The Learning MarketSpace, January 2005
A quarterly electronic newsletter of the National Center for Academic Transformation highlighting ongoing examples of redesigned learning environments using technology and examining issues related to their development and implementation.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Perspectives on issues and developments at the nexus of higher education and information technology.
A Billion Here, A Billion There
American higher education continues to be challenged by the need to control or reduce rising costs. Many have observed that both the cost and price of higher education continue to outpace the rate of inflation. As a U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee report notes, "While some point to state budget cuts or a poor economy as the source of rising tuition, the fact is that college costs have been steadily and relentlessly increasing for more than a decade–even during the 90's economic boom—and that tuition increases have persisted regardless of circumstances and have far outpaced inflation year after year, whether the economy has been stumbling or thriving."
In contrast to higher education, most industries have been able to take advantage of the capabilities of information technology to increase productivity–and in doing so, increase quality of service while reducing costs. The injection of information technology into the U.S. economy in general—with the notable exceptions of education, health care and the legal profession—is a major contributor to the disparity between the general rate of inflation and higher education's cost increases.
An important contributor to the rising cost of higher education—perhaps the key contributor—is an outmoded, labor intensive delivery model coupled with an outmoded set of assumptions about the relationship between cost and quality. It's not that higher education has avoided information technology. For most institutions, however, new technologies represent a black hole of additional expense rather than an investment that leads to increased productivity.
Readers of this publication are aware that the National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT) has established a solid track record of success and has created an initial proof-of-concept: that technology can be used to improve student learning while reducing instructional costs if we redesign the way in which we organize collegiate instruction. The Program in Course Redesign (PCR) offers persuasive data showing how this can be done. In addition to offering a broad solution to the cost/quality trade-off in its redesign methodology, the program offers numerous specific solutions that can be adapted by colleges and universities across the board.
The question naturally arises, would the implementation of NCAT's redesign methodology offer a well-considered, practical alternative to the current postsecondary cost dilemma facing the nation? The answer is yes—but it needs to scale.
What would be the impact on the cost of higher education if all colleges and universities in the U.S. adopted NCAT's methodology to redesign their top 25 courses? Our calculations indicate that the cost of instruction would be reduced by approximately 16 percent annually. At the same time, student learning and student retention would be improved. Here's how we derive that figure:
It is difficult to pin down exactly the dollar value of that savings since estimates about the total amount of higher education expenditures and the E&G portion of those expenditures seem to vary, depending on the source. Here's one way of estimating what the impact on all higher education spending would be:
Whatever the right number, as Everett Dirksen once observed about the Federal budget, "A billion here, a billion there, and first thing you know you're talking about real money."
Can NCAT's redesign methodology be applied to parts of the curriculum other than the top 25 courses? Absolutely. Any course that is taught by more than one faculty member is a potential target for redesign. The University of Hawaii at Manoa, for example, recently analyzed its campus enrollment patterns and found more than 120 courses with enrollments exceeding 100 students taught by more than one faculty member for a total enrollment of 34,534. Any of these courses can benefit from NCAT's redesign methodology to improve learning and reduce costs.
Even courses taught by single faculty members can benefit from many of the redesign approaches in order to reduce costs. Using some of the automation techniques and differentiated personnel strategies used in the redesign projects, for example, would enable faculty members to increase their course loads without increasing their workloads. Employing a course assistant to deal with the nonacademic aspects of courses--with or without the addition of instructional software use where available--would allow each faculty member to teach an additional course beyond current course loads. Applying those same strategies would also permit an increase in class size in high-demand, bottleneck courses, again with no increase in faculty workload.
What should those concerned about the future affordability of higher education—particularly those in leadership positions—do with the knowledge that it is possible to reduce costs and improve student learning by redesigning our traditional methods of instruction? First, we need to change the national conversation about what is possible. Once we break the higher-quality-more-money nexus, we can unleash the creative energies of hundreds—indeed thousands—of faculty, professional staff and administrators to work on redesigning courses. Second, we need to establish redesign programs in states, in higher education systems, in community college districts, and in institutions in order to provide both a framework and incentives for institutions to begin the process. By initially partnering with NCAT to replicate the process used in the national PCR, states, systems, districts and individual institutions will be able to develop internal capacity to support this process on an ongoing basis. Third, we then need to build incentives into the ways in which we fund higher education—at the national, state and local levels—to accelerate an ongoing redesign process that emphasizes measuring learning outcomes and instructional costs and rewards those who make constructive changes and penalizes those who do not.
