View Site Map

The Pew Learning and Technology Program Newsletter

Vol. 2, No. 1
March 2000
Editor: Lowell Roberts

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.



  1. Redesigning Learning Environments
    • State University of New York at Buffalo: Computer Literacy
  2. Pew Grant Program in Course Redesign
    • Round II Moves to the Second Stage
    • Pew Grant Program Workshops
  3. Pew Project Updates
    • Pennsylvania State University: Elementary Statistics
    • Rio Salado College: Introductory Algebra
    • University of Southern Maine: Introductory Psychology
    • Virginia Tech: Linear Algebra
  4. Common Ground
    • Cal State Puts Remedial Math Online
    • MERLOT: A National Teaching and Learning Network for Faculty
    • New England Tech Redesigns Technical Writing Course
    • North Carolina State's Large Enrollment Physics Grows Larger
    • State of Washington Plans for Increased Online Instruction
  5. Meetings and Events
  6. PLTP Calendar
  7. Archives and Reposting

1. Redesigning Learning Environments

• State University of New York at Buffalo: Computer Literacy

The State University of New York at Buffalo is redesigning Computer Literacy, a freshman-level course for non-majors. The course has been taught in a traditional lecture-lab format, where sections meet three hours a week for lectures and two hours a week for formal labs. There are also two hours of open lab time per week. The course enrolls about 1,000 students a year in large lecture sections of approximately 200 students. A full-time, non-tenure track faculty member teaches two sections per semester, while a temporary lecturer covers the third section. Seven graduate teaching assistants teach the lab sections.

Computer Literacy is an introductory course whose enrollment is expected to increase significantly in the next two years, since the University now requires all freshmen to have access to a computer. In addition, the College of Arts and Sciences is considering a proposal to use the course to satisfy a university-wide mathematics, statistics, and computing General Education requirement.

Plan for Redesign

The lecture format of the current course does not promote active and collaborative learning, nor does it provide enough student support at the beginning of the semester when students who are not sufficiently comfortable with technology need individualized, face-to-face contact. Many of the GTAs, who provide the direct lab contact, are not native speakers of English and often find it difficult to communicate with beginning-level students. Undergraduate Teaching Assistants (UGTAs) have been effective in the past but have been unable to completely replace GTAs, because they are not allowed to grade tests. Neither are advanced technical staff fully effective, as their expertise does not necessarily match student need.

The redesigned course will reduce the number of lectures per week from three to two and replace that time with Web-based tutorials, diagnostic quizzes, short mini-lectures, and Web- and lab-based group activities designed to support active and collaborative learning. Lab hours will be re-structured so that more formal lab hours occur at the start of the semester, and more open lab hours occur at the end. During the semester, students will be transitioned from face-to- face assistance to an increasingly online environment. UGTAs will increase the individualized assistance available in labs. Technical support will shift to staff with more appropriate expertise.

The redesigned course will enhance quality by offering a more flexible learning environment that better supports student needs. The redesign allows self-motivated students to advance at their own pace through the course, while providing a highly structured learning experience for students who require clearly spelled-out expectations to be met at regular intervals. The redesign also provides multiple means for achieving learning outcomes. Lectures will be de-emphasized and proportionally replaced by Web- based learning activities; short individual projects will be supplemented with multi-group projects that incorporate collaborative learning; and online testing will facilitate learning by contextualizing assessment and providing immediate feedback.

During fall 1999 term, The University at Buffalo course development team refined the project design and began acquiring or developing resources. Working from the National Research Council/NSF publication Being Fluent with Information Technology (1999),, the team specified course goals around the objectives of concepts, skills and higher order capacities. They designed assessment procedures, analyzed course lectures and examinations, and collected data on students in the traditional course. The Educational Psychology department is analyzing these data to create a baseline for student preparation and learning outcomes. Current lectures were videotaped and will be digitized for the new course web site.

