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The Pew Learning and Technology Program Newsletter
Vol. 4, No. 1
March 2002
Editor: Lowell Roberts
Program in Course Redesign

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An electronic newsletter of the Pew Learning and Technology Program (PLTP) highlighting ongoing examples of redesigned learning environments using technology and examining issues related to their development and implementation.

. . . sponsored by a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. Redesigning Learning Environments* Brigham Young University and Tallahassee Community College: English Composition

2. Pew Learning and Technology Program
* Be Prepared – When Implementing Course Redesign
* Common Ground on the Web
* Redesign Is Catching at Fairfield University

3. Pew Project Updates
* Drexel University: Computer Programming I
* Florida Gulf Coast University: Understanding the Visual and Performing Arts
* Northern Arizona University: College Algebra
* The Ohio State University: Introductory Statistical Concepts
* Portland State University: Introductory Spanish
* Tallahassee Community College: College Composition
* The University of New Mexico: Introductory Psychology
* The University of Southern Mississippi: World Literature

4. Common Ground
* Just-in-Time Teaching Evaluations
* M.S. in Microsoft?
* Beating the Cold Walk across Campus
* E-portfolios Are Hot

5. PLTP Calendar

6. Archives and Reposting


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1. Redesigning Learning Environments

* Brigham Young University and Tallahassee Community College: English Composition

Although many in our community can understand how it is possible to use technology to increase quality and decrease costs when redesigning math and other quantitative courses, some are skeptical that such techniques will work in humanities courses. In the last issue, we highlighted two institutions in Round III that are redesigning humanities courses in world literature and the performing arts. Two other schools in Round III have chosen an even tougher challenge: Brigham Young University (BYU) and Tallahassee Community College (TCC) are redesigning English Composition.

Brigham Young University is redesigning its first-year writing course, which introduces students to the fundamental processes of critical reading and writing, library research and information literacy, as well as to knowledge of academic genres and conventions. The traditional course enrolls 3400 students in about 170 sections (~20 students) each academic year and is taught primarily by graduate instructors in the English MA program. In the traditional mode, English Composition suffers from problems of inconsistency and inefficiency common to the multiple section model. Student evaluations reveal a wide range of quality since instructors try to achieve course objectives in a multitude of ways. Instructor inexperience often leads them to spend a significant amount of time preparing for classes, while duplicating the efforts of others.

The redesign at BYU will reduce the amount of time students spend in the classroom from three hours to one per week. A series of interactive multimedia lessons, more one-on-one time with faculty, and additional peer-to-peer sessions will replace the time students used to spend in class. Based on a standardized curriculum across all sections, these lessons will provide students with a more consistent experience and reduce the time graduate instructors spend preparing and presenting in the classroom.

The redesigned course will reduce instructional costs by decreasing the total hours each instructor spends teaching the course, increasing class size from 20 to 25, and reducing the hours needed to train and supervise new instructors. Overall fewer instructors will be needed, reducing the problem of finding qualified ones. The cost-per-student will drop from $181 to $108, an estimated cost savings of 41%.

With a totally different group of students, Tallahassee Community College (TCC) is attacking some of the same problems in College Composition, a required course for all degree-seeking students. At TCC, this course serves approximately 3,000 students annually in sections of 30 students. As is the case with many community colleges, there is a heavy dependence on adjunct instructors, leading to problems with instructional consistency. In addition, the traditional format makes it difficult to address individual needs. Considerable class time is given to reviewing and re-teaching basic skills, thus, reducing the amount of time students have to engage in the writing process. Student success rates are poor (less than 60% annually).

The planned redesign has two major components. The first component involves using appropriate technologies to provide diagnostic assessments resulting in individualized learning plans; interactive tutorials in grammar, mechanics, reading comprehension, and basic research skills; online tutorials for feedback on written assignments; follow-up assessments; and discussion boards to facilitate the development of learning communities.

Students will submit mid-stage drafts to online tutors at TCC or to SMARTHINKING, a provider of live, online tutoring services for colleges and universities. This outsourcing strategy will reduce the burden on the Writing Center and the amount of time faculty spend grading papers. These activities will take place outside the classroom and will be accessible to students at any time.

