|Colleagues Committed to Redesign (C2R)
Edison State College
Course Title: College Reading
Status: This project was part of Round III of NCAT's FIPSE-funded Colleagues Committed to Redesign (C2R) program, 2009 – 20010. Participants conducted a pilot of their redesign plans in fall 2009. 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.
Edison State College plans to redesign College Reading, a developmental reading course enrolling ~1,000 students annually. The traditional course is predominantly lecture-based. Classes meet face-to-face twice a week and spend an additional required hour each week in a lab where students work on their reading skills. Lab activities are graded and must be completed to pass the course.
The traditional course faces a number of academic challenges. First, students who place into the course enter with a wide range of competencies and skills. They need different kinds of assistance to master the content, but currently they are forced to move through the course at the same pace. Second, coverage across sections is inconsistent since 90% of them are taught by adjuncts. In addition, sections are offered on Friday evenings, weekends and early mornings to accommodate student needs, and all are filled. The campus lacks both space and resources to offer additional sections.
Edison will redesign College Reading using the Replacement Model. The number of weekly face-to-face class meetings will be reduced from two to one and the number of lab hours will increase from one to two. Students will work on their reading skills using the software package Read On under the guidance of paraprofessionals. A master course will be created using Read On and CE-6, Edison’s course management system. There will be a common class schedule and syllabus with activities and topics to be covered in the classroom meetings. All sections will use the same materials, tests and assignments.
The redesigned course will enhance the students’ educational experience and improve program consistency in course content and delivery. The course will be taught by full-time faculty. The student learning experience will be individualized. Formative assessment will place students in level-appropriate instruction while the management program will monitor student progress and prescribe an individualized, self-paced program of differentiated instruction. Continuous evaluation will redirect students to prior levels of instruction when re-teaching of non-mastered skills is necessary. A long term goal is to enable students to take the state exit exam when they are ready and receive credit early, moving more rapidly out of prep courses and into college-level courses.
Student learning will be assessed by comparing performance on two sets of pre- and post-tests given to parallel sections during the pilot phase. The first set will be the college placement test and the state exit exam. The Nelson Denny will be the second set. The number of students who complete the coursework successfully in less than fifteen weeks will also be tracked.
The cost of instruction will be reduced by doubling section size from 25 to 50 students, which will eliminate the need for adjunct faculty. This is possible since much of the homework will be graded by the software, reducing each professor’s grading time by at least half. Edison will increase the number of paraprofessionals who work with students in the lab from four to six. These changes will decrease the cost-per-student from $262 to $151, a 42% reduction. The cost savings will enable the department to strengthen other courses.
Students in the redesigned course performed the same as students in the traditional course on the State of Florida reading exit exam. The number of students passing the course with A, B, or C was the same (74%).
When both successful completion of the course and passing the state exit exam were considered as a single measure of success, students in the redesigned course outperformed those in the traditional course (65.8% vs. 47.5%).
Students were given the opportunity to take the exit exam early if they successfully completed all of the modules and passed the course final exam with a 70%. Twenty-one students were given the exit exam four weeks prior to the end of the semester. All passed with an average exit exam score of 82.
The redesign project has been instrumental in opening the way to consider different methods of delivery at the college. The administration is very interested in an “open-entry, open-exit” approach to learning. They have embraced the idea of an active learning emporium that would include both developmental and college-level courses. The goal is to allow students to move from one course to another more quickly than is possible in a traditional format. A pilot emporium is being planned for fall 2010. The lessons learned in the pilot redesign will be invaluable as the college moves towards implementing the emporium model in more disciplines.
Pedagogical Improvement Techniques
What techniques contributed most to improving the quality of student learning?
A variety of materials. The college installed Read On on computers in the reading lab. Students also had access codes for My Reading Lab. In addition, the team used the Master Reader textbook, Thinking Through the Test, and the Lab Manual which accompanied the Pearson textbook. Students in the lab also had access to an SRA kit.
Diagnostic testing. The redesign students were given the diagnostic pretest in My Reading Lab, the screening and placement tests in Read On, and a standardized reading test called Grade. Using the results from these assessments, lab instructors gave each student an individualized reading prescription to work on for the remainder of the semester. Students were given a choice of materials to work on to meet the objectives in their prescription.
