealing with issues of assessment and accountability, and the concept of team efficacy.

Lumina Foundation for Education (2005). Course corrections: Experts offer solutions to the college cost crisis. Retrieved on March 26, 2009, from http://www.collegecosts.info/pdfs/solution_papers/Collegecosts_Oct2005.pdf

Massy, William F. & Zemsky, R. (1995). Using information technology to enhance academic productivity. National Learning Infrastructure Initiative. Retrieved March 10, 2009, from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/html/nli0004.html

Massy, W., & Wilger., A. (1995). Improving productivity: What faculty think about it--And its effect on quality, Change, 27 (4), 10-20.

Abstract: A discussion of college faculty productivity defines the term and looks at related issues, including ways of improving productivity; costs of academic work; "deadwood"; and productive behavior as it relates to research, grantsmanship, instructional quality, enrollment and class size, and teaching load. Incentives and persuasive arguments are seen as critical to improving productivity.

Massy, W., & Wilger, A. (1998). Technology’s contribution to higher education productivity. New Directions for Higher Education, 103, 49-59.

Abstract: Tight budgets, withering public funding sources, tuition escalating, expanding pressures to do more with less...Facing such crises, higher education must creatively seek methods to reduce costs, increase productivity, and recapture the public trust. This volume of New Directions for Higher Education presents a multi-faceted approach for enhancing productivity that emphasizes both cost-effectiveness and the importance of bringing together all segments of the educational economy--institutions, faculty, students, and society--to achieve long-term productivity gains. The contributors demonstrate how productivity can be increased in key areas throughout the institution, including improved administrative processes, restructured curricula, more efficient use of classroom time, and the effective adaptation of technology.

Parker-Burgard, D. (2009). Moving toward cost accountability. University Business, 12(3), 17-17

Abstract: The article discusses the report on postsecondary education costs, productivity, and accountability by the Delta Project that examined revenue and spending at. higher education institutions in the U.S. between 2002 and 2006. According to the report, higher education finance has not changed from cost accounting to cost accountability. The report also identified five steps that institutions should consider to have more accountable expenditures, including setting goals and reducing excess credits.

Rosser, V. (2006). On becoming a productive university: Strategies for reducing costs and increasing quality in higher education (review). The Review of Higher Education, 29(3), 417-419. Available online at: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/review_of_higher_education/v029/29.3rosser.pdf

Ruohoniemi, M., & Lindblom-Ylanne, S. (2009). Students' experiences concerning course workload and factors enhancing and impeding their learning - a useful resource for quality enhancement in teaching and curriculum planning. International Journal for Academic Development, 14(1), 69-81.

Abstract: The aim of the study is to deepen our understanding of factors which students experience as important in learning, in order to improve the quality of teaching and curriculum planning. A total of 132 veterinary students participated in the study by answering a questionnaire containing open-ended questions. Most of the comments on factors enhancing learning were associated with teaching practices. Factors related to the planning of teaching, including curriculum and course overload, were commonly mentioned as impeding learning. The students rarely commented on their own actions. The results have been widely implemented in quality enhancement procedures at the faculty, such as curriculum planning and reform, planning of individual courses, improving teaching and assessment practices and arranging support for students' reflection.

Ryser, L. (2009). Strategies and intervening factors influencing student social interaction and experiential learning in an interdisciplinary research team. Research in Higher Education, 50(3), 248-267.

Abstract: Faculty have long incorporated students into interdisciplinary research projects to meet increasingly common demands for collaborative research by federal funding agencies. Despite the critical role of experiential learning in building student research skills and capacity, few have explored social interaction mechanisms used to facilitate student experiential learning in an interdisciplinary research team. Drawing upon the New Rural Economy project as a case study, interviews with 13 students from eight Canadian universities were conducted to explore these social interaction mechanisms. While findings revealed an array of social interaction mechanisms used to develop student learning networks, the quality of these mechanisms were mixed; thereby influencing the utilization of these networks for guidance and feedback. As faculty organize social interaction mechanisms, they should consider factors such as previous experience, student and faculty relationships, finances, language, gender, ethnicity, and other issues, that will have an impact on student engagement with experiential learning.

Terpstra, D. (2009). The effects of different teaching, research, and service emphases on individual and organizational outcomes in higher education institutions. Journal of Education for Business, 84(3), 169-176.