This semester, Spring 2000, the redesign team continues to survey the course and collect data and its students. The NRC goals are being correlated with the current curriculum. Given the rapid pace at which publishers are developing online materials, the team has decided to re-examine lab, concept and skill resources. Buffalo chose Blackboard's CourseInfo course management system is currently building the web site that will house course materials. The University is developing an online email tutorial, incorporating video, as one of the institution-specific modules that will be integrated with off-the-shelf materials.

Assessing the Changes

Introducing technology mediation to increase learning and decrease cost is particularly challenging in a computer literacy course. After all, students are taking the course because, presumably, they have little or no computer experience and may even be technology phobic. Learning outcome and fiscal evaluation are, therefore, critical to understanding the efficacy of Buffalo's experiment. The University at Buffalo plans a two-year assessment: in Year 1 they will examine outcomes and inputs in the existing lecture-based course, and in Year 2 they will collect the same data for the redesigned course and compare the results.

The impact of the course redesign on learning outcomes will be assessed by comparing student work samples and test results. Questionnaires, observations of students' activities, and work outputs will be used to evaluate the achievement of the goals of active and collaborative learning. Satisfaction will be measured by questionnaires, interviews and focus groups.

Cost savings will be examined by comparing the instructional time required by the two courses; i.e., the weighted time spent in preparation, teaching and evaluation by faculty, graduate and undergraduate assistants, and higher and lower level technical staff. In addition, the actual costs of the two courses will be compared.

Cost Savings

The financial implications of redesigning CSE101: Computer Literacy will be assessed through two redesign strategies. If enrollments in the lecture and redesigned courses stay the same, The University at Buffalo estimates a savings of over $130,000 a year or 54% (from $248 to $114 per student). If student enrollment increases in the redesigned course, the University estimates a 60% cost reduction per student ($248 to $99).

For more information, contact the Project Director, Deborah Walters, SUNY at Buffalo, at

2. Pew Grant Program in Course Redesign

• Round II Moves to the Second Stage

Twenty institutions were selected by the Pew Grant Program in Course Redesign to move to the next stage of the Round II application process. Three-person teams from the 20 institutions participated in a program workshop in Washington DC on March 16-17. Following that workshop, each institution will be invited to submit final proposals.

The institutions selected are Arizona State University, Bentley College, Cal Poly Pomona, Carnegie Mellon University, Drexel University, Fairfield University, Iowa State University, Kansas State University, Lehigh University, New Hampshire Community and Technical College, Riverside Community College, The University of Alabama, The University of Iowa, University of Dayton, University of Delaware, University of Idaho, University of Kentucky, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, University of Tennessee-Knoxville, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Forty institutions were selected in the first phase based on their responses to the program's institutional readiness criteria. After a January workshop in New Orleans, these institutions submitted responses to the course readiness criteria from which the 20 surviving institutions were chosen.

The Pew Grant Program in Course Redesign anticipates making 10 awards in Round II.

• Pew Grant Program Workshops

The Pew Grant Program in Course Redesign employs a workshop strategy to assist institutions in preparing proposals and to enable participants to share their experiences and to exchange ideas. Participating institutions attend up to four workshops at specific intervals in the proposal and implementation processes:

Workshop 1: Orientation to Redesign: An overview of the redesign process emphasizing pedagogical design, planning for cost savings, and assessing results; attended by institutional teams whose readiness statements are chosen for stage two.

Workshop 2: Developing the Proposal: Focuses on institutional development plans and budgets for redesign and completion of the course redesign planning tool; attended by institutional teams whose course readiness statement is selected for stage three.

Workshop 3: Mid-course Sharing: Grant recipients meet midway in the grant period to share experiences and exchange ideas.

Workshop 4: Assessing the Results: Grant recipients meet just prior to full implementation of their redesigned courses to assess pilot results and plan for dissemination.

More information about the PLTP workshops is available at Workshop Information.

