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The Pew Learning and Technology Program Newsletter
Vol. 3, No. 1
March 2001
Editor: Lowell Roberts


1. Redesigning Learning Environments
* Riverside Community College Adapts a Good Idea

2. Pew Learning and Technology Program
* Twenty Round III Institutions Prepare Proposals
* Upcoming Pew Monograph: Quality Assurance for Whom? What Do
Providers and Consumers Want in Today's Distributed Learning
* State-of-the-Art Learning Environments: Results of The Pew
Grant Program in Course Redesign

3. Pew Project Updates
* California State Polytechnic University-Pomona: General
* Fairfield University: General Biology
* University of Alabama: Intermediate Algebra
* University of Dayton: Introductory Psychology
* University of Idaho: Pre-Calculus
* University of Massachusetts: Introductory Biology
* University of Tennessee, Knoxville: Intermediate Spanish

4. Common Ground
* Making Web Sites and Online Education Accessible
* Support Services for Online Education
* Online Learning Collaborations You May Not Have Thought Of
* Walking the Walk

5. PLTP Calendar

6. Archives and Reposting

1. Redesigning Learning Environments

* Riverside Community College Adapts a Good Idea

Earlier editions of this newsletter described the Virginia Tech (VT) Math Emporium that opened in 1998 with the objectives of increasing both the amount of math that students learned and the content retained as they moved on to other courses, and serving more students with fewer resources. In the last issue, the lead story described the redesign projects at two other institutions—University of Alabama and the University of Idaho—that modified the VT design and adapted it to suit the needs of their students. Since all three of these institutions are research universities, the question naturally arises as to whether this model can work in other settings. It can!

After careful investigation and consideration of their own situation, Riverside Community College (RCC) has established a Math Collaboratory for community college students taking Elementary Algebra. Enrolling 3600 students each year in 72 sections in the traditional model, Elementary Algebra was taught exclusively in didactic lecture format with minimal student-faculty interaction. Although lecture permits presentation to a large group, it does nothing to address the students' diverse learning styles, their widely varied preparation, or their need to experience math actively in order to learn it.

The most significant academic problem in the course was the decreasing student success rate (defined as a grade of C or better), which had deteriorated to below 50% since fall, 1992. Simultaneously, the student repeat rate for the course had increased to at least 30%. Student retention was very poor, with many students simply giving up and dropping out. Two factors compounded this problem: 1) RCC offers open admissions and attracts a significant population of students who need remedial help (e.g., in fall, 1999, only 4% of entering students could do college-level math), and 2) part-time faculty, who traditionally are not as available to students as full-time faculty, are now even less available due to a new calendar structure and a strong local economy. Like many institutions, RCC needs to educate the same number of students, increase their success rate, and decrease the repeat rate while teaching the course with fewer faculty

Launched in February, 2001, the redesign model at RCC incorporates many of the features of the Virginia Tech Math Emporium. RCC has eliminated the four weekly class meetings required previously and established computer facilities at each of the three participating campuses (Moreno Valley, Norco and Riverside). While faculty are offering two weekly Spotlight Sessions focused on areas that faculty know give students difficulty, attendance at them is optional. Any student who wishes may work through the material independently on a structured, but flexible, schedule without attending any classes.

Riverside has also developed some special features important to their setting. The Math Collaboratory will include audio-visual lessons on CD, a tutorial system designed particularly for RCC students, and links to online tutoring available through the textbook publisher. Because many of the students are new to the college experience, Riverside has incorporated an extensive math tutorial and counseling support system at the several sites involved. Students in Elementary Algebra will have the support of a dedicated counselor to work on college study habits and time- management skills. Those additional aspects offer a variety of human and technological resources to address different student learning styles and needs.

Part of the planning for this project involved review of commercial software products available for teaching math. The Collaboratory makes use of a Web-based artificial intelligence program (ALEKS) that generates individualized assessments, study plans, and active learning sets for homework. Students will take a midterm exam using Quzmaster software. Each lab also includes spaces for paper and pencil activities. To offer assistance to students, an instructor and tutors are always on duty in the lab.