The second component involves restructuring the classroom environment to include a wide range of learner-centered writing activities that foster collaboration, proficiency, and higher levels of thinking. By shifting many basic instructional activities that can be readily individualized to the online environment, the classroom portion of the class will be redesigned so that students and faculty alike can focus on the writing process and enhance the quality of the learning experience.

Quality will be enhanced through greater individualization and collaboration, decreased response time and, in the case of interactive tutorials, immediate feedback. Increased time-on-task, increased interaction both in terms of human interaction and interaction with instructional materials, and increased opportunities to engage in the writing process will further strengthen course quality. Greater consistency across sections should enhance student performance in future courses. An update on the progress at TCC is found below. The redesign will result in a reduction in the cost per student from $252 to $145, an estimated savings of 43%.

The redesign strategies in these two English Composition courses address many of the same problems: lack of consistency in the multiple section model, difficulty in finding qualified instructors and students’ need for greater practice and experience in both grammar and writing activities. While the solutions are not identical, both provide excellent examples of effective approaches to resolving these common problems and to providing students with consistent but flexible and responsive learning environments. By working collaboratively and doing a significant amount of up-front planning, faculty at both BYU and TCC are finding that it is possible to redesign writing courses to increase quality and reduce cost simultaneously.

To learn more about the project at Brigham Young University, visit Brigham Young University. For additional information about the redesign at Tallahassee Community College, see Tallahassee Community College.

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2. Pew Program in Course Redesign

* Be Prepared – When Implementing Course Redesign

While a goal of most online learning environments is to increase flexibility for students, experience has taught us that completely self-paced learning environments tend to lead to high student drop out rates. Students need structure to provide interim feedback and milestones for achievement as well as motivation and helpful guidance. Flexibility can be provided within a clear structure that includes weekly or biweekly expectations, assignments and deadlines. Examples of how to tackle this problem can be found in several of our project descriptions including Florida Gulf Coast University <Florida Gulf Coast University>, Drexel University <Drexel University> and the University of Dayton <University of Dayton>.

Several of our projects have found that training the teaching assistants who will be working with students in the redesigned course is key to ensuring that students receive the timely feedback and assistance they need. Those who have underestimated the need for such training have encountered significant problems. Ohio State has a well-developed, multi-level TA certification process that assigns duties dependent upon the level and depth of training and experience the TA has had. All TAs do not do the same tasks, and tasks are assigned based on previous successful experience and training. The University of Illinois has also tackled this issue in a systematic manner. To learn more about the Ohio State plan, visit The Ohio State University. For more information about the Illinois model, see University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Look for additional implementation ideas for successful redesign projects in the next several issues of this newsletter.

* Common Ground on the Web

A new section on our web site, “Common Ground,” highlights ongoing activities that share the goals and objectives of the Pew Learning and Technology Program. It includes archives of the most relevant items from the Common Ground section of this Newsletter as well as links to other initiatives. Visit Common Ground to review these valuable links. Please send us suggestions for additional items.

* Redesign Is Catching at Fairfield University

In response to the successes associated with their initial redesign efforts, Fairfield University has begun plans to change the entire introductory sequence for their biology majors. The General Biology sequence will be expanded to three semesters while reducing the number of required second year courses by one. With the redesigned method of instruction, students will receive the same (or better) level of training in three semesters that used to require four. A number of benefits will accrue with the switch to the new model, which include: 1.) further reduction in costs since one fewer large enrollment class will be necessary, 2.) greater coverage of the biological sciences for majors (with the increase the number of required upper-level courses by one), 3.) greater flexibility in students’ ability to choose courses in their areas of interest, 4.) additional exposure of students to an IT-rich course environment, and 5.) better coverage of the breadth of the biological sciences. For more information, please contact Noel Appel <mailto:nappel@fair1.fairfield.edu>.

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3. Pew Project Updates

Descriptions of the Round III projects are available on our web site at Project Descriptions.

