Does active engagement increase student learning in physics? Absolutely, according to Richard Hake, professor emeritus at Indiana University. Hake has developed what he calls Socratic Dialog-Inducing Labs, guided experiences featuring hands-and-heads-on experiments in introductory mechanics which engage students in observing, testing and analyzing physics problems. Hake has found that using interactive engagement methods can improve students’ conceptual understanding and problem-solving skills well beyond that achieved by traditional methods. In a follow-up study, seniors repeated the post-test used in the introductory course; students were able to retain the introductory concepts over time. Hake has developed manuals so that others can use the labs as well as sample exams to test mastery of concepts. Results of Hake’s work, a list of 14 lessons learned and an extensive bibliography can be found at http://www.physics.indiana.edu/~hake. Richard Hake may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Based on the experience of California Polytechnic State University and four other Cal State campuses, System Trustees have endorsed an online strategy for remedial instruction, including the use of commercial courseware. A Cal Poly study, for example, found that students who completed an online intermediate algebra course acquired from Academic Systems Corporation were significantly more successful in precalculus than students who completed algebra in the classroom. Cal Poly, which offers elementary and intermediate algebra only online, reports cost savings as well through increased class sizes (up to 50) and use of graduate students and part-time instructors, rather than full-time faculty.
Colorado State University has converted its College of Business' computer literacy course from a classroom approach to one that is "self-paced with milestones." Now, rather than offering seven lecture and 31 lab sections annually to about 1400 students, CSU students work through 80 hours of material, exercises and projects at their own pace using e-learning software on CD-ROM from the Electric Paper Company (www.electricpaper.ie) and a text. The new approach not only reduced staff and facility costs but permitted expansion of the number of topics covered by the course. The course has been mapped to Syllabus 3.0 of the International Computer Driving License (ICDL), a computer literacy standard adopted by 50 countries (http://www2.icdlus.com). CSU plans to offer an online ICDL certification preparation course (www.learn.colostate.edu). For more information on CSU's redesign of Essential IT Skills, contact Gene Lewis at email@example.com.
To achieve the objectives of increasing learning in chemistry and achieving greater consistency in student learning experiences for 1,000 students annually, East Carolina University (ECU) has moved all of their chemistry lab preparation experiences online. Replacing a text of more than 330 pages, ECU's new interactive manual provides a consistent approach to the lab experiences as well as additional resources that provide support for students who need them. Students now come to lab ready to spend time actively engaged in discovery learning; teaching assistants no longer need to review the preparation needed for each lab because students have already done so online. The online manual includes a structure for writing lab reports as well as suggestions for and models of successful reports. Students can review the online resources as many times as needed so that they feel well-prepared to engage in lab work. Students have enthusiastically embraced the new method. In addition, fewer teaching assistants are now needed. For additional information contact Dorothy H. Clayton.
Five sections of an introductory essay writing course at Florida International University were taught in the summer of 1999 without any regularly scheduled class meetings. Instead, students used Interactive English, a self-contained composition software program, on their own schedules, and then brought the written products of that work to a standing one-hour, five-person group conference with a writing teacher. The program freed teachers from conducting three large sections per week and grading papers and allowed more interaction and consultation between instructors and students. Furthermore, the program cost less than paying Writing Center tutors to hold one-on-one student conferences. The program expanded in the fall of 1999, and all sections of the course are expected to use the software by the summer of 2000.
Developmental English at Glendale Community College (GCC) has changed significantly for the better over the last five years. Chris Juzwiak, a GCC faculty member, has redesigned three developmental English courses to include online interactive activities and quizzes as well as student collaboration on essay critiques. Students can take quizzes as many times as they need to master vocabulary and grammar concepts. They practice critical reading and writing as they review passages and answer questions about content. Students are now actively engaged in refining their ideas, rewriting and working with others on these efforts. Student response has been excellent, and attendance has increased. Their attitudes toward writing and English are completely changed; success and completion rates have increased. Faculty teaching the subsequent freshman composition course have observed that students are better prepared to write at the college level. GCC has received a Carnegie grant to spread the concepts used in developmental English to other courses at the institution. To learn more, contact Chris Juzwiak at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the course web site at http://courseweb.glendale.edu/thefullemersion/Default.htm.