3. Pew Project Updates

• Pennsylvania State University: Elementary Statistics

Penn State reports that pilot testing over the past six months yielded unexpected results and turned out to be more essential than they imagined. The most unexpected change from the preliminary plans was the implementation of Readiness Assessment Tests (RATs), a testing procedure in which individual tests, group tests, and a group appeal process are used to assess mastery and understanding of concepts. The RATs are followed by group work in computer studio labs, designed to address conceptual misunderstandings by applying the concepts. A still unresolved issue is the effect on group work of late changes in registration (drops and adds). The pilot experience also indicated the workload of TA's may be considerably lighter than expected and the use of undergraduate interns more useful than imagined. Penn State is now experimenting with, and testing, the use of potential technologies for reducing workloads, including low stakes quizzing, technology-based activities, and management of 'grades'. Penn State is rethinking, as well, how technologies can be applied to the standard course syllabus to enhance student learning. As a result, the sequencing of topics has been radically altered in a way they believe will lead to better understanding of concepts and longer retention. For more information on Penn State's redesign of Elementary Statistics, contact John Harwood at

• Rio Salado College: Introductory Algebra

The last newsletter (1:2, December 1999) featured Rio Salado's redesign project in detail. Four courses are being redesigned — Introductory Algebra, Mathematical Concepts/Applications, Intermediate Algebra Accelerated, and College Algebra/Functions — integrating the interactive CD-ROM technology of Academic Systems with the Internet, allowing students to work on customized assignments (based on performance) at their own pace, but within a specified period of time (13 weeks). Redesign has allowed a shift of non-instructional responsibilities from faculty to a student assistant via a programmed routing system and an increase in class size from 35 to 100. Six weeks into implementation, 86 of the original 100 students show active participation in the math classes; student feedback on the role of the assistant has been positive (some students have expressed appreciation for the extra attention); the instructor is more focused on student time-on-task and progress and is less distracted by paperwork and noncontent related questions; and the College is examining the need for a programmed routing system. For more information on Rio Salado's redesign of mathematics courses, contact Karen Mills at

• University of Southern Maine: Introductory Psychology

The University of Southern Maine spent the fall semester creating a new computer classroom. Now in the spring semester, the room is used by psychology, mathematics, and computer students to prepare for class and for proctored testing in the large enrollment Introduction to Psychology course. Other large enrollment classes will use this room starting in the summer. USM developed a test of student knowledge of psychology, which was administered to computer enhanced and traditional classes; students in the computer enhanced class performed better on the test than did the control group. They videotaped introductory psychology lectures, which will be used in the asynchronous version of the course starting in the spring for which about a dozen students have signed up so far. USM is preparing faculty for asynchronous and web-based course delivery through a series of workshops and one-on-one discussions. For more information on USM's redesign of Introductory Psychology, contact John Broida at

• Virginia Tech: Linear Algebra

Two Virginia Tech faculty began offering the redesigned Math 1114 in the fall semester to about 1500 students. This spring, two faculty are teaching about 650 students, a somewhat higher enrollment than is typical in the spring. The web-based system used in Math 1114 is increasingly reliable, and after some minor adjustments, the Beta version of the online testing engine is functioning quite well. Faculty are continuing to revise the online presentations. Over 100 practice questions are now available online to assist the students in preparing for the two major tests and the final exam. To keep the students abreast of assignments, the course manager, in addition to posting announcements on the course homepage, sends a weekly email message to all enrolled students. Virginia Tech plans a survey this spring to measure active learning and its results in the context of learning technology. For more information on Virginia Tech's redesign of Linear Algebra, contact Ken Hannsgen at

4. Common Ground

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

• Cal State Puts Remedial Math Online

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. Academic Systems has also signed a master licensing agreement with the State University of New York to provide its Interactive Mathematics and Interactive English courses to SUNY campuses. Currently the courses are offered to about 5,000 students at 10 of SUNY's 64 institutions.