Course management system. All sections of the redesign used the college’s course management system, CE-6, as an integral part of the program. Each of the learning modules was set up in CE-6. Students worked their way through the learning modules viewing Power Point presentations on skills and taking practice tests as well as mastery tests at the end of each module. The tests were graded by the computer, and the scores were automatically recorded in the students’ grade book. Students were able to view their progress when they logged into the course each day. The course management system was also used by instructors to communicate with students through the announcement function, the discussion board and email. Some instructors held informal chat sessions with students outside of class time, which allowed the students to communicate with each other and build an online learning community.
Focus groups. In addition to spending one class period in the lab each week, students were required to attend focus group sessions taught by full-time faculty. The purpose of these sessions was to help build a learning community. Focus group topics included vocabulary development, study skills and integration of skills through discussion of two assigned novels. Faculty used this time to bring students together into small groups to work on reinforcing and synthesizing the skills that they were developing in the lab. Students were required to prepare a reading portfolio that was used to access their learning in this part of the course. Students who were progressing through the skills portion of the course were given the opportunity to work ahead on their portfolios if they wanted to exit the course early.
Cost Reduction Techniques
What techniques contributed most to reducing costs?
Doubling the number of sections taught by full-time faculty. The redesign involved doubling the number of students taught by the full-time faculty member. The average faculty load was four sections with 25 students in each section. The full time faculty member in the redesign course taught five sections with 50 students in each section. Three adjunct faculty members supervised the students in the lab portion of the course. These changes decreased the cost-per-student by 42%.
Splitting sections. The redesigned courses were set up as follows: the full time faculty member increased the number of students in each of her five sections from 25 to 50. Each of the five classes met for 1:40 minutes two times per week. The students were assigned one scheduled focus group meeting per week (25 per group) and one lab meeting per week (25 per group). Three adjuncts were hired to work with the students in the lab during their assigned lab time. This eliminated the use of six adjuncts.
Shared resources. The use of computers enhanced the delivery of course content and reduced faculty labor by grading all of the tests and tracking student progress. The use of MyReadingLab and the CE-6 allowed students to work on their skills at home, eliminating the need for any required “lab hours” in the open lab. This reduced the burden on the instructional assistants who staffed the open lab, allowing them more time to work with English students who still need help with their required lab hours.
What implementation issues were most important?
Technology issues. During summer 2009, one of the redesign adjunct faculty worked with the redesign coordinator in a test section, which was part of a new summer institute program. The purpose of the pre-pilot was to test some of the materials and techniques prior to the pilot implementation in fall 2009. Midway through, the instructors discovered that MyReadingLab was too difficult for many of the students in our program. This led the instructors to search for a substitute computer program to help develop the skills of the students at the lower end of the spectrum. The team was impressed with the Read On program and decided to purchase it for use with the redesign program. Unfortunately, by the time the purchase order had been approved and the installation and training scheduled, it was time for the fall semester to begin. It took about three weeks to get the students using the program.
Training of faculty and staff. When the redesign plan was first proposed, the reading faculty thought that MyReadingLab would suffice as the only material needed for the lab portion of the course. It quickly became evident that students would need a wider variety of materials and that the course management system would be used for testing. All of the faculty in the redesign program were familiar with MyReadingLab; however, none of them had much experience with CE-6 or Read On, so they were forced to take a crash course on the job. This put pressure on them as well as on those who were doing the training as it was difficult to teach the instructors how to use the technology when they were under pressure of teaching the classes. In the future, a more organized effort needs to be made to train all faculty and staff in the use of all of the technology well before the classes begin.
Student learning curve and confusion. Many of the students were not used to computer-assisted learning. They needed to learn how to use the different programs, which took some time and training. Students were also confused by having two different instructors for the class. This abated after midterm but created a problem in the beginning. During spring 2010, one instructor taught both the lab and focus groups. The team will continue to monitor the results of this change. Moving to an emporium model and having no formally scheduled focus groups may be another way to solve this problem.
More communication and coordination between the lab and focus group sessions. Once the course began, the lab instructors and the full-time faculty member found it difficult to meet to discuss problems and to coordinate activities. This led to confusion and frustration on the part of the students and the faculty members. A scheduled weekly meeting would have eliminated this problem.