At Glendale Community College in Phoenix, AZ, René Díaz-Lefebvre is working with his colleagues to create as many learning options as possible to accommodate individual differences among students. The Multiple Intelligences/Learning for Understanding (MI/LfU) initiative began at Glendale in 1994 as an experimental pilot study in the psychology department. Since then, this initiative has evolved into an effective, interdisciplinary approach to learning, teaching, and creative assessment, involving departments in math, art, biology, Spanish, psychology, chemistry, nursing, music, child and family studies, English and anthropology. Based on Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, the Glendale College effort takes human differences seriously, helping students demonstrate their understanding of academic material through a performance of understanding. More than 2,400 students have completed courses offered where MI/LfU Learning Options are available. Among the outcomes the Glendale team has observed are a significant increase in student demand to study in classes that accommodate multiple intelligences and increased numbers of faculty who understand and appreciate teaching in a student-flexible environment. To learn more about the Glendale program, contact Rene Diaz-Lefebvre at email@example.com.
At Harvard University , Eric Mazur has developed a number of innovative methods for teaching large lecture classes in undergraduate science interactively and has bundled them in an Interactive Learning Toolkit that supports their implementation. Strategies to streamline the organizational work that is part of teaching a large science course include pre-tests to prepare students for class, interactive class exercises using personal response systems such as ClassTalk, and short concept quizzes to assess student learning and serve as a basis for small group discussion. Faculty users can select materials for class use from a large class-tested database and organize (and possibly share) their own materials. With the Interactive Learning Toolkit, faculty can also administer their courses, design course Web pages, and interact with students online. To participate in the beta testing program, contact Mazur at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "ILT Beta Testing Project". To learn more, see http://galileo.harvard.edu/index.html.
Kansas State University was a finalist in Round II of the Program in Course Redesign but was not selected to receive a grant. That didn't stop Dr. Kelly Welch's desire to apply what she learned at a program workshop and redesign her Human Growth and Development course. In the traditional format, Dr. Welch lectured to nearly 1,000 students twice a day/twice a week and was supported by a team of seven graduate assistants. The redesigned course meets once a week and includes an interactive CD ROM and online assignments, exams, quizzes, and streaming video "lectures." The support team has decreased from seven graduate assistants to one. Copying costs have dropped from approximately $10,000 per academic year to less than $1,000. This course redesign has succeeded in reducing cost as well as improving learning, and student evaluations to date have been extremely positive. As Dr. Lynch wrote to us, "This [redesign] experience has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my career. I wanted you to know that my burning desire to create a course for the 21st century learner came to fruition"-and without a grant! To learn more, contact Dr. Kelly Welch at email@example.com.
A project at Michigan State is showing that asynchronous learning networks can increase student success rates. In the fall of 1996, a 500-student calculus-based physics course for engineers served as the basis for measuring technology's potential to enhance student success. Two software tools were used -- a networked system that enabled a computer-assisted personalized approach (CAPA) to assignments, quizzes, and examinations, and a conferencing and bulletin-board system that allowed students to interact with each other and with the instructional staff. With those tools, the total course staff was reduced to two-thirds that of previous years, and instructors' and teaching assistants' time was reallocated from administrative jobs, such as grading and record-keeping, to tasks more directly related to helping students. Recitation sections were replaced with networked assistance and a centralized learning center. The combination of software tools resulted in higher grades among a larger fraction of students than in previous years, and the class drop-out rate was cut in half. The full report can be found in the October 1998 issue of the Journal of Engineering Education.