The redesign project required that math faculty members standardize the Elementary Algebra curriculum. This was a monumental task, accomplished through a common final-exam committee and a common syllabus committee. The two committees rewrote the course outline of record, developed common midterm exams, standardized the final exam, developed a session-by-session outline of material for spotlight sessions that coordinate with ALEKS topics, and designed worksheets to be used by students as lab activities in the redesigned course. All instructors teaching redesigned courses have agreed to use the common materials. An assessment committee has prepared surveys and a pretest that will be administered to all students taking a redesigned course.

The goals of the redesign at RCC are to encourage students to take an active role in their own learning, building on timely assessment, preferred learning styles, and faculty guidance, and to move from a seat-time model to one based on subject matter mastery. The redesign will produce a 45% cost-per-student reduction from $206 to $113, an annual savings of $333,576. Additional savings will result from freeing classrooms for other classes, reducing student repeat rates, and increasing retention rates.

Riverside Community College is modeling this new learning environment on the success of the Virginia Tech Math Emporium while customizing the scale and focus of their efforts. RCC is leveraging the power of information technology to establish an individualized, learning environment suitable to students' needs. And it is reducing the cost-per-student, while increasing the quality of the learning experience.

The redesign project at Riverside Community College provides further evidence that "learning math by doing math" is a good model. While some of the attributes of this design differ from those at other institutions, the basic model of providing a customized, flexible learning environment works in multiple settings. For additional information about this project, visit Riverside Community College or contact Anthony Beebe at

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 2. Pew Learning and Technology Program

* Twenty Round III Institutions Prepare Proposals

Twenty institutions have been selected by the Pew Grant Program in Course Redesign to move to the final stage of the Round III application process. These twenty institutions sent teams of three to a second workshop for applicants held in San Antonio, Texas on March 15 and 16. These institutions will submit full project proposals on June 1. From this group, ten will receive grants of $200,000 each.

The institutions selected to submit proposals are: Arizona State University, Brigham Young University, California State University-Chico, Drexel University, Florida Gulf Coast University, George Mason University, Iowa State University, Lehigh University, Northern Arizona University, Ohio State University, Portland State University, Prince George's Community College, Rochester Institute of Technology, Shoreline Community College, Tallahassee Community College, University of Kentucky, University of New Mexico, University of Southern Mississippi, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

* Upcoming Pew Monograph: Quality Assurance for Whom? What do Providers and Consumers Want in Today's Distributed Learning Environment?

The latest monograph from the Pew Program in Learning and Technology will be published in April. Based on a symposium held in July 2000, the monograph, entitled "Quality Assurance for Whom? What do Providers and Consumers Want in Today's Distributed Learning Environment?" discusses the timely topic of quality assurance from two perspectives: that of higher education providers and that of students. As might be anticipated, those perspectives are not necessarily the same. Representatives from institutions, accrediting groups, and higher education membership organizations offered their expert input on this important topic at the July symposium. The monograph will be distributed in print and will be available on the program's Web site.

* State-of-the-Art Learning Environments: Results of The Pew Grant Program in Course Redesign

Two opportunities to learn about the results of the Round I projects were recently held. Seventy-five people gathered on November 13, 2000, in Orlando, Florida, and 165 attended a second session in Dallas, Texas, on February 26, 2001. Presenters from the Round I projects shared their experiences and responded to many questions about how they had accomplished their objectives and what challenges they had met—and overcome! The audiences found both days valuable and encouraged the program to sponsor similar events in the future.

