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Missouri Course Redesign Initiative

Missouri Western State University

Course Title: Introduction to Business
Redesign Coordinator: Cindy Heider

Project Abstract
Final Report (as of 3/1/13)

Project Abstract

Introduction to Business is a medium-sized, introductory course for students who have fewer than 24 hours of credit including those in progress. The average annual enrollment is approximately 200 with students divided into eight or nine sections of 24 to 26 students each. Six sections are offered every fall; two to three are offered in the spring. The course, taught by both full- and part-time faculty, provides a broad survey of the major areas in business.

The redesign will address three academic issues: 1) One consequence of having a variety of full- and part-time faculty teach the course is considerable course drift. 2) The course has a perplexing rate of grade inconsistency between the fall and spring semesters. 3) Student success rates are not what they should be; both semesters have a significant number of D, W and F (drop, withdraw and fail) grades.

The redesign model chosen is the Replacement Model. Multiple sections of the course will be collapsed into one large section each term, meeting 50 minutes weekly, where learning modules will be presented in traditional lecture format. Modules will be delivered by either faculty with topic expertise or the course coordinator. For the other two, 50-minute meetings, students will be divided into smaller groups of 24–26 each where they will participate in interactive learning activities focused on learning modules and compete in an electronic stock simulation.

The redesign will enhance the quality of the course in multiple ways. First, delivering course content in the larger section format will ensure consistency of material and decreases course drift. Next, engaging students in interactive learning activities, both online and in class, will help students retain knowledge and develop critical thinking skills that support student success. Auto-graded assignments in Connect Business, the course management system, will engage students with course materials. Adjunct instructors will lead content-driven, interactive activities and undergraduate learning assistants (ULAs) will lead four-person student teams in the stock market simulation. Reducing lecture to once weekly and increasing interactive activities should result in students being more engaged and focused on their learning.

To assess the effects of the redesign, the team will pilot one section of the redesigned course in the spring of 2012 with 75-100 students. While redesign faculty will use additional assessment strategies (pre- and post-knowledge surveys), the primary assessment approach to determine redesign impact on student learning will be a common final exam given to students in the traditional sections and those in the redesigned pilot. Common final exam data will also be compared during full implementation of the redesign in fall 2012. The effects of grade inconsistency between semesters will be analyzed when data exists for both fall and spring semesters.

Cost savings will result from using fewer full-time faculty to teach the course. In the traditional mode, typically four faculty members taught the course in the fall and three in the spring. In the redesign, one full-time faculty member will deliver course content once weekly to a large section of students (150-160 in fall and 75-100 in spring.) Adjuncts and ULAs will lead the remaining weekly meetings. The cost-per-student will decline by 60%, from $325 to $130, and the savings will be re-purposed for the Craig School of Business to redesign other business courses.

Final Report (as of 3/1/13)

Impact on Students

In the redesign, did students learn more, less or the same compared to the traditional format?

Improved Learning

A common comprehensive final exam was used to measure academic performance between the traditional and redesigned courses. Students in the traditional course scored an average of 74%; students in the redesigned course scored an average of 73%. 

Improved Completion

The percentage of students earning a grade of C or better in the traditional course was 69%; in the redesigned course, it was 60%. 

Impact on Cost Savings

Were costs reduced as planned?

MWSU carried out its cost reduction plan of using fewer full-time faculty to teach the course. In the traditional format, typically four faculty members taught the course in the fall and three in the spring. In the redesign, the plan was for one full-time faculty member to teach the course to one large section of students (150-160 in fall and 75-100 in spring) with support from adjuncts and undergraduate learning assistants.

Cost reduction was, however, less than anticipated. In the past, the typical annual course enrollment was 200. During the course of the redesign, MWSU dropped its Associate of Business degree, which had required that students take the Introduction to Business course. This change unexpectedly dropped the annual enrollment by nearly half. With the reduction in sections, instruction was carried out by one faculty member and one adjunct. The cost-per-student was projected to decline by 60%, from $325 to $130. Instead, it declined by 33%, from $325 to $217. 

Lessons Learned

Pedagogical Improvement Techniques

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

Active learning and student engagement. The redesigned course was a MWF meeting.  One day a week was devoted to lecture and the rest of the time was spent on interactive group activities. The redesign relied heavily on keeping the students engaged in simulations (e.g., an interactive stock market simulation where student teams competed against one another), in-class group problem solving, and individual reading assignments of articles that were pertinent to the topics assigned. Guest lecturers who were professionally engaged in the current topic area made the topic area come to life for the students. They readily engaged in the questions and answers session that every guest lecturer provided.

Connect homework manager. Students were given one homework assignment per week to do online in Connect, which came with tutorials and flash cards for the students to continue learning outside of class time. To encourage the students to work on Connect, 14% of the student’s grade was dependent on the homework done in Connect. This motivated them to read the material assigned and come to class prepared.

Attendance. Freshman-level elective classes often have problems with low attendance.  To encourage attendance, role was taken during every lecture period, and students were given a small number of points for their attendance. This helped keep attendance up. For the non-lecture days, each activity had points assigned to it. This too helped with attendance. 

Cost Reduction Techniques

What techniques contributed most to reducing costs?

Increasing section size. In the traditional course format, there were several sections of the course with class size limited to 25 students, which required a combination of several faculty and adjuncts to cover the number of sections. The redesigned format offered only one section per semester with a limited size of 90 students, which required only one faculty member (who was also the coordinator) and one adjunct. This reduced costs by 33% per student.

Implementation Issues

What implementation issues were most important?

Classroom management. The active learning activities were a hit. However, with a large class size (65 students), and only two people to supervise, it was sometimes difficult to keep students on task and the noise level to a minimum.

Small computer lab. The computer room that students used for the group teams to work on the Stock Market Simulation was limited to 30 computers. This required rotating groups every other class period and took more time to do. However, the midterm feedback survey indicated that the students liked competing with their classmates, and other teams in the state that were also playing the game. It was a great teaching tool for emphasizing the accounting, finance and economics portions of the class.

Student resistance. The students did not like having outside homework assigned every week. This combined with less lecture time forced students to read the textbook and come to class prepared. There was a small group of students in each semester that refused to buy the access code to get into the Homework Manager, and this hurt their grade considerably. One reason the redesigned group had lower final grades was that they were very lax in doing their online homework, which was worth 14% of their grade. The traditional group had very little, if any, homework assigned to them.


Will the redesign be sustained now that the grant period is over?

The team plans to continue the redesign for at least two more years since the enrollment numbers will stay high enough for at least that length of time. The course redesign was certainly worth the time and effort. Two other disciplines on campus have already adopted a redesign model for their large course sections and many others are considering it too. This will result in a net gain for the university as a whole.



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