The Learning MarketSpace, October 2004
A quarterly electronic newsletter of the Center for Academic Transformation highlighting ongoing examples of redesigned learning environments using technology and examining issues related to their development and implementation.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Perspectives on issues and developments at the nexus of higher education and information technology.
Creating "Small" Within "Large"
When most people think about the relationship between size and educational quality, they more or less take for granted that small is better. Whether it's Mark Hopkins sitting on a log with his student or the US News and World Report rankings, a low student/faculty ratio and its corollary, small class size is assumed to be an indicator of high quality.
In the ideal world, all classes would be small. In the real world, offering small classes inevitably increases instructional costs. Is it possible to resolve this familiar trade-off between cost and quality?
One of the key characteristics of many of the redesign projects in the Program in Course Redesign is larger class size. Some, like the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst began with large lecture sections (220 and 350 respectively) and retained those large sizes in the redesign.
Others reduced the number of sections offered and created larger classes. Fairfield University reduced the number of sections from 7 to 2 and increased the number of students in each section from 35-40 to 130-140. The University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK) doubled the number of students in each section from 27 to 54 students and reduced the number of sections from 57 to 38.
Still others combined all of the sections offered into one large section. Virginia Tech, for example, combined 38 sections of 40 students each into one 1,500-student section. Similarly, the Universities of Alabama, Idaho and Southern Mississippi and Florida Gulf Coast University each combined multiple sections into one large section per course per semester: 44 sections of 35 students (UA), 60 sections of 40 students (UI), 30 sections of 65 students (USM), 31 sections of 30 students (FGCU).
It's pretty obvious how larger class sizes can reduce costs since fewer faculty are needed to prepare and deliver the course. But most people in higher education are horrified by the thought of increasing class size and, in most cases, take that course of action only when forced to do so by budgetary pressures.
When we give presentations around the country about the Program in Course Redesign, citing the spectacular learning results achieved by the redesigns juxtaposed with the increased class size used by many, the response of the audience is often incredulity. This is not Mark Hopkins on the log. The idea that it is possible to increase learning while increasing class size (or maintaining already large sections) goes against the common assumptions about quality held by most in our community as well as by the public at large. How is it possible?
One way to do this is to create "small" within "large." Let's look at two examples.
As part of its redesign of introductory astronomy, UC-Boulder divides its large, 220-student class into small learning teams of 10 to 15 students. The professor provides an overview of the week's activities at a weekly meeting of the full class. About a dozen discussion questions are posted online, ranging from factual questions testing basic knowledge, to complex questions requiring students to draw conclusions, to questions intended to elicit controversy. Midweek, students meet in teams for one hour, supervised by an undergraduate coach, to prepare answers collaboratively and to carry out inquiry-based team projects. Supported by software that allows them to collaborate synchronously or asynchronously, teams post written answers to all questions.
At the third weekly class meeting, the astronomy professor leads a discussion session in which he directs questions not to individual students but to the learning teams. Before the meeting, the professor uses software to review all the posted written answers to a given question, allowing him to devote the discussion time to questions with dissonant answers among teams. Periodically, the professor poses a related question and gives the class time for each team to formulate an answer.
Florida Gulf Coast University (FCGU) offers its required fine arts course in a single large (930 students) section, using a common syllabus, textbook, set of assignments and materials, and course Web site. Students are placed into cohort groups of 60 and, within these groups, into peer learning teams of six students each. Learning teams engage in Web Board discussions that require students to analyze two short essays in preparation for producing their own short essays on module exams. The Web Board discussions increase interaction among students, create an atmosphere of active learning, and develop students' critical thinking skills.
The course is taught 100% by full-time faculty members, who design content modules in their field of expertise and are supported by a newly created position called the preceptor. Preceptors, most of whom have a B.A. in English, are responsible for interacting with students via email, monitoring student progress, leading Web Board discussions, and grading critical analysis essays. Each preceptor works with 10 peer learning teams or a total of 60 students.
We recently visited FGCU and met with a number of students. When asked how it feels to be a student in a large, online class, the students responded, "I'm not in a large class; I'm in a class of six."
Yet another approach to creating "small" within "large" is illustrated by a redesigned basic writing course at Florida International University (FIU.) FIU intended to apply to the Program in Course Redesign, but because the application got misplaced on campus, FIU missed the deadline. Greg Bowe, FIU's Writing Program Administrator, decided to redesign the course on his own, using the same principles used in our program.
