The University of Southern Mississippi
How would you assess the transferability of the re-design approach you employed to new subject areas or disciplines?
In theory the model developed for World Literature could be transferred to almost any general education course that uses multiple sections to deliver uniform content to a large group of students. In practice the primary barrier to widespread adoption of the model is reaching consensus to do so--i.e., at minimum a department chair and a few faculty members need to get behind the plan to make it work. So far, despite a lot of interest in the redesign, chairs and faculty are still asking a lot of questions and taking a wait-and-see position. Concerns about the viability of streaming video, about the opportunity for students to cheat while submitting exams online, and about the educational efficacy of online technologies in general have hampered widespread adoptions. On the other hand, some individual faculty members are already retooling their courses to take advantage of aspects of the model, especially the use of streaming video, that have been pioneered on this campus through the redesign of World Literature. Thus converts are being made, momentum is building, and ultimately there will be greater transfer of what has been learned.
How are you disseminating the redesign among your colleagues?
A Web site (http://www.usm.edu/worldlit) profiling the course, although designed primarily with a student audience in mind, also gives interested faculty their first glimpse of the details of the course. The Web site has been extremely useful in educating colleagues about the hybrid nature of the redesign, a concept that many find much more palatable than a straightforward online course.
The course coordinator meets with any group that wants to hear about the redesign. To date, he has given presentations for the Department of English, campus technology brownbag series, Deans' Council, Chairs' Council, Liberal Arts College Council, and the university-level Academic Council. Both interest and skepticism run high, especially at the university's Academic Council level, where in spring 2002 a small group of faculty led an unsuccessful attempt to remove World Literature from a proposed new general education curriculum because of the use of online technologies. Concerns about cheating on multiple-choice quizzes and exams remain, despite the facts that traditional and hybrid students had nearly identical quiz results and that traditional students scored higher than hybrid students on exams. (These conclusions were tentative until just a few weeks ago. Now that all the data are in, the conclusions will be communicated to Academic Council.)
Measures of success vary widely. Administration wants to save money and have a course that provides all the information necessary to satisfy accrediting bodies. On those counts, the redesigned World Literature course is performing well. Faculty want to improve or at least safeguard academic standards. The data in the first section of this report indicate that the course is doing reasonably well on that score, too, and will likely do better next year as refinements are made. Some faculty, however, will never accept that the hybrid approach is the/a right one. It is a philosophical difference that goes beyond test results and final grades, instructor and student satisfaction, and conservation of resources. Such faculty will never be convinced that the redesigned course has succeeded, regardless of marked fiscal savings and academic improvements.
December 2002 Update: The course coordinator has given additional presentations about the redesign to the Student Government forum, the Provost, the President's cabinet, and a state-level conference on technology in the classroom. Concerns about cheating on multiple-choice quizzes and exams remain, despite the facts that in spring 2002 traditional and hybrid students had nearly identical quiz results and that traditional students scored higher than hybrid students on exams. These facts held true for fall 2002 as well, again suggesting that there is no statistical evidence that could be used to demonstrate the existence of cheating.
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