* Drexel University: Computer Programming I

The Department of Mathematics and Computer Science is piloting the redesigned version of Computer Programming I, an introductory programming course for computer science, computer engineering, digital media, information systems, and mathematics majors. Drexel is running two traditional sections of the course and one redesigned section in fall 2001. The traditional course has two hours of lecture per week and one lab hour. The redesigned course has a one hour lecture session and 2 lab hours each week: the first hour is for group activities and the second for individual assignments. The course is currently offered primarily to computer science majors. A second pilot version will be offered to more mixed student audiences in spring 2002.

The redesigned course uses a dedicated computer laboratory designed for group work. Students use clusters of five laptop computers and a projector to display work in progress on a white board. They write comments on the whiteboard and annotate the projected computer screen images as they work through the assignments. Teaching assistants (TA) grade the group projects within the lab setting: assignments have built-in stopping points for such grading and for TA input. TAs roam the room to monitor student progress and provide assistance.

Student activity in the group work has increased over the term as students get to know each other and understand the group problem-solving process. Instructors have also learned when and how to intervene to keep students actively working and how to design better group projects. Students in the redesigned course performed somewhat better on the midterm exam than those in the traditional course, but it is too soon to tell if this is a real effect or a statistical perturbation.

For more information about Drexel University’s redesign of Computer Programming I, contact Nira Herrmann at nherrmann@mcs.drexel.edu.

* Florida Gulf Coast University: Understanding the Visual and Performing Arts

During the fall 2001 semester FGCU completed the course redesign for the pilot, which is running in spring 2002. The Arts Faculty developed the learning outcomes and course materials, including the policy statement, syllabus, course outline, and assignment handouts (exams, critical analysis essays, collaborative essay, journal and portfolio). Staff in Instructional Technology developed the framework for the course within WebCT, incorporating the materials developed by the faculty, completed the course web site, and trained the Arts faculty involved in the pilot. An introductory web site allows students to get a WebCT account and register for the course <www.fgcu.edu/hum2510/start/>. Thirty-six students are registered in the pilot. In December, Instructional Technology staff also launched a public web site for the dissemination of materials and information related to the project at: www.fgcu.edu/hum2510/.

For more information about Florida Gulf Coast University’s redesign of Understanding the Visual and Performing Arts, contact Jim Wohlpart at wohlpart@fgcu.edu.

* Northern Arizona University: College Algebra

In the spring 2002 semester, the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Northern Arizona University is offering College Algebra in a web-enhanced format using the ALEKS software package. There are 165 students enrolled in six web-enhanced pilot sections and 209 students enrolled in six traditional sections without ALEKS. Data are being collected to compare the performances of students. Other information is being gathered and used to improve student support structures and the organization of the course. Full implementation will occur in summer 2002.

In the redesigned format, students access course materials located on the ALEKS web site and in a textbook at times convenient to their schedule. Students must be logged into the ALEKS site a minimum of six hours per week. Technical assistance and tutoring is available at the Algebra Computer Laboratory or any of the other University computer labs. Students sit for traditional paper-and-pencil exams whenever they have mastered the topics in a unit. However, all students must complete each unit exam by a published date.

For more information about Northern Arizona University’s redesign of College Algebra, contact Terry Crites at terry.crites@nau.edu.

* The Ohio State University: Introductory Statistical Concepts

Ohio State has completed final preparations for the spring quarter pilot of the "buffet style" learning approach in the introductory statistics course, including the development of an instructors’ interface to allow convenient uploading of section-specific materials, a “cartoon-of-the-day” feature to increase web site “stickiness,” and the spring quarter buffet contract. Data from an assessment of winter quarter students’ learning styles and study skills were analyzed and used to design the options available in the pilot buffet. These options include two choices of large group activities tailored to specific patterns in the active versus reflective learning style dimension and the global versus sequential dimension. Three choices of small group activities will be offered to accommodate specific patterns in the sensing versus intuitive and visual versus verbal learning style dimensions. Instructors involved in the spring pilot that starts April 1, are meeting regularly to work out specific assignments for the resulting six learning situations.

For more information about The Ohio State University’s redesign of Introductory Statistical Concepts, contact Dennis Pearl at pearl.1@osu.edu.

* Portland State University: Introductory Spanish

Portland State has tested radio broadcast exercises in the online environment in all sections of Introductory Spanish. This allowed the redesign team to identify technology and student adaptation problems likely to arise in the full-scale pilot sections in spring quarter. Student reaction has been mixed, and the experience established the need for more explicit and intensive student training. In the spring 2002 quarter, Portland State will pilot three redesigned sections, moving to WebCT all workbook activities, discussion boards and several class text activities that focus on grammar presentation, structural exercises, drilling, listening comprehension and reading comprehension. The full implementation of redesigned sections is scheduled for 2002-03.

The team has created a template for the online Chapters (Contextos). The first “pages” of each contexto introduce the structures and functions of the language that are the core of that contexto, following the model in the text version of ¿Cómo?. The Modelos para conversar, recreated in WebCT, allow students to listen to the modelos as many times as they want and answer questions for each, which are graded automatically, once submitted. The Pregunta rápida, following the grammar explanations, is a short, ungraded activity in which the student can check his/her comprehension of a particular grammar point. These are generally based on the Manos a la obra activities from the text. Links to quizzes for each chapter are based on vocabulary lists presented in the ¿Cómo? study text.

The team is collecting written and oral samples, taken from assignments and exams, from students in all sections and will continue to do so in spring. They will administer online exams to all sections at the end of spring term, which will provide a baseline for comparison to student performance in the implementation year. The evaluation will address the effects of technology-based redesign, reduced seat time and frequency of student meetings on learning outcomes. The team also is assessing student and instructor satisfaction, faculty concerns about instructor workload, and TA satisfaction related to successful progression towards their degree.

For more information about Portland State University’s redesign of Introductory Spanish, contact James Pratt at prattja@pdx.edu.

* Tallahassee Community College: College Composition

During the spring semester, Tallahassee Community College is piloting eight redesigned sections of English Composition. The redesign includes new curriculum, texts, computer classroom, course web site, exit instrument, electronic responses to writing, and computer-based grammar and reading remediation work for individual students. Eight traditional composition sections taught by the same instructors are serving as the control cohort for assessment purposes. By integrating reading and writing more fully than in the current program, the curricular redesign is attempting to improve students' basic communication and language skills, culminating in a new exit test requiring a successful merger of reading and writing tasks. The course web site provides individual interactive reading and grammar review exercises, whose results are stored in course management software, reducing instructional workload.

The Blackboard interface allows increased student access to coursework, with all of the redesign's assignments delineated on the web site. The discussion board and other communication tools increase the amount and occasion for peer interaction and teacher instruction. All sections of the redesign are also participating in electronic tutoring using email based responses to drafts by an outsourced tutorial service. The web interface allows instructors to post student writing from other sections and route students into a variety of interactive review modules housed on linked sites. Finally, a newly created library/information literacy orientation is now web-based, facilitating increased quality, uniformity, and accountability for individual learners.

For more information about Tallahassee Community College’s redesign of College Composition, contact Sally Search at searchs@tcc.cc.fl.us.

* The University of New Mexico: Introductory Psychology

The Department of Psychology at the University of New Mexico is redesigning its introductory psychology course from a lecture-based format to a lecture/studio/self-paced hybrid course. Implementation in one of two large sections began in the fall 2001 semester. Lectures were reduced from three to one per week. Contingent upon their in-class exam performance, students were required to attend studios that focused on improving their learning skills and provided a structured review of multimedia CD-ROM activities. Students also were required to complete four weekly mastery quizzes, delivered on WebCT, covering text, lecture, and CD-ROM material.

During the spring 2002 semester, full implementation began in one section (n = 450) with a comparison section (n = 325) serving as a control for some aspects of the redesign. Because the redesign appeared to dramatically improve performance in the fall compared to previous semesters, the department decided to provide all students with all elements of the redesigned course. However, while students in both sections have access to the same instructor, text, CD-ROM, and curriculum, only students in the redesigned section are required to complete all aspects of the course; students in the comparison section may take quizzes, attend studios, and work with the CD-ROM, but they are not required to do so (preliminary findings suggest that most students in the comparison section do not elect to complete these activities). Performance on the first 6-week in-class exam suggests a marked advantage for students in the redesigned versus comparison section.

