Missouri Course Redesign Initiative
Northwest Missouri State University
Course Title: Principles of Management
Principles of Management is a high-enrollment course in the Booth College of Business and Professional Studies at Northwest Missouri State University. To ensure a common professional component among the accredited business programs, all students majoring in accounting, business economics, business education, business management, finance, international business, management information systems, marketing or office information systems are required to take Principles of Management. Traditionally, two or more faculty members have split the duties, teaching a total of four to five sections of up to 50 students each semester. Total enrollment each semester is typically between 200 and 250 students.
The traditional mode of instruction has contributed to several academic problems that will be addressed by the course redesign. The way the course has been administered in the past has led to significant course drift in the teaching style, rigor and overall learning outcomes of students across sections taught by different instructors. The preparedness of students for upper-level courses has also differed among sections taught by different instructors, leading to inconsistent knowledge and performance in those classes. Because Principles of Management is a lower-level, prerequisite course for so many upper-level courses, improving the consistency of the knowledge and skills of students completing the course will support and improve the upper-level curriculum.
The planned redesign model is a Replacement Model. In-class meeting times will be reduced from three, 50-minute classes to two, 50-minute sessions per week. Students will prepare outside of class by reading the textbook and using web-based resources to complete low-stakes assignments and quizzes (approximately 30% of the overall grade.) Vocabulary and practice questions and problems will be moved online and will include low-stakes quizzes and activities. Students will engage in projects using computer-based learning plans and computer-based exercises provided by textbook supplemental material. Discussion of management topics and cases will be conducted in an online environment through small-team threaded discussions and case studies of managerial concepts, monitored by the instructor and graduate assistants. In-class time will be used to reinforce material with lecture and real-life examples of concepts and current events. The threaded discussions and online assessments will enable faculty to detect areas in which students are not grasping key concepts, which will be revisited in lecture.
The redesigned course will enhance quality by facilitating more discussion. Students will learn from each other by applying concepts to their personal experiences and observations. The online, small-group discussions will allow students to share thoughts and ideas without the traditional fear of “speaking up” in classroom sessions. The redesigned course will also aid in student preparedness for class. The redesign will facilitate a deeper understanding of material and how it applies to real-life situations.
Assessment of the impact of the redesign will be done using a baseline “before” (traditional) and “after” (redesign) method of obtaining data and comparing learning outcomes. The team has baseline information about student learning outcomes in the traditional format from a common, comprehensive, final examination that tests students’ knowledge of key management concepts. This exam has been given over the past six semesters (12 sections totaling approximately 500 students). That data will be compared by using the same final exam in the redesigned course.
The redesign will reduce costs by increasing section size from ~40 to 100 students, reducing the number of sections offered each year from eight to four and reducing the number of different instructors teaching the course from three to one. The redesign will also probably include graduate students who will assist the faculty member by monitoring the online case analyses and discussions. The cost per student will decline from $221 to $113, a 49% reduction, while simultaneously reducing course drift and improving course consistency. Cost savings will allow for redistribution of departmental resources to offer more upper-level courses.
In the redesign, did students learn more, less or the same compared to the traditional format?
Students in the redesigned section of the course had a lower average score on a common final examination used to evaluate student performance. The average score for traditional sections was 77% while the average score for the redesigned sections was 71%.
Other Impacts on Students
There was a significant decline in attendance between the traditional sections and redesigned sections. However, students who regularly attended and who completed web-based assignments and activities performed significantly better than students who did not regularly attend classes. The instructor observed better attitudes and development of organization, planning, and time-management skills from students who regularly attended.
Were costs reduced as planned?
NMSU carried out its cost savings plan which was to reduce costs by increasing section size from ~40 to 100 students, reducing the number of sections offered each year from eight to four and reducing the number of different instructors teaching the course from three to one. Graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) assisted the faculty member by monitoring the case analyses and discussions and doing some grading. The cost per student declined from $221 to $113, a 49% decrease.
Pedagogical Improvement Techniques
What techniques contributed most to improving the quality of student learning?