The redesign breaks each 25-student class into five "writing circles" of five students each. The instructor meets once a week with each of the five circles. Between the weekly meetings, students use a third-party CD-ROM with interactive pre-writing activities and a workbook to develop their papers. Initially, there was some resistance to reducing the time each student spends in class to one hour per week since most academics think students in basic writing need more time in class, not less. Meeting in groups of five for one hour a week instead of in classes of 25 for 2.5 hours a week actually results in an increase in the amount of attention each student gets from the instructor. It's not the paradox it seems. The instructor has doubled the time she is available to spend with students (five hours rather than 2.5 hours.) Furthermore, with only five students per circle, each student is actively engaged for the whole session.
What about the instructors? The increase in the time instructors spend with students is substantially offset by subtracting two hours of class preparation time. In addition, meeting in groups and leading a combination of discussions and cold conferences of student drafts results in a significant reduction in the time spent reading and grading, which previously consumed two-thirds of instructor time. FIU can now brag that it offers the smallest basic writing classes in the country with no increase (and perhaps a decrease) in instructor workload.
What these redesigns have in common is that each begins by analyzing how faculty and students spend their time in the traditional format and then deciding which elements should be retained and which should be changed or eliminated in the redesign. We need to step back and think more carefully about what we are doing both in and out of the classroom. Then we will be able to move beyond our knee-jerk reactions and either-or approaches (large sections are bad, small sections are good; more contact hours are good; fewer contact hours are bad) and find innovative ways to increase student learning and student satisfaction while reducing or preserving instructional costs.
--Carol A. Twigg
Featuring updates and announcements from the Center.
NCAT Receives Lumina Foundation Grant
In June 2004, the National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT) received a $280,000 grant from Lumina Foundation for Education. The purposes of this grant are 1) to identify and document effective course redesign techniques using technology that improve student learning and increase retention for underserved students, and 2) to conduct leadership development and dissemination activities to increase higher education's understanding of these techniques. Underserved groups include low-income students, students of color, and adults. In addition to mining data already collected during the Program in Course Redesign (PCR), the Center will work with PCR institutions that enroll large numbers of underserved students to collect additional data focused on student retention. A monograph reporting the results will be published in spring 2005, and the Center will host a series leadership seminars described below to share the findings with the higher education community.
New Seminar Series Begins in January
The Program in Course Redesign (PCR) has demonstrated that it is possible to increase student success while reducing instructional costs in first-year courses. A new seminar series entitled, "Increasing Success for Underserved Students: Redesigning Introductory Courses," will focus on the specific techniques used in the PCR which led to increased student success and retention among underserved students. Faculty members from four institutions will discuss the varied methods that were used to achieve better learning at reduced costs with an emphasis on the approaches that fostered greater learning among underserved students: adults, students of color, and low-income students. Participants will interact with experienced faculty from multiple institutions to learn how their redesign decisions led to greater student learning. The seminars will be held on January 28, 2005, in Orlando, FL; March 18, 2005, in Phoenix, AZ; and, May 20, 2005, in Chicago, IL. For information and registration materials, visit The Pew Grant Program in Course Redesign: Workshop Information.
International PCR Replications under Discussion
In September, Carol Twigg visited the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, to meet with representatives from a number of Canadian institutions of higher education and the Alberta government to explore the possibility of launching a course redesign effort in Canada. A similar event took place last year in England. In May 2003, Carol Twigg participated in an invitational seminar organized by the UK Center for Policy and Change in Tertiary Education at the University of Surrey and the Center on Borderless Higher Education and supported by the Department for Education and Skills. Here faculty and administrators from all levels of the UK higher education system discussed the ideas and principles of the PCR and their applicability to the UK system. A final report entitled, "Redesigning Teaching and Learning in Higher Education using ICT: Balancing Quality, Access and Cost," which included recommendations for action, was produced by the sponsoring organizations.
Ohio Learning Network Establishes Redesign Grant Competition
The Ohio Learning Network (OLN) has established a statewide competition entitled, "Technology Innovation Course Redevelopment Grants." OLN anticipates awarding approximately 8-10 grants of $40,000 to institutions that wish to replicate and extend the successes of the PCR. As part of the proposal development process, OLN is partnering with the Center to provide guidance and assistance to the institutions as they plan their redesigns and begin implementation. On August 19, the Center conducted a workshop for member institutions as the first step in the competition. To date, 28 institutions have responded with letters of intent; final proposals are due November 5, 2004. A second workshop will occur on January 19, 2005, led jointly by Center and OLN staff. For more information about this initiative, see www.oln.org/funding/emerge.php or contact George Steele at firstname.lastname@example.org.