Two more seminars are in the planning stages for October 2001 and February 2002 to report on lessons learned in the Round II projects. Specific dates and locations will be announced to this list serve.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 3. Pew Project Updates

* California State Polytechnic University–Pomona: General Psychology

The Cal Poly–Pomona team has completed the final storyboards for the Cirque de Psycholodermia, the learning courseware. During the development period, they moved away from an animated interactive linear format to one of discovery and analysis. A number of operant conditioning and gaming techniques have been utilized to increase students' time on task. The voices of students from the Theater department are being used for the animated characters. Usability testing on the courseware will begin in approximately six weeks.

Cal Poly has also made good progress in the development of their random test generator. Since the campus has invested in the WebCT program platform for online courses, they plan to use it for this portion of the project. The test banks have almost been completed, and the team is now in the training stage of some of the more sophisticated operations of WebCT3.1.1. This component will be in place for the pilot period in late March. The team has also produced three new video streaming components for the project. Finally, Cal Poly is revising the student manual and course Web site to include all of those changes. For more information on Cal Poly –Pomona's redesign of General Psychology, contact Sonia Blackman at

* Fairfield University: General Biology

The Departments of Biology, Economics, and Mathematics of Fairfield University are hosting a conference on June 17–19, 2001, entitled Technology, Pedagogy, and Course Redesign. The conference is designed for instructors interested in exploring creative uses of technology to enhance teaching and learning in introductory- level courses. The goal is to initiate a dialogue among faculty and to share ideas about the productive use of technology in cost- effective ways. Rather than developing new strategies in isolation, the goal is to gain from the collective insights of the participants and thus save time lost to projects that have been tried by others and found ineffective. Participants should be prepared for demonstrations of applications, workshops, and hands-on experimentation with technology resources.

Currently, Fairfield University faculty in mathematics, economics, and biology are working on projects that target students at the introductory level. Those projects involve technology in and out of the classroom and have a variety of proposed learning outcomes. They plan to share the models with participants by presenting the ideas and involving everyone in demonstrations of our techniques. In addition, they have invited teams of presenters from other institutions to share their ideas and models of course and curriculum redesign. All presentations and workshops will focus on what students and teachers actually do to make the strategies work. The goal of the conference is to actively involve participants in the use and development of solutions to classroom challenges. Breakout sessions will be organized around common questions and themes that emerge in presentations and audience dialogue.

For additional information on the conference, contact Dr. Larry Miners, Department of Economics at 203-254-4000, x2868, or For more information on Fairfield University's redesign of General Biology, contact Noel Appel at

* University of Alabama: Intermediate Algebra

The redesigned Intermediate Algebra course was taught during the fall semester in the Mathematics Technology Learning Center (MTLC), a seventy-seat computer lab designated specifically for the course. The success rate for the course was 25% higher than the rate for the traditional version of the course taught during the fall 1999 semester, but the success rate is still lower than desired. Student perception of the course was mixed. Some students found the approach a great improvement over traditional instruction. Others, however, were uncomfortable with the student- centered nature of the course and were put-off by the increased demands of the computer-based instruction (i.e. the number of problems that they were required to work).

The record number of students enrolled in the course during the fall 2000 semester (1,131) stretched the capacity of the MTLC facility. Near the end of assignment and test periods, the computer lab was unable to handle demand and students were sometimes forced to wait to obtain a seat in the lab. This was a frustrating experience for many students, which reduced student engagement in the course and led to a decline in student success. To deal with the problem, a second classroom was added to the MTLC facility and the number of computers available was increased from 70 to 110. During the spring 2001 semester a second course, Remedial Mathematics, enrolling 87 students is also being taught in the MTLC. The increased capacity and smaller number of students enrolled in Intermediate Algebra (587) during the spring semester has diminished the demand problems experienced during the fall and allowed the faculty to focus on student success and issues related to presenting multiple courses in the facility.

