Tallahassee Community College
Looking back on the course pilot itself, what worked best?
The course Web site has been a resounding success for students and faculty alike. The convenience and accessibility of all course related materials and the opportunities for sharing drafts, exemplary papers and critiques have been extremely valuable.
The new curriculum appears at this early stage to be instrumental in producing better writing. This is an area that TCC will follow closely as the project progresses and as students move into subsequent courses requiring extensive writing.
Electronic Response To Student Drafts
The electronic response feature, whether through use of Smarthinking or through local responders using the Microsoft Comment feature has been very successful. The faculty who used Smarthinking are impressed with the quality of the responses. The faculty who used local responders reported a three-way collaboration between the student, the responder and the faculty member. The success of this feature, regardless of whether it was a commercial service or an in-house service is the one that was least anticipated by the team.
December 2002 Update: The strengths of the redesign continue to be the same as those listed above. The combination of an integrated reading and writing curriculum with meaningful assignments, readily accessible materials, opportunities for collaboration, and prompt, constructive feedback to drafts are contributing positively to the students' success and educational experience. Preliminary data indicate improved quality of students writing and improved success.
What worked least well?
The team took this opportunity to redesign the curriculum as well as introduce several technological innovations resulting in redesign elements on several different fronts. Changing the curriculum naturally led to assessment issues as well as delivery issues. The ups and downs associated with the integration of technology added to the mix and the team, and the students, were overwhelmed at times.
The grammar skills issue has been addressed several times in this report. It was anticipated that finding appropriate modules would be a relatively easy task. However, this has not been the case. The publisher provides the quizzes in a secure environment but, in the view of the faculty, does not provide adequate review. Students are currently directed to several different sites (Academic.com, New Century Handbook, Online Writing Lab) to actually do the review. The publishing company has a good diagnostic test, but it is not secure and that is an issue for some faculty.
The reading skills issue also presents problems. As with the grammar skills, the publisher provides secure online quizzes with immediate feedback, but insufficient review. The original plan was to use the Weaver Instructional System, which is an instructional system with excellent branching diagnostics and related modules. However, Weaver is not yet Web-based (although this is in progress) which would limit access to campus labs. The team continues to work actively toward resolution of this issue.
December 2002 Update: The problematic issues from the pilot remain the most difficult to resolve as implementation continues.
What are the biggest challenges you face in moving from the course pilot to the project's next phase?
The major goals of the redesign remain unchanged. However, emphasis has shifted due to the pilot experience. The team intends to explore best practice and how students of all abilities are affected rather than focus on remediation of under-prepared students. This expansion is caused by the increased awareness of design team as to the number and type of technological support elements.
The features of the redesign will dictate the extent of individualization possible. While the redesigned course will be learner-centered, the original plan to make the course fully individualized, including features such as self-pacing; student selected tracks, teacher as mentoring tutor, is not advisable at this stage. The managerial difficulties of complete individualization make implementation of all of these changes difficult to achieve concurrent with technological support additions.
The experience of pilot has shown that the materials are more appropriate for 24x7 home access than in-class individual or group work. We will also increase emphasis on electronic response innovations as a result of our outsourcing experiences with both Smarthinking and a pool of local electronic responders.
There are several challenges with regard to course content. The first is the programmatic exploration of the new curriculum and scoring rubric, along with new exit instrument. The second is the issue of balancing of instructional compliance and autonomy, and the third is the need to explore and create best practice for state test preparation (College Level Academic Skills Test) within the redesign.
The biggest challenges with regard to technology revolve around finding appropriate, effective software. To this end the team will continue to find, select, pilot, and implement writing, reading, and state test skills review modules, create and pilot state test review materials with online diagnostics and direct routing into individualized skills work, and online outcome measurements.
There are two immediate challenges with regard to faculty development and support. The first challenge is to pilot online training manual of redesign features and course Web site in preparation for the fall semester. The second is the programmatic exploration of best practice for all of the redesign features. This will engage all of the full-time faculty members and many adjunct faculty members.
With regard to institutional and departmental understanding and support, the major challenge is to spread the innovation and share course Web site and other technological features and practices, including new curriculum and library orientation modules, with other divisions. There is a great deal of interest from other department and divisions. The challenge is not to generate the interest but to provide the leadership and momentum for change. A second challenge is to explore the possibility of continuing the best redesign features into second semester of Freshman Composition and a third challenge is to continue to work closely with Writing Center and other Academic Support personnel for best practice of tutorial services.
In relation to student attitudes and reactions, it is clear that many students got lost in the shuffle of implementation. While many students were wildly enthusiastic, others were overwhelmed. The challenge here is to refine the redesigned course to meet the needs of all students. Individual mentoring of students within the redesign will allow for constant feedback as to utility and efficacy of all redesign elements.
December 2002 Update:
Program in Course Redesign Quick Links: