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Colleagues Committed to Redesign (C2R)

Boise State University

Course Title: Introduction to Financial Accounting and Introduction to Managerial Accounting
Redesign Coordinator: Paul Bahnson

Status: This project was part of Round I of NCAT's FIPSE-funded Colleagues Committed to Redesign (C2R) program, 2007 – 2008. Participants conducted a pilot of their redesign plans in fall 2007. In the C2R program, NCAT’s role was to introduce the course redesign methodology to participating institutions, assist them in developing project plans and work with them through the pilot period. NCAT was not involved in full implementation; consequently, the project’s status beyond the pilot period is unknown. For more information, contact the project contact listed above.

Project Abstract
Progress Report (as of 3/1/08)

Project Abstract

Boise State University plans to redesign Introduction to Financial Accounting and Introduction to Managerial Accounting. These two introductory courses enroll ~1700 students annually in ~44 sections of ~40 students each and are taught by both full-time and part-time faculty. Students have the option of participating in numerous weekly tutoring sessions where they can receive help from graduate teaching assistants (GTAs). Instructors typically give three to four exams each semester.

These introductory accounting courses have been experiencing slow but steady growth (1-2% per year), and this trend is expected to continue into the foreseeable future. The goals of the redesign are 1) to deliver the courses more efficiently while meeting student demand, 2) provide an active learning environment for students, and 3) reduce tenure-track faculty teaching loads to provide more opportunity for research consistent with the university's plan to become a metropolitan research university of distinction.

The planned course redesign will use the Supplemental Model and will create an active learning environment. Students will use Homework Manager for their out-of-class work. Testing will continue to be the largest contributor to course grades and will move online. Quizzes for each chapter will be added. GTAs will continue to provide assistance in tutoring labs. Additional support will be provided by undergraduate learning assistants (ULAs). In the Introduction to Managerial Accounting course, a regular 50-minute large section session will be replaced with small group sessions of no more than 35 students each. Students will work on a series of case assignments, reinforcing course content covered during the prior class days.

The redesign will enhance course quality and consistency across sections. A new, larger section format will allow three faculty to specialize in teaching these introductory courses, enabling them to concentrate on design and delivery. Homework Manager will provide a highly interactive and responsive platform for out-of-class work. It will give students immediate feedback as well as hints and tips to help them move forward when they reach an impasse. Homework is imperative for course success, and the system will make it possible for faculty to give substantial weight to homework in course grades. The use of clickers in the classroom will encourage student participation and provide feedback to the instructor. Individualized assistance provided by the ULAs will more than compensate for the larger section size.

Boise State will face some difficulty in comparing student learning in the redesigned course to learning in the traditional course for two reasons: 1) prior to the redesign, many different instructors taught small sections and created their own tests and exams, and 2) the team moved to full implementation without a pilot so that they could not collect learning data from parallel sections. The team has developed a short quiz that will be administered on the first day of one of the courses students take after Introductory Accounting to assess how well students retained their learning. They will obtain and compare results for students who took the introductory course under the former small-section model and the current large-section model to see if there is any difference in student retention/recall. They will also compare aggregate student grade performance and persistence before and after the change. In addition, student evaluations of both formats will be compared to assess their satisfaction with the large-section experience.

Boise State will reduce costs by increasing section size and reducing the number of sections offered. The traditional courses were taught by a mix of full-time and part-time instructors who offered 44 sections (~40 students) annually. The redesigned course will require 12 sections of ~150 students each to accommodate annual student demand. Full-time tenure track faculty and adjunct faculty will no longer teach these courses. All sections will be taught by full-time lecturers assisted by undergraduate teaching assistants. The cost-per-student will decline from $121 in the traditional courses to $62 in the redesigned courses, a reduction of 49%.

Progress Report (as of 3/1/08)

The purpose of the redesign was to at least maintain the quality of the existing student experience in a new larger section environment while freeing up some of the faculty time previously devoted to delivering these two introductory accounting courses. The Department of Accountancy is generally pleased with student performance and satisfaction in the pilot.