Student feedback from the fall 2001 semester indicated a strong approval for the required WebCT mastery quizzes but an equally strong disapproval for the reduction in the number of lectures from three to one. Full implementation of the redesigned course is scheduled for the fall 2002 semester, when the two large sections will be combined into one section for two weekly lectures (down from three per week). All students will be encouraged to attend weekly studios, and some students, contingent on mastery quiz and exam performance, will be required to attend.

For more information about the University of New Mexico's redesign of Introductory Psychology, contact Gordon Hodge at mailto:ghodge@unm.edu.

* The University of Southern Mississippi: World Literature

The University of Southern Mississippi is in the pilot phase of transforming its World Literature course from a traditional multiple-section format to a single-section, technology-mediated one. Approximately 125 students are enrolled in one online section. A team of four faculty offers presentations that students have the option of attending. The live presentations draw only a handful of spectators and, at times, draw none at all. The presentations are taped and placed online along with instructors' notes, additional media resources, quizzes, exams, and essay assignments, which together constitute the required elements of the course. A web page for students at http://www-dept.usm.edu/~engdept/dept/203.html compares the online and traditional versions of the spring course. Student response has been quite positive. It's too early to tell whether the online students are learning materials better than their counterparts in traditional sections, but data to draw some early conclusions will be ready this summer.

The technology acquired for the course has worked well. Video is prepared with a digital camcorder, edited with Apple hardware and software, and delivered via RealServer technology. Course management is handled by WebCT. A mix of high-end production and delivery technologies allows even students with older computers to access and navigate the course easily.

The online course has allowed the university to move toward four primary goals: (1) eliminating course drift and inconsistent learning experiences; (2) making more efficient use of faculty expertise by relying on a small team of faculty rather than many faculty and adjunct instructors with different agendas; (3) improving learning outcomes; and (4) eliminating reliance on adjuncts. Numbers 1, 2, and 4 are already in sight, even during the pilot phase. Although it will take longer to determine how well the university is making progress toward number 3, the necessary groundwork to accomplish that goal is now in place and ready for full-scale implementation. For more information about The University of Southern Mississippi’s redesign of World Literature, contact Michael N. Salda at michael.salda@usm.edu.

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4. Common Ground

Reporting on initiatives that share the goals and objectives of the Pew Learning and Technology Program.

* Just-in-Time Teaching Evaluations

Bruce Ravelli of Mount Royal College in Calgary, Alberta, has developed free software for confidential teaching evaluations by students: Free Assessment Summary Tool or FAST (www.getfast.ca). The program, with over 500 users, lets professors ask up to 20 questions about their courses or teaching and receive anonymous answers in a spreadsheet. Mr. Ravelli, for example, polls three times in each course, seeking evaluations of course requirements, the midterm exam and the course itself. Faculty, who have used FAST, say that without incentives student response is low, but it does allow timely midcourse corrections. A paper by Mr. Ravelli, Anonymous Online Teaching Assessments: Preliminary Findings, is available at http://ericae.net/ericdc/ED445069.htm.

* M.S. in Microsoft?

Colleges and corporations are collaborating on online graduate degrees that address specific needs of individual companies. In most cases, syllabi are derived from existing generic programs, but course content is tailored so that students work on actual company projects. Students who complete company-specific programs, however, receive regular degrees. Putting the courses online permits students to learn in their company environment and not miss work. Three examples of online company-specific graduate degrees: University of Texas at Austin’s M.S. in science, technology and commercialization for IBM (www.ic2.org); Babson College’s MBA for Intel (www.babson.edu/mba/intel/welcome.htm); and Oregon Health Sciences University’s M.S. in technology management for Microsoft (www.ohsu.edu).