Web-based learning assessments and assignment submissions. Traditional in-class quizzes and activities were replaced with online learning assessments and submission of writing assignments. This method allowed students more autonomy in completing course work at their convenience (within clearly defined guidelines and prescribed due dates). While many students appreciated this freedom, students lacking planning, organization and time-management skills did not perform as well, particularly in the early stages of the course. However, development of these skills was evident in many students.
Using technology to provide students with access to course materials. Technology provided students with 24-hour access to course learning materials such as the course syllabus, PowerPoint presentations, review sheets and solutions to assessments and assignments (provided following prescribed due dates). Students found these to be helpful in preparation for lecture and examinations, as well as accessing feedback for online learning assessments and assignments.
Cost Reduction Techniques
What techniques contributed most to reducing costs?
Consolidation of sections. The redesign of Principles of Management consolidated four to five sections (40 students per section) into two sections (100 students per section), reducing necessary faculty by half.
Online resources. The use of technology in the redesigned course reduced the time and resources necessary for traditional course delivery. Completion of online learning assessments and written assignments in a web-based format make the redesigned course essentially paperless (with the exception of paper-based, in-class examinations.)
What implementation issues were most important?
Attendance. The traditional mechanisms for monitoring student attendance (in-class quizzes and in-class assignments) were a vital aspect in encouraging students to attend class in the traditional sections. Moving these assessments to a web-based environment significantly decreased student attendance in the redesigned sections, subsequently reducing assignment completion rates as well as learning outcomes and course completion rates. Plans are in place for testing card-swipe technology, recently obtained by the university, to encourage and monitor student attendance.
Technology. Because all students at Northwest Missouri State University are provided with a laptop computer, the transition to web-based learning activities and assignment submissions was relatively easy. User connectivity was not a problem in the classrooms. Some wireless connectivity issues in residence halls or students’ homes occasionally created problems for students in completing online learning assessments or submitting assignments by their prescribed due dates/times.
Campus Resources. Increasing class sizes from 40-50 students per section to 100 students per section required use of larger lecture halls for the in-class meetings. With only three rooms on campus that can accommodate the larger class sizes, scheduling was initially an issue. In the first semester of full implementation, one section was able to meet as the course was originally designed in two, 50-minute meetings per week. However, the other section was forced to meet only once per week for 100 minutes.This issue has been resolved and both sections are currently meeting twice per week for 50 minutes per meeting.
Student buy-in. Northwest Missouri State University has used average class size and student/faculty ratio to promote itself as having a culture that supports students with more one-on-one interaction between students and faculty. The redesign is perceived by some students as going against that philosophy. While some students have enjoyed the autonomy and freedom that the redesigned course offers, others have expressed dissatisfaction and a sense of being "lost in the crowd" in the larger sections. This particularly hurts students who lack the necessary planning, organization and time- management skills necessary to succeed in college. However, students who demonstrate these skills have performed adequately in mastering the subject matter, while those who do not seem to struggle with the autonomy that the redesigned course provides.
Will the redesign be sustained now that the grant period is over?
NMSU does not anticipate the sustainability of the course redesign on campus to be a problem. Issues encountered with classroom availability and room scheduling during the first semester of full implementation (fall 2011) have been addressed and both sections of the redesigned course are currently (spring 2012) being executed under the originally designed schedule (two 50-minute meetings per week).
Technological issues with wireless connectivity in residence halls on campus are also being addressed with additional financial resources being utilized to improve and broaden wireless connectivity on campus.
Decreased student attendance in the redesigned sections is believed to be the primary reason for the decrease in completion rates and learning outcomes. This presents a significant concern for sustainability of the redesigned course. Alternative solutions are being generated and plans are in place to test card-swipe technology to encourage and monitor student attendance.
Perhaps the most significant concern pertaining to sustainability will be the student perception of the redesigned course and how it fits with the organizational culture. However, we anticipate that with time, students will become more familiar with the course format and the planning, organizational, and time-management skills necessary for successful performance.