New England Institute of Technology has redesigned its Technical Communications course to more nearly replicate the corporate technical writing environment and to maximize room usage. Students may register for the course in on-campus or off-campus sections. On-campus students meet on alternate weeks, supplementing classroom instruction with online materials. Thus, two sections occupy the same computer lab/classroom during the same time block. Off-campus students rely on the course web site where they have access to lecture notes and class activities, but they may attend campus class meetings when they feel the need, if space is available. Students work in teams to produce major pieces of technical writing, such as manuals. Each team is composed of on and off-campus students and a cross-section of majors. The goal is to simulate a corporate environment of home office, satellite office and telecommuting writers collaborating via email, discussion forums and collaborative writing tools. For more information contact Robin Schutt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since fall 1998, North Carolina State University has offered introductory physics to sections of 54 students using a pedagogy they call SCALE-UP (Student-Centered Activities for Large Enrollment University Physics). Placing students in teams at circular tables with networked laptops, access to physics software and web resources, and circulating instructors, SCALE-UP courses are collaborative, hands-on and interactive combinations of lecture and lab. The approach has been very successful: SCALE-UP students out-perform peers on nationally normed examinations, women and African-Americans out-perform counterparts from traditional classes, and students report widespread satisfaction. SCALE-UP faculty suggest that similar reforms can be implemented in other science, engineering and mathematics large enrollment courses. Starting in fall 2000, SCALE-UP class sizes will increase to 99. SCALE-UP PY205 can be observed at http://www.physics.ucf.edu/~saul/Common/Samples/Contracts/NCSU1_files/global.html.
At North Carolina State University, students in the SCALE-UP program show a significant improvement in learning over traditional formats. SCALE-UP means Student-Centered Activities for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Programs. SCALE-UP creates a highly interactive, collaborative, computer-rich learning environment. Rather than lecturing, faculty work with three-person groups of students who are engaged in challenging problem-solving activities, simulations and other hands-on applications. Course materials compliment the text book. Nearly 16,000 students have participated, and results show that SCALE-UP students consistently have a higher percentage of correct problems on common final exams when compared to those who have not. SCALE-UP students have also achieved a better understanding of physics concepts. Overall, students’ ability to solve problems has improved, conceptual understanding has increased, attitudes toward physics have improved and failure rates have been reduced, especially for women and underserved students. For more information about SCALE-UP, contact Bob Beichner at email@example.com or see www.ncsu.edu/PER/scaleup.html.
One of NCAT’s new Redesign Scholars, Michelle Miller, has redesigned Introduction to Psychology at Northern Arizona University (NAU), which enrolls about 1500 students per year. Like many introductory psychology courses across the US , the course was plagued by large classes dominated by the lecture method and inconsistency among sections since many were taught by adjuncts. Miller raised the average course numeric grade from 78.72% in the traditional course to 81.3% in the redesign , a statistically significant improvement. The redesign team at NAU incorporated low-stakes quizzing as well as online discussion to increase the engagement of students. In fall 2006, section size was increased from 175 to 200 and two sections were combined in a team-teaching arrangement. To maintain quality in these large sections, NAU implemented a new coordinator role and introduced online course experiences. Redesign efforts also resulted in cost savings. Creating a large, team-taught pair of sections freed up sufficient resources to offer a small (25-person) honors section of the course taught by a permanent faculty member. In addition, the department can meet growing demand for the course on the same resource base. To learn more, contact Michelle Miller at Michelle.Miller@NAU.edu.
Enrollments in basic Spanish courses at Penn State have increased 57% over the last five years, straining the resources available (classroom space and qualified instructors) to meet demand. In response, Penn State redesigned basic Spanish using a replacement model where students meet two days per week and work online for the other parts of the course. In the traditional model, TAs taught three sections of 25 students per year; in the redesigned model, TAs teach four sections of 22 students per year. TA workload has actually decreased despite serving more students since homework and quizzes are graded automatically. TAs now spend more time reflecting on and improving their teaching, creating learning activities and sharing materials with other peers. Student learning has been as good as or better in the areas of grammar and vocabulary acquisition, listening and reading comprehension. For more information, contact Nuria Sagarra at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rockford Business College (RBC) faculty identified a number of issues that they wanted to address in their introductory computer course: homework was not being graded as quickly as needed, the number of sections offered was insufficient to meet student demand, and there was wide variation in what students learned and retained. RBC wanted to increase consistency among course sections so that all students would be prepared for subsequent courses, make learning more interactive; and increase the number of students in a section. In summer 2005, RBC began using Course Technology’s Skills Assessment Manager (SAM), which simulates Microsoft Office to teach Word, Excel and Access. SAM provides a pre-test and post-test to measure student achievement and automatically grades all assignments and records the outcomes. Now those who formerly graded homework are available for other tasks. Students from multiple sections meet at the same time in what RBC calls a “combo lab” (what we could call an emporium), where faculty members work with students from different sections at the same time. Consequently, RBC can schedule low-enrollment classes that are required in smaller majors more often. Students can move more quickly when they master the course material, Overall, more students are served with greater flexibility and RBC has reduced costs. To learn more, contact Marcy Sylvester at email@example.com.