* Beating the Cold Walk across Campus

Institutions from eleven nations sharing the northernmost latitudes have founded the University of the Arctic (www.urova.fi/home/uarctic). The University is a collaboration of 31 academic and research institutions and governments of Canada, Finland, Iceland, USA, Sweden, Russia, Norway, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Faroe Islands, and Greenland, who are establishing a bachelor’s degree in circumpolar studies. Their goal is to prepare leaders capable of dealing with northern policy issues across national borders. This spring the University of the Arctic is offering its first online course, Introduction to the Circumpolar World (www.athabascau.ca/ale/courses.html), to 27 students from Canada, Greenland, Finland, and Russia. The course is delivered from Canada’s Athabasca University, but it was developed and is taught by faculty from several member institutions. Given the multiple time zones in which the students live, asynchronous delivery is the preferred format. Currently, the university is largely financed by Finland, but each member institution is seeking support from its national government. And until the entire degree program is in place, course credit is granted by each student’s home institution.

* E-portfolios Are Hot

Will electronic portfolios play a big role in the next generation of learning technology? Folks at several, diverse institutions and foundations seem to think so. E-portfolios are, essentially, online student academic biographies that link to demonstrations of the student’s academic credentials and accomplishments, such as papers, language facility, awards, study abroad, and campus activities. Besides the obvious opportunity to show off skills and interests to potential employers, e-portfolios can be a tool for academic advising and for promoting student reflection on the interconnectivity of studies and experiences. Alverno College, for example, has required students to create and maintain e-portfolios since 1999, the purpose of which is for the student to demonstrate core abilities required for graduation (www.alverno.edu/academics/ddp.html). California State University at Monterey Bay, MIT, Northwestern, Stanford, and the University of Washington formed the Electronic Portfolio Action Committee in October to share their individual e-portfolio projects (www.theidealab.net/oldPortfolio/HTML/joinEpac.asp). The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is also a member of E-PAC. The Stanford Learning Lab, in fact, has been developing and testing e-portfolio software since 1998 (http://learninglab.stanford.edu). The American Association for Higher Education (AAHE) is a good resource for information on e-portfolios, with a publication, Electronic Portfolios: Emerging Practices for Students, Faculty and Institutions (http://aahe.ital.utexas.edu/electronicportfolios/index.html), and a searchable database of e-portfolio projects (www.aahe.org/teaching/pfoliosearch3.cfm).

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5. PLTP Calendar

A comprehensive calendar of meetings, symposia, publishing dates, and relevant deadlines for the Pew Learning and Technology Program community.

*** MARCH ***

Pew Learning and Technology Program Newsletter Vol. 4, No. 1

March 25 and 26
Mid-Course Sharing Workshop
(A workshop for Round III grant recipients to exchange ideas and share experiences.)
Las Vegas, NV
Workshop Information

*** JUNE ***

Pew Learning and Technology Program Newsletter Vol. 4, No. 2

June 17 and 18
Final Workshop
(A Workshop for Round II grant recipients to share final outcomes and experiences.)
Pittsburgh, PA

June 30
Interim progress reports for Round III projects due

*** JULY ***

Pew Symposium in Learning and Technology
Date and place: TBA

*** SEPTEMBER ***

Pew Learning and Technology Program Newsletter Vol. 4, No. 3

*** OCTOBER ***

Pew Learning and Technology Program Advisory Board Meeting
Date and place: TBA

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6. Archives and Reposting

The Pew Learning and Technology Program is an $8.8 million, four-year effort to place the national discussion about the impact that new technologies are having on the nation's campuses in the context of student learning and ways to achieve this learning cost effectively. The program has three areas of work: The Pew Grant Program in Course Redesign, the Pew Symposia in Learning and Technology, and the Pew Learning and Technology Newsletter. For more information, click here.

* Archives of The Pew Learning and Technology Program Newsletter are available.

* You are welcome to repost The Pew Learning and Technology Program Newsletter on your intranet without charge. Material contained in The Pew Learning and Technology Newsletters may be reprinted with attribution for noncommercial purposes only.

Copyright 2002, The Pew Learning and Technology Program

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Pew Learning and Technology Newsletter ~ March 2002 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~