Abstract: The authors investigated the relative emphasis that educators give to teaching, research, and service in the business discipline and 4 other academic disciplines. The authors also investigated the effects of different faculty activity emphases on faculty teaching effectiveness, research performance, service levels, job and pay satisfaction, attraction, and retention. The sample comprised approximately 500 faculty members from U. S. colleges and universities.

Twigg, C. (1999). Improving learning and reducing costs: Redesigning large enrollment courses. The Pew Learning and Technology Program. Retrieved March 29, 2009, from http://www.center.rpi.edu/Monographs/mono1.pdf

This paper is the product of a symposium on “Redesigning More Productive Learning Environments.” It’s written by Carol Twigg, the current CEO of NCAT. She focuses specifically on redesigning education on the course level (vs. institutional or inter-institutional level). Twigg outlines a comprehensive planning methodology for course redesign, and many examples of institutions that followed this guide (one of which is UW-Madison).

Twigg, C. (2005). Course redesign improves learning and reduces cost. Policy Alert – National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. Retrieved March 17, 2009, from http://www.highereducation.org/reports/pa_core/core.pdf

Vermeulen, L., & Schmidt, (2008). Learning environment, learning process, academic outcomes and career success of university graduates. Studies in Higher Education, 33(4), 431-451.

Abstract: This study expands on literature covering models on educational productivity, student integration and effectiveness of instruction. An expansion of the literature concerning the impact of higher education on workplace performance is also covered. Relationships were examined between the quality of the academic learning environment, the process of learning, learning outcomes, and career success of graduates. The responses to a questionnaire of 3324 graduates at a Dutch university, emphasizing conventional large-scale classes, were analyzed using structural equation modeling. The results suggest an indirect influence of university education on career success. A learning environment increases the motivation of students, which, in turn, increases their learning outcomes. Learning outcomes show a significant relationship with success in the initial phase of graduates' careers. Furthermore, success in subsequent phases of one's career is influenced by experience gained by students during their involvement in extra-curricular activities. Therefore, it is argued that the learning environment is important for students' learning as well as their involvement in extra-curricular activities, and that these two elements of university education are determinants of career success.

Young, J. (1983). Continuous Innovation for the Most Efficient Use of Resources: The Key to Survival. Paper presented at the National Conference of the League for Innovation in the Community College. Newport Beach, CA.

Abstract: In their book, "In Search of Excellence," Thomas Peters and Robert Waterman identify eight attributes common among the best run companies in America. These attributes have special applicability for community colleges, given their uneasy present and uncertain future. Like successful companies, community colleges should: (1) foster an orientation toward action; (2) stay close to the consumer by providing service and quality; (3) develop a simplified organizational structure that recognizes the importance of informal lines of responsibility and communication; (4) adopt a set of beliefs and values on which to base all policies and actions; (5) create an entrepreneurial atmosphere in which power and decision making are shared; (6) incorporate trust into personnel management to achieve lasting productivity gains; (7) maintain sight of their original intent and purposes; and (8) maintain tight management control, while at the same time allowing for autonomy, entrepreneurship, and innovation. Continuous innovation in the most efficient use of their resources is the key to survival and excellence for community colleges, and the most valuable resources of these institutions are its people.


Barba, W. (1995). Higher education in crisis. London, UK: Taylor & Francis.

Egol, M. (2003). The education revolution: Spectacular learning at lower cost. Hastings on Hudson, NY: Wisdom Dynamics.

The education system advocated in this book would abolish age-based groupings of students in individual classrooms, teacher-taught lessons, year-end tests, and virtually every other feature of today's schools. Through this new approach, the unintended consequences created by such traditional, authoritatian practices--passive students, high failure rates, and the crushing out of students' natural love for learning--would be solved. The new system would empower learners (and teachers) to be self-directed giving them a voice in all decisions affecting them. It would provide them with the community linkages they need in order to understand how the world works. And it would enable them to perform meaningful, impactful work. The book includes a workplan and budget for starting up a school following these principles and a table showing the annual cost savings each state can expect to achieve from implementing the new model (the nation would save $75 billion annually).