The biggest challenge higher education faces in the coming decade is addressing the challenge of providing a cost-effective, high quality education for all Americans who can benefit. As Russ Edgerton has said, "For many Americans, what is at stake is nothing less than the continued viability of the American dream."
The solution is not to throw money at the problem. The solution is to work together to re-think the ways we teach and the ways students learn. By building on technology-based, learner-centered principles, we can create a twenty-first century higher education system that will serve our nation well.
--Carol A. Twigg
Featuring updates and announcements from the Center.
Transformation at the NCAT
In the July 2004 issue of The Learning Marketspace, we announced the formation of the National Center for Academic Transformation, an independent 501(c)(3) organization. We are in the midst of moving from our affiliation with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to the new Center. As part of our own transformation, we will be launching a new look including a logo update, a new newsletter format, and a new Web site starting in February. One change takes place immediately - new e-mail addresses for the staff. From this point forward, Carol Twigg can be reached at ctwigg@theNCAT.org, Carolyn Jarmon can be reached at cjarmon@theNCAT.org and Patricia Bartscherer can be reached at pbartscherer@theNCAT.org.
Andrea Fuller Joins as Vice President for Development
Please join us in welcoming Andrea Fuller to the NCAT staff. Andrea will oversee the marketing and development activities of the Center and will work with us to achieve our strategic goal of scaling the redesign work that has been done to date to reach many more colleges and universities around the country. She will also help manage the growing number of state and district-based redesign projects that the Center is engaged in as well as our Corporate Associates program. Many of you already know Andrea from her previous work with PBS Adult Learning Service and SMARTHINKING, the online tutoring company for higher education. Andrea is based in Washington, DC and can be reached at 202-257-7172 or afuller@theNCAT.org.
Program in Course Redesign Final Analyses Available
An overview of the Round III Program in Course Redesign (PCR) projects and an analysis of what was learned from the perspective of the program staff is now available at Project Descriptions Sorted by Grant Rounds. The analysis compares the pedagogical and cost reduction techniques used by the Round III projects with those used by the Round I and II projects as well as the implementation issues encountered by each group. Final reports for each of the ten Round III projects can be found by following the links at Project Descriptions Sorted by Grant Rounds. For analyses of the Round I and Round II projects, please see Outcomes Analysis. Charts summarizing the actual cost savings achieved by all 30 PCR projects in comparison with their projected savings can be found at Outcomes Analysis.
Seminars on Underserved Students Begin in January
NCAT will hold the first in a series of three seminars entitled, "Increasing Success for Underserved Students: Redesigning Introductory Courses," on January 28, 2005 in Orlando, FL. All three seminars will focus on the specific techniques used in the PCR which led to increased student success and retention among underserved students: adults, students of color, and low-income students. At each seminar, faculty from four institutions will discuss the varied methods that were used to achieve better learning at reduced costs. Participants will be able to interact with these experienced faculty leaders to learn how their redesign decisions led to greater student success. The other two seminars will be held on March 18, 2005, in Phoenix, AZ and, May 20, 2005, in Chicago, IL. For more information and registration materials, visit The Pew Grant Program in Course Redesign: Workshop Information.
Houghton Mifflin joins NCAT Corporate Associates Program
The Center is pleased to announce that Houghton Mifflin has joined its Corporate Associates Program. The goal of the Corporate Associates Program is to forge closer ties between the content and technology sectors and those in the education community engaged in cutting edge redesign projects. Our shared vision is that this program will lead to a greater awareness about what has already been developed and what needs to be developed to better serve students. Through one-on-one contact, focus groups, workshops and meetings, the Center will help facilitate meaningful dialog between the Corporate Associates and the various programs with which it works. The Center looks forward to working with Houghton Mifflin. For more information about the Corporate Associates Program, contact Andrea Fuller at afuller@theNCAT.org.