A goal of the course redesign effort is to expand the use of computer-assisted instruction to all precalculus mathematics courses and to some courses at the calculus level and above. While some of the courses may be taught entirely in the MTLC, others will use the facility to supplement other forms of instruction. The Department of Mathematics is developing a computer-based version of Precalculus Algebra, a large- enrollment (2,100 students per year) course for engineering, science, and business majors. It hopes to pilot test the format in selected sections during the 2001-02 academic year. Obviously, a significantly larger facility will be required to teach additional courses using computer-assisted instruction. A proposal has been submitted to the U.S. Department of Education that would fund development of a 225-station computer facility that would accommodate multiple, large-enrollment mathematics courses. For more information on the University of Alabama's redesign of Intermediate Algebra, contact Hank Lazer at

* University of Dayton: Introductory Psychology

The lead development team of Drs. Ken Graetz, Greg Elvers, and Don Polzella from the Department of Psychology and Dr. Tom Skill from University of Dayton (UD) Information Technologies is redesigning the UD Introductory Psychology course for online delivery in all sections during the 2001-2002 academic year. Currently, the course is being piloted in one section. Students who registered for the pilot were required to sign an Informed Consent form stating that they agreed to be randomly assigned to either the traditional or online version of the course. Although both groups are able to access the online course and are required to participate in online activities, the students in the online condition do not have to come to lecture. They can meet with the instructor in person at any time and must come to class only to take scheduled exams. During the first class meeting, students were introduced to the instructor (Dr. Polzella), received some basic course orientation, and were assigned to an experimental condition.

There are approximately thirty students in each condition. All students completed the NEO Five-Factor Inventory (From S), a well-respected personality measure, and the Learning Style Inventory (Version 3), an instrument that identifies preferred learning style. The new course includes a collaborative learning project, in which teams of ten to twelve students meet over a three-week period using an online collaborative workspace application called Lotus QuickPlace. The groups are currently beginning their second team assignment. The quantity and quality of participation have been excellent, and the online team projects have proven to be very manageable. Students have taken good advantage of the online office hours and study sessions, using Live Sessions, a real-time collaboration feature in Lotus LearningSpace 4. With respect to exam performance, there is no significant difference between the two groups after the second midterm exam.

To gain a better understanding of why students avoid online courses, a survey was conducted of 200 students who did not register for the online course. Approximately 70% of the students reported being unaware of the online course. The remainder reported concerns about the course, including relatively high levels of agreement to a perceived lack of social interaction with other students and the instructor. Two other concerns were, "For as much money as I pay in tuition, I expect the instructor to be present in the classroom," and "Actually seeing the instructor talk helps me learn." Focus groups are currently being conducted to investigate several findings from this survey. The survey instrument and results are available on request.

The major task this month involves preparing faculty advisors for fall registration. In fall, all sections of Introductory Psychology will be online and advisors need to be prepared to answer student questions. Information about the course can be found at The site, which will serve as the gateway to all Lotus LearningSpace 4 courses at the University of Dayton, is currently under construction but the link to the Psychology Online information is working. For more information on the redesign, contact Ken Graetz at

* University of Idaho: Pre-Calculus

The University of Idaho is developing the Polya Mathematics Center modeled after the successful Math Emporium at Virginia Tech. Site development was delayed by a state safety project to install fire suppression sprinklers and elevators in the building in which Polya is located. That project was finally completed about six months later than its scheduled completion date. The university is now spending about $350,000 to remodel and air condition the site for Polya. Investment on development so far includes $200,000 from the Pew Course Redesign Grant, $100,000 from a State Board of Education grant for information technology support, and $350,000 in university funds for site development. The expansion of the project in summer 2002 will involve an additional investment of about $300,000, an amount to be raised from sources outside the university.

The team is now teaching Pre-calculus to a small class of 20 students in as near a simulation of the Polya atmosphere as can be achieved in an ordinary computer-equipped classroom. The simulations test student response to the computer-mediated exercises and tests provided by publishers Addison-Wesley-Longman and Prentice-Hall. The two software programs are similar and pedagogically sound, with only a few minor errors. Few students encounter difficulty in learning to use the programs, but they find them less elegant in presentation and navigation than they have come to expect from their experiences on the Internet.

