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University of Hawaii at Manoa

Course Title: Tools for the Information Age
Contacts:
David Nickles and Michael-Brian Ogawa

Status: This project originated as part of a collaborative program between NCAT and the University of Hawaii System, 2004 – 2006, and has been successfully completed. Students in the traditional course scored 66.18 and 68.95 on mid-term and final exams respectively compared to redesign students who scored 83.52 and 75.93 on the two measures. Students now spend two hours in lecture and two hours in lab rather than four hours in lecture. In addition, lectures are podcast in thirty-minute segments so that students can listen to them as they complete lab exercises and homework. While students can elect not to attend the lectures, about two-thirds continue to do so. Five-minute podcasts of chapter summaries are also available. The UH-Manoa team cited several important changes that have occurred as a result of the redesign such as greater consistency in grading and content covered, the ability to accommodate more students with the same staff, and an increase in level of questions asked by students indicating greater depth of learning in the new course format. For more information, contact Hae Okimoto at hae@hawaii.edu or the project contacts listed above.

Project Plan:
The Department of Information and Computer Sciences at UH at Manoa plans to redesign Tools for the Information Age, a required course for many majors that provides students the opportunity to learn critical spreadsheet, word processing, presentation, web usage and authoring, and graphics manipulation skills through the study of industry standard applications. Approximately 600 students enroll in this course each term. The traditional course has been offered in two lecture (~300 students) and 20 lab (~30 students) sections per term, taught by one full-time faculty instructor, one course coordinator, and 12 teaching assistants. The course has already been through one major restructuring during the past four years to reduce costs.

The course suffers from several problems typical of multiple-section courses: a) course drift and inconsistent learning experiences for students, b) a one-size-fits-all approach, c) course material that needs constant updating, and d) an inability to scale beyond the current infrastructure.

UH at Manoa will use the Replacement Model in its redesign. Half of the in-class laboratory learning activities will be replaced with interactive tutorials. The course will be enhanced by lecture podcasts, audio files that are automatically available for download to pocket memory drives. A course coordinator will direct the course team, which includes the instructor and undergraduate lab assistants. The instructor will offer course content through a combination of optional live lectures and required podcast media- and resource-enhanced presentations. The administration and scoring of quizzes and exams will be shifted to WebCT. Practical assignments will also be administered by WebCT and graded by undergraduate assistants trained for the task. The course coordinator will keep the entire team working in concert.

This iPod-based, technology-enhanced redesign will allow the department to improve the quality of the course. First, high quality media-enriched presentations used in all sections will eliminate course drift and inconsistent learning experiences for students. Second, the passive lecture environment will be replaced by media-enriched presentations (delivered via iPods and the Web) that require active student engagement and increase students' opportunity to progress at their own pace. Third, students will interact directly with iPod- and Web-based content, freeing the instructor and teaching assistants to help students when they need it.

The impact of the redesign on student learning will be assessed through a variety of means. UH at Manoa will compare grades from students who were enrolled in this course in the previous year (2004-05) and scores that were achieved on the final examination since the course grading scale and exams will be comparable. The team will also create pre- and post-tests for each learning module to measure how much students learn over the course of the semester. To assess implementation, the faculty and teaching assistants will keep journals and write brief end-of-term reports on the experience. These journals and reports will become part of a Web site used to disseminate information about how to transform a traditional multiple-section course into a single-section, technology-enhanced one.

Cost savings will be produced by 1) by doubling the number of students with only a small increase in staff 2) significantly reducing faculty time in the classroom by delivering lectures via media player, 3) employing undergraduate assistants for active student lab assistance, and 4) shifting time-intensive grading of assignments to WebCT. The department estimates a reduction in the cost-per-student from $125 to $94, a 25 percent savings, while doubling the number of students from 1024 to 2048. The cash savings will be used for similar academic enhancements in other redesign projects as well as for hardware and software upgrades.

 

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