• MERLOT: A National Teaching and Learning Network for Faculty

MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Repository for Learning and Online Teaching) collects, evaluates, catalogs, and links to digital learning materials. MERLOT is a 501c3 organization with a database of over 2,000 (and growing) multidisciplinary learning applications that are accessible by the world wide web. MERLOT resources are disaggregated to facilitate their incorporation into individual courses and lessons. For additional information on or to join MERLOT go to

• New England Tech Redesigns Technical Writing Course

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

• North Carolina State's Large Enrollment Physics Grows Larger

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

• State of Washington Plans for Increased Online Instruction

Washington State's Higher Education Coordinating Board's 2000 Master Plan calls for increased online education to avoid constructing new buildings and campuses. Anticipating over 52,000 new students enrolling in the State's public institutions during the next ten years, the plan calls for $2 million to train faculty for online instruction, additional funds for equipment, and an advisory committee to monitor the quality of online courses. In addition to increasing the number of online courses, the plan calls for the creation of hybrid courses that meet online and in class, permitting existing space to accommodate more classes. Washington's 2000 Master Plan for Higher Education is available at

5. Meetings and Events

Meetings and events of interest to the PLTP community, April-July, 2000:

March 30-31: Networking 2000 Conference sponsored by EDUCAUSE, Washington, DC.

April 2-4: Horizons 2000: New Technologies for Teaching and Learning Regional conference sponsored by the Virginia Community College System, Richmond, VA.

April 6: How to Customize an Online Course PBS Adult Learning Service satellite conference.

April 8-11: Distance Education and Training Annual conference of the Distance Education and Training Council, Asheville, NC.

April 9-11: Mid-South Instructional Technology Conference Hosted by Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN.

April 12-13: Preparing for Regional Accreditation: Shining a Flashlight on Evaluating and Improving Uses of Technology Conference sponsored by The TLT Group and the North Central Association Commission on Institutions of Higher Education, Ypsilante, MI.

April 13: Developing Web-Based Courses on a Shoestring PBS Adult Learning Service satellite conference.

April 12-15: Teaching, Learning and Technology: Challenges for Creating Sustainable Change in the New Millennium 11th International Conference on College Teaching and Learning, Jacksonville, FL.

April 24-28: Creating Knowledge in the 21st Century: Insights from Multiple Perspectives Annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans.

May 1-2 and May 22-23: Delivering Online Courses to Adult Students Seminar sponsored by the Office of Adult Learning Services, College Board, Chicago: May 1-2 and Atlanta: May 22-23.

May 3-6: Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for Distance Education Hosted by the University of Laval, Quebec.

May 14-17: CUMREC 2000 Annual meeting of the College and University Computer Users Association, Arlington, VA.

May 20-23: Shaping the Network Society: The Future of the Public Sphere in Cyberspace Conference sponsored by Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, Seattle.

May 25: Telecommunications and Distance Learning Conference sponsored by the New England Board of Higher Education, Boston.

May 25-28: Computers and Writing 2000: Evolution, Revolution & Implementation: Computers and Writing for Global Change Conference hosted by Texas Woman's University, Ft. Worth, TX.

June 7-9: Distance Learning Administration 2000 Conference sponsored by The State University of West Georgia and The Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, Pine Mountain, GA.

June 26-28: NECC 2000: Connecting @ the Crossroads Conference sponsored by the National Educational Computing Association, Atlanta.

June 26-July 1: ED-Media 2000: World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications Conference sponsored by the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education, Montreal.

July 7: Shining a Flashlight on the Library, Technology and the Curriculum Conference sponsored by The TLT Group and the Association of College and Research Libraries, Chicago.

July 24-26: Education Technology Conference sponsored by the Society for Applied Learning Technology, Arlington, VA.

6. PLTP Calendar

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

*** MAY ***

Publication of ""Who Owns Online Courses and Course Materials? Intellectual Property Policies for a New Learning Environment," a monograph based on February 2000 symposium Who Owns Online Courses and Course Materials?

*** JUNE ***

June 1 Deadline for Final Pew Grant Program proposal submission (last step in Pew Grant Program application process for Round 2) Project Descriptions

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

*** JULY ***

July 1 Round II Pew Grant Program awards announced.

July 13-14 Pew Symposium in Learning and Technology "Preserving Quality in Distributed Learning Environments" Lake George, New York Who Owns Online Courses and Course Materials?

7. 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 2000, The Pew Learning and Technology Program

Pew Learning and Technology Newsletter ~ March 2000