University of Hawaii Redesign Initiative Moves Forward
On September 30, 2004, Carol Twigg conducted a systemwide orientation for faculty and administrators via teleconference to kickoff the University of Hawaii System's statewide redesign initiative. In partnership with the Center, the UH system is conducting a redesign competition within the state that is modeled on the national PCR. Teams of faculty and administrators will attend a workshop in Honolulu conducted by Center staff in early November. Teams will submit responses to the Course Readiness Criteria, and selected teams will then participate in a second workshop in January 2005. Center staff will work with teams as they formulate their full proposals, which are due March 15, 2005. During the 2004-2005 academic year, the program expects to award 3-5 grants with awards ranging between $35,000 and $70,000. Center staff will work with the grant recipients as they plan and implement their designs. For more information, contact Hae Okimoto at email@example.com.
Featuring progress reports and outcomes achieved by the Roadmap to Redesign.
R2R Selects 20 New Practice Associates Practice
Twenty institutions have been selected to participate in the Roadmap to Redesign as new practice members. They are hard at work refining their redesign plans in preparation for offering pilots in spring 2005 and full implementations in fall 2005.
The new associates in the Precalculus Mathematics Practice are Concordia University-Portland, Georgia State University, Louisiana State University, Seton Hall University, the University of Missouri-St. Louis, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and Wayne State University. New associates in the Psychology Practice are Central Michigan University, Chattanooga State Technical Community College, Eastern Washington University, Mohave Community College, Ocean County College, and the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith. New associates in the Spanish Practice are Montclair State University, Texas Tech University, Towson University, and The University of Alabama. New associates in the Statistics Practice are Calhoun Community College and The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
The Fund for the Improvement of Post Secondary Education (FIPSE), the supporter of the R2R program, has provided the Center with a supplemental grant of $50,000 that will allow us to include up to five additional institutions in the program. East Carolina University has refined its original proposal and has been selected to participate in the Psychology Practice; a number of other institutions are doing the same and are expected to become new associates later this fall.
Abstracts of the new associates' redesign plans and contact information will be posted on the Center's website by December 1, 2004.
Pearson Education Joins R2R Initiative
The Center is pleased to announce that Pearson Education has joined its Corporate Associates Program as part of R2R. As a corporate associate, Pearson Education will have the opportunity to gain direct access to information about how and why both new and traditional learning materials are being used through interactions with Center staff, core institutions and new associate institutions. They will be able to involve these audiences in evaluating their products and services. Possibilities for interaction include establishing one-on-one contact with R2R participants, convening focus groups or other topical meetings, participating in academic practice meetings and workshops; visiting core and new associate institutions' redesign projects and distributing questionnaires about issues of particular interest. The Center looks forward to working with Pearson and other associates in the future. For more information about the Corporate Associates Program, contact Carol Twigg.
R2R Continues to Evaluate Its Dissemination Strategy
A major goal of R2R is to ascertain how well its new, streamlined course-redesign methodology works. On August 10, 2004, the core practice partners met in Chicago to conduct a final review of the new practice applications and to evaluate how well the R2R process is working thus far, especially the feasibility of the planning assumptions and concepts that underlie the program. Representatives of Thomson Learning, SunGard Collegis, WebCT and Blackboard—R2R corporate associates—also participated in the discussion along with Peter Ewell, NCHEMS Vice President who serves as the project's evaluator, and Center staff. In addition, new associate applicant teams completed evaluation forms, submitted with their final proposals, assessing the effectiveness of each element of the planning process. In general, the applicants think the process was extremely useful and feel confident in their ability to implement their redesigns.
To learn more about the R2R program, the academic practices and the planning resources, visit The Roadmap to Redesign.
Calhoun Community College Grant Builds on R2R Participation
Selected from more than 300 applications, Calhoun Community College has received a five-year $1.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Title III Strengthening Institutions Program. Funding from the grant will be used to increase student success and retention at the college through the redesign of academic and student services. Building on its successful participation in R2R in developing a statistics redesign, Calhoun Community College will move on to redesign other large enrollment courses such as English, math and history.
LSU Redesign Attracts Internal Support
Faced with the prospective elimination of Rank I and II Instructors due to budget problems in fall 2005, Louisiana State University (LSU) math faculty have developed a redesign plan for College Algebra. Using the emporium model, LSU will be able to deliver the course to the same number of students with significantly reduced personnel. As part of the planning process, the team gave presentations to their dean, their campus technology committee, and their vice provost, requesting funding for a 90-seat learning center for fall 2005, a 300-seat learning center for fall 2006, a lab director, two new servers, and a new systems analyst. LSU's testing center also asked for a renovation of its facility to increase the number of machines used for testing to 250. All of these requests have been approved. LSU also plans to redesign Trigonometry and Precalculus as part of the emporium, leveraging resources to serve additional students. For more information, please contact Phoebe Rouse at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Highlighting themes and activities that cut across redesign projects.