Groccia, J., & Miller, J. (1998). Enhancing Productivity: Administrative, Instructional, and Technological Strategies: New Directions for Higher Education, No. 103. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Tight budgets, withering public funding sources, tuition escalating, expanding pressures to do more with less. Facing such crises, higher education must creatively seek methods to reduce costs, increase productivity, and recapture the public trust. This volume presents a multi-faceted approach for enhancing productivity that emphasizes both cost-effectiveness and the importance of bringing together all segments of the educational economy--institutions, faculty, students, and society--to achieve long-term productivity gains. The contributors demonstrate how productivity can be increased in key areas throughout the institution, including improved administrative processes, restructured curricula, more efficient use of classroom time, and the effective adaptation of technology.

Groccia, J., & Miller, J. (2005). On Becoming a Productive University: Strategies for Reducing Cost and Increasing Quality in Higher Education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Institutions of higher education in the United States are hitting a crisis manifested most noticeably in financial terms: shrinking budgets, decreased investment in faculty, soaring tuition rates, and reduced financial aid for students with the greatest need. But while educational spending has increased, there has been no appreciable change or improvement in student achievement. Yesterday’s inherent faith and trust in higher education’s purpose and value has morphed into today’s skepticism and demands for accountability and assessment. This book describes what universities can do to recapture the public trust and ensure long-term financial viability by reducing costs while increasing quality and productivity.

The book explores concrete strategies for assuring quality and productivity in the areas of: organizational change, assessment, faculty development, technology, curricular change, and classroom activity. A collaborative effort by scholars and practitioners who have taken the lead in improving educational productivity at their universities, this volume introduces an array of practical approaches easily accessible by faculty and administrators alike, without requiring a background in economics or finance. This book makes it clear that all segments of the academic community have important roles to play in ensuring the survival of higher education.

Leslie, D. (1999). The Growing Use of Part-Time Faculty: Understanding Causes and Effects: New Directions for Higher Education, No. 104. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Part-time and temporary faculty now constitute a majority of all those teaching in colleges and universities. This volume presents analyses of the changes in academic work, in faculty careers, and in the economic conditions in higher education that are associated with the shift away from full-time academic jobs. Issues for research, policy, and practice are discussed.

Massy, W. (2007). Academic Quality Work: A Handbook for Improvement. San Francisco, CA: Jossey- Bass.

Nilson, L.(2008). To Improve the Academy: Resources for Faculty, Instructional, and Organizational Development , Volume 27 (Miller, J., Ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

An annual publication of the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education (POD), To Improve the Academy offers a resource for improvement in higher education to faculty and instructional development staff, department chairs, faculty, deans, student services staff, chief academic officers, and educational consultants.

Wulff , D., Jacobson, W., Freisem, K., Hatch, D., Lawrence, M., Lenz, R. (Eds.) (2005). Aligning for Learning: Strategies for Teaching Effectiveness. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Aligning for Learning offers faculty, instructional developers, administrators, and researchers a clear model through which to approach the complexities of effective teaching and learning. The alignment model is the culmination of 20 years of research done by Donald Wulff and others at the Center for Instructional Development and Research at the University of Washington. It helps instructors incorporate instructional components and communication strategies into a representation of teaching effectiveness related to rapport, structure, engagement, and interaction, in an effort to align themselves, their content, and their students in a consistent learning goal.

Zemsky, R., Wegner, G.R., & Massy, W.P. (2005). Remaking the American university: Market-smart and mission-centered. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

The authors describe how a competitive preoccupation with rankings and markets published by the media spawned an admissions arms race that drains institutional resources and energies. Equally revealing are the depictions of the ways faculty distance themselves from their universities with the resulting increase in the number of administrators, which contributes substantially to institutional costs. Other chapters focus on the impact of intercollegiate athletics on educational mission, even among selective institutions; on the unforeseen result of higher education's "outsourcing" a substantial share of the scholarly publication function to for-profit interests; and on the potentially dire consequences of today's zealous investments in e-learning.


  • Academic Productivity blog: Academic Productivity blog: http://www.academicproductivity.com/
  • American Council on Education (ACE)
  • Association of American Colleges and Universities: http://www.aacu.org/index.cfm
    • The Carnegie Foundation – Knowledge Media Laboratory: This site provides resources and tools that allow faculty to organize, network, share, and collectively advance their teaching knowledge as well as create, critique, and exchange the knowledge they need to transform their schools and institutions into high-powered communities of practice and reflection. http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/KML/index.htm
  • The Collaboration for the Advancement of College Teaching & Learning – This is an alliance of colleges and universities that supports and promotes outstanding college teaching and learning. They provide distinctive cross-disciplinary, multicultural, and practical educational development that draws on cutting-edge knowledge to help colleges and universities excel in educating the students, workforce, citizens, and leaders of the 21st century: http://www.collab.org/
  • Educause - a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology: http://www.educause.edu/
    • Educause Learning Initiative: http://www.educause.edu/eli/16086
  • Institute for Higher Education Policy: http://www.ihep.comInstitute for Higher Education Policy
  • Matthew Cornell is a productivity consultant who has a post on academic productivity: http://matthewcornell.org/blog/2008/03/my-academic-productivity-post-is-up.html
  • National Center for Academic Transformation - an independent non-profit organization dedicated to the effective use of information technology to improve student learning outcomes and reduce the cost of higher education. NCAT provides expertise and support to institutions and organizations seeking proven methods for providing more students with the education they need to prosper in today’s economy: https://www.thencat.org/
    • State and System Course Redesign - The National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT) is the only national organization focused on both academic quality and cost savings in higher education. Working with state and system educational authorities that need to affect substantial change among their institutions, the NCAT is able to replicate its successful course redesign methodology developed at the national level and produce similar results at the state level. The NCAT's three-phase course redesign methodology offers administrators and faculty a tested and structured approach to assessing their costs for delivering instruction, redesigning courses taking advantage of the capabilities of information technology, and measuring student learning. NCAT's "train the trainer" approach coupled with a comprehensive communications initiative ensures that capacity is built within the state/system and institution to undertake subsequent course redesign programs that significantly scale learning improvements and cost savings: http://www.center.rpi.edu/system_solutions.htm
  • Teaching, Learning, and Technology Group: Introducing "5-Minute eClips" and "Brief Hybrid Workshops" (and eClips, Hybrid Workshops, Hybrid Teaching/Learning Modules) For faculty development, professional development, and improving teaching and learning with technology in higher education.

Websites - University Programs

  • American Studies Crossroads Project – Georgetown University: http://crossroads.georgetown.edu/
    • This project has a “syllabus central” webpage, which “provides annotated syllabi that offer creative approaches to teaching, with particular emphasis on innovative ways of organizing the U.S. Survey and integrating technology.” Teachers of these courses discuss how a social history approach, active learning techniques, and online resources and new media have impacted their teaching and their students: http://historymatters.gmu.edu/browse/syllabus/
  • President’s Academic Leadership Institute at the University of Missouri system: http://www.umsystem.edu/pali/
  • University of Missouri – Series on Academic Transformation: Sponsored by Educational Technologies at Missouri (ET@MO), Academic Transformation is for departmental teams committed to redesigning one or more key courses for teaching and learning improvement. For this project, "transformative change" involves sustainable technologies coupled with pedagogical practices which improve teaching and learning: http://etatmo.missouri.edu/eventsservices/transformation.php
  • University of Texas at Austin – World Lecture Hall: This website is not directly related to the task at hand; however it is an interesting resource. It has online syllabi and materials from courses around the world: http://web.austin.utexas.edu/wlh/
  • UW - La Crosse:
    • Bill Cerbin – Director of the Lesson Study Project: Lesson study is a teaching improvement activity in which instructors jointly develop, teach, observe, analyze and revise lessons for their courses. Lesson study teams build knowledge about how students learn in their discipline, produce a lesson that can be used by others, and create manuscripts for possible publication, presentation, and inclusion in teaching portfolios: http://www.uwlax.edu/sotl/lsp/
  • UW-Stout Academic Transformation Project Reports: http://www3.uwstout.edu/ntlc/OnCampusOpportunities/academictransformation.cfm
  • Western Washington University – Teaching-Learning Academy: They have dialogue groups that address specific questions. Their recent question is “How can WE live out our Mission and create a sustainable future at Western that saves money and builds on diversity?” – they have notes from their meetings that summarize their ideas: http://www.wwu.edu/depts/tla/resources.shtml