An assessor is gathering data on success levels and student satisfaction with our traditional pre-calculus courses. The studies will provide baseline information to evaluate the Polya learning model. The team has completed the streaming media lecture series for both courses. Many of the lectures are now on a new Sun E450 server, which can deliver them in high quality MPEG format to more than 700 computers in student laboratories and dormitories. For more information on the University of Idaho's redesign of pre-calculus courses, contact Dene Kay Thomas at

* University of Massachusetts: Introductory Biology

In December, the University of Massachusetts completed its pilot semester of the redesign of Introductory Biology. The course used in-class problem-solving exercises and Web-based student preparation and quizzing system to enhance the classroom learning environment. The redesign section of the course was offered concurrently with two other lecture sections; one a traditional lecture section, and the other used in-class problem- solving. Early feedback indicates that the Web-based preparation and quizzing were well received by students. Analysis of the extensive assessment data collected throughout the semester from all three lecture formats is underway. Based on the positive early measures, the redesign features have been incorporated into the second course of the two-semester Introductory Biology sequence, thus providing an additional source of student assessment and the ability to track student outcomes over the course of academic year.

The software for the Web-based student preparation and quizzing system are being made freely available (Duck: and Preparation Page: Preliminary results from the Course Redesign Project have been presented at STEMTEC Five College Roundtable (Amherst, November 2000) and an invited seminar at MSU (East Lansing, January, 2001). The presentation and a video are available at Upcoming seminars include Building Creative Learning Environments (UMass, March, 2001), AAHE Conference (Washington DC, March, 2001), and Syllabus Press 2001 (Santa Clara, July, 2001). This material, plus additional links, can be found at For more information on the University of Massachusetts' redesign, contact Elizabeth Connor at

* University of Tennessee, Knoxville: Intermediate Spanish Transition

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville campus, is redesigning Intermediate Spanish Transition, an introductory language course taken by over 60% of entering students. The course is now midway through its first semester, with all materials available online. The project team is currently editing online exercises for consistency and to improve ease of use. Students and instructors have expressed frustration with certain aspects of the course, and those comments are being taken into consideration. A short survey of student attitudes and the midterm examination were recently administered and are being evaluated. The SILL Cognitive Style Questionnaire, SOPI Standardize Oral Interview, UT Spanish Placement Test, and Minnesota Language Proficient Assessments will be used for the research portion of the project. The final exam and a summative questionnaire are under construction. For more information on the University of Tennessee's redesign of Intermediate Spanish Transition, contact Susan Metros at

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 4. Common Ground

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

* Making Web Sites and Online Education Accessible

One of the greatest promises of online education is the potential for opening access to instruction for people with disabilities. But accessibility is one of online education's greatest challenges, too. Web site and online course accessibility is also the law for public institutions under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. For example, courses using streaming audio may discriminate against students with hearing impairments. Courses with graphics, pictures or video may make learning impossible for students with visual disabilities. Synchronous chat rooms cannot be used by some students with impaired mobility.

Institutions developing online courses should plan to be accessible from the start, especially considering the expense of retrofitting thousands of Web pages. It is so expensive, in fact, that some colleges and universities are building alternative sites for students with disabilities rather than redesigning existing sites. Information on accessibility, as well as assistive and adaptive technologies, is available at the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Accessibility Initiative (, the Center for Rehabilitation Technology at Georgia Tech (, and AAHE's Equal Access to Software Information–EASI (

* Support Services for Online Education

Tom Rocklin, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Iowa, has placed a goals survey online through which instructors can self-assess their learning goals and teaching strategies on a course-by-course basis. The Teaching Goals Inventory (, taken from Angelo and Cross' Classroom Assessment Techniques, asks instructors to rate goals from "not applicable" to "essential." The online inventory clusters responses and automates scoring, thus making the seminal work of Angelo and Cross more accessible by providing immediate feedback for assessing the effectiveness of syllabi in meeting instructional objectives.

