|Tennessee Board of Regents: Developmental Studies Redesign Initiative
Northeast State Technical Community College
Course Title: Basic and Developmental Reading
Northeast State Technical Community College (NSTCC) plans to redesign its Basic and Developmental Reading course. Historically, NSTCC offered two reading courses to accommodate different student ability levels: Basic Reading and Developmental Reading. Due to small enrollments and difficulties in scheduling, Basic and Developmental Reading, which combined both courses, was created in fall 2005. Serving ~ 400 students annually, the course offers remediation to students whose reading skills are below the required college level. The traditional course is a three-credit hour, lecture-based course in a computerized classroom. Students have access to an online tutorial program, which is available only on campus during the class meeting hours or in the college's open lab. Approximately 25 small sections (~17 students) are offered annually. Two full-time faculty and four to six adjunct faculty teach the course each semester.
The traditional reading course typically experiences a high DFW rate ranging from 34% to 45%. Approximately 12% of the students enrolled each semester are repeating the course. Considering that 90% of the approved general education core courses at NSTCC require reading and/or math as a prerequisite, progression toward the degree is considerably delayed for those students who fail reading. The rigid delivery format creates a passive learning environment that limits learning flexibility and cannot offer the individual assistance that is needed to meet each student's learning needs. Small sections entail a high cost in delivery, and the employment of multiple instructors leads to course drift, creating inconsistency in the quality of course delivery.
Using the Emporium Model, the redesigned reading course will use technology and provide individual assistance in a structured Reading Center. It will move from the traditional course delivery to a learner-centered, active-learning mode supported by high-quality, web-based, interactive, modularized learning software. Each semester, one large section of all enrolled students will replace the traditional small sections. Two full-time faculty members will share the duties of course planning and preparation, monitor student learning progress and provide individual assistance and remediation to students as needed. The redesigned course will eliminate all adjunct course instructors. Four Reading Center assistants and four peer tutors will be used in the Reading Center to provide students with individual assistance and tutoring.
The student-centered learning environment created by the redesigned course will enhance the quality of the course and student learning outcomes. Modularized course content, using MyReadingLab, coupled with diagnostic assessment, will support individual learning plans and flexible progress through the material. Web-based software will provide automated and immediate feedback to better focus student attention on skills yet to be mastered, and online learning materials will be continuously accessible to students seven days a week. Individualized assistance will be available in the Reading Center targeted on specific learning needs, and students will be required to spend at least three hours each week in the Center. The redesign will encourage students to become more motivated to participate in the learning process and more active in achieving their learning goals.
The impact of the course redesign on student learning outcomes will be assessed using various methods. In the pilot phase, performance data from parallel sections, six traditional sections (~17 students) and one redesigned section (~50 students) will be compared. Data will include results of pre- and post-tests and common final exams. Course grades will also be compared. The full implementation assessment plan will compare 24 traditional sections (~17 students) to one redesigned section (~270 students) using the same comparative data. Further studies will track student academic performance in subsequent college-level reading intensive courses to assess how well prepared the students are in reading.
The redesigned course will reduce the cost of instruction by replacing four adjunct faculty with four Reading Center assistants and four peer tutors, reducing the number of sections from ~12 per semester to one, and increasing section size from ~17 students to ~270 in the fall semester and ~140 in the spring semester. These actions will decrease the cost-per-student from $197 to $101, a savings of 49%. Further potential savings should result because fewer students will need to repeat the course. The savings generated by the redesign will be placed into NSTCC’s general fund to improve the education of all students enrolled at NSTCC.
Students in the redesigned course performed better on a common final exam. In the traditional course, the final exam scores averaged 81% while in the redesigned course, final exam scores averaged 86% in fall 2008 when the redesign was fully implemented.
Analysis of pre-test and post-test Nelson Denny scores revealed that students in the redesigned course obtained a greater gain in their learning and reading skills. In the traditional course, the average gain was 11 points, while the average gain was 15 points in the spring 2008 pilot and 21 points in the fall 2008 full implementation. Students in the redesigned course made more progress in improving their reading skills than those in the traditional reading course.
The student success rate (a grade of C or higher) in the traditional course was 58% while in the redesigned course, the success rates were 58%, 67%, and 54% in fall 2007, spring 2008 and fall 2008 respectively, an overall average of 60%.
Grade distributions of the redesigned course showed that significantly more students had As and Bs than in the traditional course.
The traditional reading course was a three-credit hour, lecture-based course. The course was taught in 24 small sections (~17 students) annually, 12 taught by full-time faculty, and 12 taught by adjuncts. Small sections entailed a high delivery cost; the total cost of offering the traditional course was $80,832. Employing multiple instructors led to course drift, creating inconsistency in the quality of course delivery.
The redesigned course included one section each term of 275 (fall) and 137 (spring) students each. Each section was team-taught by two full-time faculty, and no adjuncts were used. The team added trained reading professionals to work with students in the Reading Center at $15 per hour. The total cost of the redesigned course was $39,639, which represents a savings of $41,119, a 51% reduction.
Pedagogical Improvement Techniques
Cost Savings Techniques
The redesigned course used technology and interactive web-based learning materials that significantly reduced the hours faculty spent on the traditional course. Twenty-four small sections were replaced by two large ones. Additionally, hours associated with adjunct faculty teaching were completely eliminated. Reading Center assistants were used at a lower cost to provide face-to-face, individualized help in the Reading Center.
The team believes that the redesign of the reading course is sustainable due to two major reasons. First, the redesigned course was implemented to include all reading students in fall 2008, and no major problems were encountered. Second, the redesigned course generates significant savings for the college; therefore, funding will not be an issue to sustain the redesign.