Sustaining Innovation: An Update on the Program in Course Redesign
As we travel around the country, we frequently receive questions about how the projects in the Program in Course Redesign are faring. Have the learning gains been sustained? Have the original redesigns remained in tact? Have there been other developments of interest? Have the techniques used in the original redesign spread to other courses and departments? In sum, has the innovation been sustained?
After initially redesigning the first general biology course in a four-course series, Fairfield University successfully moved the entire series from multiple lecture sections to a single large-classroom, team-taught format taught in three semesters. Students take self-graded online quizzes prior to class, which have proven to be a strong incentive for pre-class reading and preparation. Weekly recitations have been replaced by more effective review sessions for exams. Fairfield recently purchased additional laptops, upgraded existing ones, and incorporated new software modules in both classrooms and laboratories. Other biology courses have incorporated laptops in the classroom and laboratory. These changes have continued despite the fact that two of the original project leaders have moved to another university!
Understanding the Visual and Performing Arts at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) continues to be taught in the redesigned format with no modifications. The department has worked out a rotation to train new instructors to teach the course. Enrollment in the course continues to grow (~800 students in spring 2004, 700 in fall 2004, and ~1000 expected in spring 2005.) Students continue to score higher on individual exams and on essays, and student satisfaction is markedly higher than that of the traditional course.
The redesign of first-year Spanish at Portland State University is firmly grounded and continues to benefit both the university and its students. After two years in the new format, the program continues to meet learning outcome goals for proficiency and achievement. Compared with traditional instruction, enrollment in the redesigned program increased 37% the first year, 85% the second year, and is expected to increase 100% in the third year. Cost-per-student last year was 29% lower than traditional instruction, and is projected to remain at 29% this year. Student satisfaction is very high, with seven of eight students reporting that they would recommend the course to others. Second-year Spanish has also undergone a similar transformation supported by funds from an internal initiative modeled after the national PCR. By adopting the same cost-saving techniques, second-year Spanish has produced a 21% savings last year and a projected 24% savings this year.
Finite Math at Iowa State University continues to be offered completely in the online format developed as part of the PCR. In fall 2004, the redesign was scaled up to its full size (~1200 students) for the first time. The savings in personnel costs provide a welcome relief to the stressed departmental budget. The team continues to fine-tune some aspects of the course. Some online homework assignments are being added to the calculus courses this year. The Math Department hopes to redesign other online courses (College Algebra and Trigonometry) following the redesign ideas used in Finite Math in the future.
The Sociology Department at IUPUI and the campus as a whole remain committed to redesign. The department plans to place all sections of Introduction to Sociology under the authority of a single coordinator who will standardize the course textbooks, examinations, papers, and online assignments in consultation with the sociology faculty. The campus funded a series of internal grants intended to help departments with high-enrollment, introductory courses engage in redesign. Since 1999, these grants have totaled $450,000.
Rio Salado College continues to use its original redesign model in mathematics courses where an instructor is responsible for a larger number of students with the help of a course assistant to deal with routine questions. The original redesign has been modified in two ways. First, the number of students assigned to an instructor was reduced from 100 to 50 so that the task would be more manageable, especially for adjuncts. This modification still results in a significant economy in delivering instruction with no sacrifice in service to students. Second, the role of the course assistant was modified slightly to include early contact with students to make certain they were able to log in to their course and access communications, providing a valuable high-touch aspect to this fully online course.
Tallahassee Community College's (TCC) redesign of English Composition continues to deliver enormous benefits. The technological innovations and the emphasis on higher-level thinking skills have been embraced whole-heartedly by teachers and learners. All sections of English Composition, and an increasing number of the other courses in the English Program, are fully web-assisted. TCC's newly created Center for Instructional Technology and its information technology staff provided extensive faculty development workshops and individual assistance for teachers who needed to transfer material as part of a Blackboard upgrade. A major English Program goal for 2004—2005 is a data-driven evaluation of the English Composition redesign. In spring 2005, a number of sections will be monitored through Holistic Writing Assessment. In addition, a Final Essay Exit Exam is being piloted in fall 2004 with an expected full implementation in spring 2005. Administrative support for faculty development and training remains strong: the original project director continues as a mentor for ongoing computer classroom evolutions, and another member of the team has release time to promote and monitor the redesign of English Composition in dual-enrollment sections at area high schools.