Seeking to close the gap in access to information between have and have-not nations, the Open Society Institute offers libraries in nearly forty countries access to commercial databases for education and scholarly research. Funded by George Soros' foundations, the Electronic Information for Libraries Direct ( subsidizes the libraries' fees for using six EBSCO Publishing databases. In 2000, scholars downloaded 1.4 million full-text articles. OSI is looking now for EIFL corporate sponsors in order to insure the long-term continuation of the service.

The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education's Guide to Developing Online Student Services ( offers best-practice examples of how institutions provide Internet versions of traditional student services. Colleges and universities that are developing online services can browse hundreds of examples of specific applications. WICHE has made that relatively easy by arranging components of institutions' online student services by topics, such as tutorial services, academic advising, and creating online community environments. Development of the Web site was funded by FIPSE.

* Online Learning Collaborations You May Not Have Thought Of

The University of California at Los Angeles, the National Film and Television School of Great Britain, and the Australian Film, Television and Radio School are jointly developing an international online film program. The for-profit Global Film School ( will cost up to $30 million to launch, the money being put up by private investors. The school will provide actual filmmaking training, not simply theory courses, in four programs: free media literacy courses for pre-college level students, low-cost open learning courses, courses for aspiring filmmakers, and high-level training for professional filmmakers.

Students in online courses originating from the sixty-member institutions of the Illinois Virtual Campus ( can take their exams, for a small fee, in local proctored testing centers scattered throughout the state. In Texas, 22 colleges and five public libraries are setting up similar centers, so that online students can take exams close to home and not have to travel to the campus offering the course. Texas community colleges already have their own proctored test centers ( The collaborating campuses in both states say they were motivated to establish the testing networks to satisfy faculty concerns about the integrity of testing in the online environment and to meet similar concerns of accrediting bodies.

Four online education power institutions are collaborating to strengthen their positions vis-à-vis technology companies marketing online products and services. Seeking to mitigate the growing pressure these vendors apply to colleges and universities, the University of California-Berkeley Extension Program, the University of Washington, Penn State's World Campus, and the University of Wisconsin's Learning Innovations Program have formed an alliance for joint purchasing and to share information on marketing, technical issues, student services, and faculty relations.

* Walking the Walk

Two institutions are using the Web to offer e-commerce courses. North Carolina State University's Managing the Digital Enterprise ( is a graduate course whose syllabus covers Web business models, privacy, security, encryption, intellectual property, and use measurement. The Web site of the course, developed and taught by Michael Rappa, a professor of technology management, is open to the public and receives an average of 1000 hits a day. There is an additional classroom component for registered students.

The University of Ottawa Law School offers Electronic Commerce Law Workshop, covering the legal processes of developing an e-commerce company. Taught by Michael Geist, an assistant professor of law, classroom and synchronous distance students "attend" online panel discussions by Canadian technology leaders and lectures by Professor Geist. The lectures and panel discussions also are watched via online video by Llew Gibbons' law class at the University of Toledo. In addition to completing the same assignments, teams of students from each institution must negotiate with each other to develop an international Web-site development agreement.

5. PLTP Calendar

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

*** APRIL ***

Publication of "Quality Assurance for Whom? What do Providers and Consumers Want in Today's Distributed Learning Environment?" based on a July 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 3.)
Grant Guide

June 4
Workshop 4: Assessing the Results

A workshop for Round 1 grant recipients to share final results of their projects and to compare planning and assessment goals with outcomes.
Philadelphia, PA.

June 22
Selection committee for the Pew Grant Program in Course Redesign meets.
Albany, NY

*** JULY ***

July 1
Round 3 grant awards announced.

*** OCTOBER ***

Public Seminar State-of-the-Art Learning Environments: The Pew Grant Program in Course Redesign Round I Results Faculty project leaders describe how to redesign large-enrollment courses to improve quality and reduce costs.

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 2001, The Pew Learning and Technology Program

Pew Learning and Technology Newsletter ~ March 2001 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~