|Colleagues Committed to Redesign (C2R)
Lorain County Community College
Course Title: General, Organic and Biochemistry I (Chemistry 161)
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.
Lorain County Community College (LCCC) plans to redesign Chemistry 161, a General, Organic and Biochemistry course that is a key component of the curriculum for several Allied Health and Nursing degree programs as well as the Fire Science degree program. It also is the first course for the BSN program offered by the University of Akron. This Top 25 course served 490 students in 2006-2007 and 2,133 students over the previous five year period. Enrollment is projected to grow to 600 students annually. Students currently have the option of taking this course online, in the traditional face-to-face format or a blend with the lecture online and the face-to-face lab.
Chemistry 161 has traditionally had a large number of unsuccessful students, averaging a 28% DFW rate in the past two years. The course includes topics that are frequently challenging to students and it is often difficult for faculty to respond to different student learning styles. The team's goal is to reduce the DFW rate by at least 50%.
LCCC plans to use the Buffet Model. Online sections will be paired with a face-to-face section, providing the opportunity for students in both sections to either attend the lecture or use the online materials. Full-time faculty will develop lecture modules. The team's goal is to create a single blended course that standardizes the instruction and evaluation and allows students the flexibility to choose the format that enables them to achieve the desired learning outcomes.
The redesigned course will enhance consistency of material presented and eliminate course drift. Simulations will be incorporated into all sections, enabling students to explore and understand concepts. The existing online sections already feature ongoing assessment and prompt, automated feedback. This feature will be moved into all sections of the redesigned course. A diagnostic to determine math aptitude, important to success in this course, will be added. Students needing additional help in math will be required to complete special math assignments. Improving their math aptitude will increase success rates.
Student learning will be assessed by comparing scores on 5 common questions for each exam, using a common grading rubric. The department plans to assess the impact of course redesign through students' final grades, success on the common assessment and the analysis of student evaluations.
The redesign will enable LCCC to increase the number of students served annually from 980 to 1200, increasing the section size in the online course from 20 to 25 and in the face-to-face course from ~25 to ~35 during the year and to 60 during the summer. They plan to decrease the number of full-time faculty teaching the course from 3 to 2 and the part-time faculty from 14 to 10. Overall the cost-per-student will decrease from $339 in the traditional format to $192 in the redesigned course, a 44% savings.
Prior to the redesign, the course had a 49% student success rate and a 2.10 course grade point average. The fall 2007 pilot resulted in a 76% student success rate and a 2.67 course grade point average.
The buffet redesign model should be sustainable at the department and divisional level over time, and its effective employment should continue. As with each implementation phase, there will be a time to build understanding among faculty and staff. Meetings with adjunct faculty should continue. When new faculty (including full-time faculty who may not have been involved in the pilot redesign) are assigned to the course, all attributes of redesign need to be communicated. Faculty are very comfortable with sharing resources and information. Making sure that all faculty use common questions for each exam needs to be stressed so that all sections utilize them. Deans need to be aware of the size of classrooms and to plan to allow the movement of students between sections. Students need to be made comfortable with the ability to “float” between sections to enhance their own learning and utilize all the resources available to them. This cultural shift for students--to comfortably attend another lecture or lab--needs to be stressed.
Lorain County Community College is very committed to the redesign of all of the top 30 enrolled courses. The redesigned chemistry course will serve as a model for all laboratory science courses that will need to be redesigned, and continuous improvement of that model will be essential given the position the chemistry course holds at the institution.
Pedagogical Improvement Techniques
What techniques contributed most to improving the quality of student learning?
Consistency of instruction. Lectures paired with specific lab sections led to better connection and communication. Before, students could be in any lecture and/or lab and there was a limited match on topics covered, and students complained excessively in student evaluations of the difficulty of matching lecture and lab. Labs are now synchronized with lectures for all students. Students can freely move between lectures and labs and have greater ownership of their learning.
Developing a technology-based lab. The use of simulations in the lab and lecture created the first large increase in retention. The labs were also designed to be more engaging for the students. Simulations reduced the cost associated with each lab since the college no longer had to purchase and dispose of toxic lab material. It also allowed the online students to have the same laboratory experience as the on-campus students. Students were able to move between lab sections, and online students could come to campus to complete labs;
Buffet model. The buffet model allowed students to take advantage of all course resources regardless of the section in which they were enrolled. Course material for online students was available to all students. Greater consistency of lecture presentation was communicated to all instructors teaching every section of the course. Common exam questions were made available and utilized by adjuncts.
The team looks forward to watching the utilization patterns of students over time, especially regarding whether non-traditional and traditional students utilize the opportunities differently.
Cost Reduction Techniques
What techniques contributed most to reducing costs?
Increased class size. The initial movement of class size in online section from 20 to 25 had no negative impact. Land-based sections of 72 have been as successful as the smaller sections.
What implementation issues were most important?
Classroom scheduling. Scheduling of classrooms to accommodate the redesign did not occur; therefore, cancellation of small sections did not occur. To be cost effective, scheduling as outlined in the original proposal is essential. Individual faculty preference for using the larger classroom for their discipline (not the redesigned course) undercut the initial redesign effort.
Departmental consensus. The redesign would benefit from faculty ownership of the process, which has not completely happened. Student success is an easy “sell”; cost savings is not. The team believes, however, that at a publicly supported institution of higher education, cost savings should be part of each and every discussion.