All aspects of the chemistry redesign at the University of Iowa remain in place, and the department has continued to benefit from the cost savings and the reduction in the rate of course withdrawals. Electronic homework was introduced in physics in fall 2003, has been implemented in a chemistry prep course (~1200 students per year), and is planned for organic chemistry in spring 2005. Elements of the first course redesign are being considered for organic chemistry, in particular integrating labs and lectures, and for the chemistry prep course.
Psychology instructors at The University of Southern Maine continue to use the tools developed as part of the PCR to improve student understanding of course material. Student responses continue to be favorable, and faculty continue to believe that the redesign is effective and efficient. In addition, faculty who do not teach introductory psychology increasingly take advantage of the system of mastery quizzing. Now courses in research methods, physiological psychology, and developmental psychology all use the model of repeated quizzing. In addition, individual instructors in mathematics, social work and nursing are now using the mastery quizzing approach pioneered in introductory psychology.
The course redesign in General Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has been sustained. The Department continues to offer online homework and tutorials. The questions developed in the project are now available through the NSF-sponsored National Science Digital Library project and are published in the JCE Digital Library, JCE QBank at http://www.jce.divched.org/JCEDLib/QBank/index.html; the course tutorials are expected to be published within the next year. The introductory course sequence for biology majors has used several of the redesign ideas from the non-majors course, most notably the tutorials and self-assessments. Chemistry faculty also developed additional material on a lab for bio-molecular structures as an extension to the bio-molecules tutorial. They are currently evaluating differences between manipulating molecules online versus physical models.
What factors have been critical to sustaining the achievements of these projects? The combination of student learning gains, student satisfaction with the new methods and ongoing cost savings is the primary driver. As time goes by and new faculty are brought in to teach in the redesigned format, both the original faculty redesign team and the campus administration must pay attention to ensure that the new culture is successfully transferred. Continued monitoring and updating of the projects will ensure that the benefits of the redesign continue.
For information on the original PCR redesign projects, see Program in Course Redesign.
Reporting on initiatives that share the Center's goals and objectives.
Florida International University Redesigns English Comp
Using an innovative and cost effective structure, Florida International University (FIU) has redesigned the way it teaches basic writing. The redesign features: no regular class meetings (all contact between students and the instructor occurs in weekly small-group writing circles), student use of CD-ROMs with interactive pre-writing activities and a workbook to develop their papers between weekly meetings, an effective class size of five students, increased student/teacher contact time (up 30%), decreased instructor time spent reading and grading papers in the absence of the student (from 12 hours to three hours per week), and flexible scheduling for both students and teachers. Since the inception of the writing circle design, more than 7,000 students have participated. For more information, contact Greg Bowe at email@example.com.
The University of Missouri Begins Second Year of Academic Transformation
Building on the success and lessons learned in the first year, the University of Missouri–Columbia (MU) is beginning the second year in its Series on Academic Transformation. Sponsored by MU's Educational Technologies at Missouri (ET@MO), the project assists up to 10 MU faculty teams from departments interested in implementing transformative change in one or more key courses. Inspired by the national Program in Course Redesign, ET@MO requests proposals where "transformative" change involves sustainable educational technologies coupled with pedagogical practices to meet one or more of the following goals: improving teaching and learning, improving access to material, increasing student engagement, and creatively using resources to meet growing enrollment pressure. MU's multi-faceted approach includes project management support, peer presentations and discussions, one-on-one or team skill development and support, and incentive funding (up to $5,000 per team). For more information, see the full description at http://etatmo.missouri.edu/ or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Essay Grading via Technology
According to an August 1, 2004 article in the Washington Post by Jay Mathews, essay-grading computers are quietly making significant gains in the booming U.S. testing industry. More than 2 million essays have been scored by e-rater since it was adopted for the GMAT in 1999, and the technology is being considered for use in the Graduate Record Examination, for graduate school admissions, and the Test of English as a Foreign Language. Testing experts predict that machines eventually will help grade the SAT and the ACT, which will add writing sections in their 2005 college admissions tests, because computers cost less money and work faster than humans. An automated essay-grading program, the Intelligent Essay Assessor (IEA), is being used in the redesigned Understanding the Visual and Performing Arts at Florida Gulf Coast University as part of the PCR. Here the IEA is used to grade focused, short essays that are part of midterm and final exams. The essays are graded and returned to students within 24 hours. Faculty have developed and trained the software to grade at a higher inter-rater reliability rate than that of multiple faculty graders. To learn more about IEA, contact Jim Wohlpart at email@example.com or see http://www.k-a-t.com/prodIEA.shtml.
The Center for Academic Transformation serves as a source of expertise and support for those in higher education who wish to take advantage of the capabilities of information technology to transform their academic practices.
Copyright 2004, The Center for Academic Transformation