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, realized that nearly half of its undergraduate enrollments are clustered in 22 large-enrollment introductory courses offered by 17 academic departments. As a result, the institution designed its new Instructional Technology Initiative to enhance the learning experience of undergraduates in first-year introductory courses. Awards have been granted to faculty members to restructure core courses with interactive course- development tools and state-of-the-art instructional software. During the 1999/2000 school year the teaching innovations in technology will be adopted in 17 courses enrolling nearly 8,400 undergraduate students. For more information, see http://teachx.rutgers.edu/.
Over the last decade the University of Massachusetts at Amherst chemistry department developed a successful electronic homework system. Now used by over 2,000 students each semester, the system eliminates traditional faculty-led recitation sections and hand-graded quizzes and results in substantial faculty and TA time savings. While the initial cost savings are indisputable, U Mass believes that significant savings will be realized once numerous courses are using the system and a critical mass of reusable homework questions are created for each department. A comprehensive, two-year study, funded by FIPSE, will quantify and document cost factors by examining the cost of traditional large enrollment classes before adoption, the one-time costs during transition, and steady-state costs once the system is adopted. For more information, see http://www.cs.umass.edu/~ckc/owl/.
Science education in the U.S. faces two serious problems. The first is that too few Americans perform at the highest level in science compared with our competitors abroad. The second is that large numbers of aspiring science majors, perhaps as many as half, are turned off by unimaginative teaching and migrate to other disciplines before graduating. In contrast, the University of Maryland-–Baltimore County (UM-BC) has a well established, highly successful program that seeks out and fosters student success in science. As reported in the May 25, 2006 New York Times, the Meyerhoff Program at UM-BC focuses on highly able African-American students who seek to become leading research scientists and engineers. The Meyerhoff Program’s success is built on the premise that, among like-minded students who work closely together, positive energy is contagious. By assembling such a high concentration of high-achieving minority students in a tightly knit learning community, students continually inspire one another to do more and better. Learning environments encourage active participation in labs, engage students in real research and involve students in team-based problem solving. The results have been outstanding and provide a model for other institutions seeking to increase student participation in scientific fields. To learn more, see http://www.umbc.edu/meyerhoff/index.html.
The University of Mississippi Improves Learning with Hawkes Learning Systems
With $15 million from NASA, the Institute of Advanced Education in GeoSpatial Science at the University of Mississippi is building 50 courses over the next five years to develop a robust integrated curriculum for geospatial remote sensing. Using faculty from programs across the United States, the Institute will develop a repository of dynamic online coursework. This coursework will be delivered via various media--Internet, CD-ROM, DVD and compressed video--which translates into anywhere, anytime delivery of educational material in an interactive, learner-centered environment. Presently few US institutions offer a major in geospatial science, which has multiple applications in forestry, biology, aeronautics, engineering and social science. Now interested institutions can develop majors in these fields without individually designing the core courses. Rather they can build on a central repository of modules thatcan be used individually or combined as whole courses. A licensing arrangement for the modules will make the project self-sustaining and will support continuous updating and improvement. To learn more about this project contact Dr. Pamela Lawhead at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://geoworkforce.olemiss.edu/.
Robert Heterick, former president of EDUCOM, frequently speaks of the potential for online education to "disaggregate" courses, breaking them down so that students may take only the components they need instead of sitting through repetitions of what they already know. Heterick's vision has been largely unrealized, except in office training where companies like Bit Learning teach specific skills by breaking up courses into lesson units as small as two or three minutes. Now, the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln offers crop technology one lesson at a time. The mini-lessons are actually exercises from a variety of courses that focus on understanding concepts. The lessons are available to anyone, but only registered students can access the quizzes.