Assuming that expected improvement in student performance and satisfaction results are obtained in subsequent semesters, the redesigned courses are self-sustaining both financially and operationally. One potential concern is turnover in faculty teaching these courses. The original team made a commitment to teach these courses for a full two years. If any of them decide to step out afterwards, it won’t be difficult to recruit other faculty for these assignments. The teaching load is manageable (two sections with one preparation), and the technology in use and the Undergraduate Learning Assistant (ULA) support offset many of the challenges of associated with teaching larger classes.

Based on lessons learned, the team hopes to see incremental improvement in the results for both courses going forward. There are at least two reasons supporting this optimism. First, the redesigned course upped the ante regarding the instructors’ use of technology both in and out of class. Some instructors noted that managing the technology while simultaneously delivering course content was a challenging endeavor, particularly early in the fall semester. This will not be the case in future semesters as the instructors are now fully familiar with the technology. Second, there were some technical problems with the textbook publisher-provided Homework Manager® system that is an integral part of the student experience for both courses, which caused frustration for the instructors and students alike and led to a lack of confidence in this technology. To overcome these problems, the spring 2008 courses will use a new edition of the text, and the publisher assures us that no similar problems will be encountered.

Lessons Learned

Pedagogical Improvement Techniques

What techniques contributed most to improving the quality of student learning?

Use of Undergraduate Learning Assistants (ULAs). Student feedback was consistently positive about their opportunity to work with ULAs. The ULAs gave students many more opportunities during the week to get face-to-face help than would have been available through faculty office hours. Many students reported that they particularly liked working with the ULAs because it was less intimidating than meeting with the professor.

Integration of publisher-provided computer resources. Homework Manager® provided students with a range of learning resources to supplement their class work, accessible anywhere there is an internet connection. In addition, students used Homework Manager® to prepare and submit their homework assignments. Homework Manager® provides immediate feedback on grades at the time of submission and offers coaching, upon request, while the work is in process.

Use of remote personal response systems (clickers). The clickers helped keep students engaged during class and provided instructors with a means of gauging student mastery of material on a real-time basis.

Use of frequent, low stakes, online testing. Giving a quiz covering each chapter rewarded students for keeping up. Having students take the quizzes online did not consume valuable class time, spared the instructor from manual grading chores and facilitated faster turnaround.

Friday labs. Labs were scheduled in place of the regular Friday class and conducted as small group sessions to cover cases (multiple part homework problems) related to the current chapter’s topics. ULAs ran the labs and provided individual assistance to students.

Cost Reduction Techniques

What techniques contributed most to reducing costs?

Larger section sizes. The redesign made it possible to redirect a substantial amount of tenure-track faculty time to research in support of the university and college strategic plans. Every tenure-track faculty member was able to teach one less class during the 2007-2008 academic year because of the redesign. The department also saved approximately $5,000 during the fall 2007 pilot by hiring fewer adjunct faculty, even after factoring in the added costs of the ULAs.

Homework Manager®. The participating faculty uniformly believe that the large sections would not have been manageable had it not been for the instructional technology employed.

Implementation Issues

What implementation issues were most important?

Technology issues. Registering students on both Homework Manager® and the clicker control software was attempted during the first week of the semester. There were too many complications to do both simultaneously. The two registrations will be phased in future semesters, with one taking place in each of the first two weeks.

Homework assignment submission. Teaching faculty learned that it is important that homework be turned in frequently (weekly) and on the same day each week. During fall 2007, homework was submitted less frequently and was due on different days some weeks because of differences in the class time devoted to particular chapters. Procrastination was a problem as was confusion about due dates. In retrospect, neither is particularly surprising as this is a sophomore level course.

Remote personal response systems (clickers). Students reported that they didn’t like using them. This may have been because instructors were still learning how to make best use of them. The team believes that more experimentation with the clickers is appropriate and will closely monitor student feedback in subsequent semesters.

Setting ULA schedules. Tutoring schedules were developed around the ULA’s reported availability, and the schedules varied by day throughout the week. The variation in tutor session times was confusing for faculty, staff and students. Going forward, tutoring schedules will be set in advance, at consistent times from day to day, and ULAs will select working times that fit their own schedules.



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