The University of North Texas (UNT) School of Library and Information Sciences offers a certification program and an option in the Master's Degree in Library and Information Sciences that allow core courses to be scaled up or down as enrollments fluctuate. While enrollment has grown 170% in UNT's school librarian program, there is a severe shortage of faculty in this area. The redesign uses teams of full-time faculty, clinical faculty, regular TAs, "super" TA's, and practitioner mentors, all with specialized responsibilities. Clinical faculty are outstanding practitioners, mostly from Texas but also from out of state. Students attend short institutes on campus, available in several formats, and the remainder of the program is offered online. UNT has licensed the courseware to another university and is in discussion with a second that wants to start a new school library certification program. Here UNT will license the entire suite of courses which would allow the new program to offer a high-quality program with minimum startup time and costs and use clinical faculty in its home state. For more information, contact Dr. Philip Turner at PTurner@unt.edu.
With a five-year average drop-failure-withdrawal rate of 60% in College Algebra as well as significant retention issues likely related to this course, the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) has decided that redesign is needed. After following the experiences of the University of Idaho , the University of Alabama , and Virginia Tech, USM has embarked on a redesign using the emporium model and MyMathLab. The first 600 students will be part of a pilot redesign of College Algebra in spring 2007. Equipped with 60 computers, the lab will be open 50-60 hours a week and staffed by faculty and graduate students from multiple fields with a strong math component such as physics. The math department is seeking additional space for a larger lab and eventually expects to teach all students in this course using the redesign model. For more information, contact Rex Gandy at Rex.Gandy@usm.edu.
To foster greater student interaction with course content as well as with each other, the Faculty of Education at the University of Western Ontario (UWO) replaced nine large group lectures of 200-400+ students with nine online content modules and online discussion. The objective was to move away from the simple transmission of information through face-to-face lectures to active student engagement with interactive content modules, links to Web-based resources, and online discussion. The UWO faculty found students quite receptive to the change and better prepared for required, face-to-face workshops. The redesign enabled UWO to save classroom space. For more information, see "From Large Lecture to Online Modules and Discussion: Issues in the Development of Online Teacher Education" by George Gadanidis and Sharon Rich in the July/August issue of The Technology Source at http://technologysource.org/article/from_large_lectures_to_online_modules_and_discussion/.
Although the NCAT redesigns have focused primarily on introductory courses, the successful techniques used in them will work well in other courses as evidenced by the highly successful redesign of a sophomore engineering course at the University of Wisconsin-Madison entitled Engineering Problem-Solving modeled on Virginia Tech’s Math Emporium. The redesign team has developed highly transportable software that is now used in other campus courses outside the Engineering College. Learning results show a one sigma improvement in average scores on exams. Students are spending more time on task and learning more about what engineering will actually be like once they are professionals. Students are now watching lectures on their own time and working with faculty in the lab--actively engaged in problem-solving in small groups--rather than listening to lectures in class and doing their homework alone. Both software packages created for the course, CourseBuilder and eTEACH, are available from UW-Madison as open source products. To learn more, contact Greg Moses at email@example.com.
With support from the W. M. Keck Foundation, faculty at Virginia Union University are redesigning three disciplines: English, psychology, and drama using a formal, tightly structured Instructional Systems Design (ISD) process which produces performance-based curricula. The ISD process contains five distinct phases: analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation. This new initiative builds on Virginia Union’s success in redesigning its freshman writing program where the overall pass rate was 10% higher than the traditional program and 45% of the students with SAT verbal scores below 400 passed compared to 18% in the traditional program. One of the most important aspects of the redesign is training teachers to transform their classrooms into active learning centers. For more information contact James Armstrong, the project leader.
In the April 2005 issue of The Learning MarketSpace, we reported on the efforts of Virginia Union University (VUU), a small (1,700 undergraduate and graduate students) historically black institution to redesign courses in three disciplines: English, psychology, and drama. Funded by the Lilly and W. M. Keck Foundations, the VUU project used a formal, tightly structured Instructional Systems Design (ISD) process. Assessment results for the first pilot year show significant learning increases in the redesigned General Psychology course vs. the traditional format (a mean increase from pre-test to post-test of 26.1% vs. 4.6%) and in a number of redesigned Humanities courses (an overall mean increase of 26.2% vs. 11.75%.) The redesigns seemed to be particularly effective with weak students. Overall, students were very satisfied with the new methods of learning, and class attendance has increased. Faculty found developing new learning approaches and implementing first-year pilots both challenging and rewarding. For more information about VUU’s active learning approach, contact James Armstrong at James_R_Armstrong@Dom.com or Jeff Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org.