NCAT Featured in New York Times Article
NCAT's president, Carol Twigg, was quoted in a January 16 New York Times article about the fate of large lecture courses. In the article, the author, Richard Panek, explores the pros and cons of the traditional lecture course and highlights the work of the Center and several of the institutions that have participated in NCAT course redesign programs. PCR alumni that are mentioned in the article include Northern Arizona University, Ohio State, Penn State, University of Dayton, UMass-Amherst, University of New Mexico, University of Tennessee-Knoxville and Virginia Tech.
Featuring initiatives to scale course redesign through state- and system-wide redesign programs.
Hawaii Redesign Initiative Continues
In partnership with NCAT, the University of Hawaii System is conducting a redesign competition modeled on the national PCR. On November 5, 2004, more than 50 representatives from UH institutions participated in a day-long Orientation Workshop in Honolulu. Teams have submitted responses to Course Readiness Criteria in preparation for a second planning workshop held on January 22, 2005. Center staff will work with teams as they formulate their full proposals, which are due March 15, 2005. During the 2004-2005 academic year, the program expects to award 3-5 grants with awards ranging between $35,000 and $70,000. Center staff will work with the grant recipients as they plan and implement their designs. For more information, contact Hae Okimoto at firstname.lastname@example.org.
OLN Awards Add Variety to Redesign Target Courses
The Ohio Learning Network (OLN) has established a statewide competition entitled, "Technology Innovation Course Redevelopment Grants," for institutions that wish to replicate and extend the successes of the PCR. Twenty-eight institutions submitted letters of intent, sixteen submitted proposals, and nine have been funded at about $40,000 each. The funded institutions and the course subject areas include Bowling Green State University (Graduate Education), Central Ohio Technical College (Anatomy and Physiology), Cincinnati State Technical and Community College (Information Technology), Cleveland State University (Urban Studies), Columbus State Community College (Humanities), Lorain County Community College (Economics), Miami University (Music), Ohio University (Communication) and The University of Toledo (Engineering Technology.) The diversity of course areas selected demonstrates how NCAT's methodology can be applied throughout the curriculum. On January 19, 2005, NCAT and OLN staff conducted a second workshop for the funded project teams. For more information about this initiative, see www.oln.org/funding/emerge.php or contact George Steele at email@example.com.
Abstracts of the 22 R2R redesign project plans sorted by discipline and by redesign model as well as contact information for each project are now available on the Center's web site at Project Descriptions.
As previously mentioned, FIPSE has provided the Center with a supplemental grant of $50,000 that will allow us to include up to five additional institutions in the program. Seton Hall University has refined its original proposal in psychology and has been selected to participate in the Psychology Practice. Seton Hall is also redesigning precalculus math; the latter project was among the 20 projects originally accepted. Institutions that submitted final proposals but were unsuccessful will be invited to participate in a June workshop for core and new practice associates to increase their understanding of the course redesign process.
The R2R projects have spent the fall preparing for pilot implementations that begin in the spring 2005 term. Here are some of the highlights of that planning:
Calhoun Community College's (CCC) statistics redesign timeline is on target. CCC will use Carnegie Mellon University's StatTutor for some hands-on computer labs and Minitab for Windows, which is packaged with the text, in other labs. CCC faculty members are collaborating with CMU to be ready for the January 10 pilot. CCC has postponed their planned move to a new building until summer, but new equipment has been purchased and installed in the statistics lab, ready for the pilot. For more information, contact Randy Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The psychology redesign team from Chattanooga State Technical Community College (CSTCC), consisting of both full- and part-time faculty, met weekly during the fall to organize the pedagogy and curriculum for the redesign. As part of an internal public relations campaign, the CSTCC team provided course descriptions to all faculty and advising staff and to the faculty senate. Reactions were (as expected) mixed. Some worried that community college students are not prepared for an active learning environment, others that instructors would be detached from students. The team leader provided detailed explanations of the course curriculum, demonstrating the department’s increased commitment to student-centered learning and diverse learning styles. The CSTCC team has received the necessary approvals for a new faculty load schedule and the use of two student tutors. CSTCC will use WebCT to manage mastery quizzes based on the test bank that accompanies the text. The team is discussing a possible site license with Wadsworth/E-Learning that will include interactive study plans and 24/7 tutoring services. To learn more about this project, contact Donna Seagle at email@example.com.
East Carolina University (ECU) will pilot its psychology redesign with two large sections replacing five small ones. The team has worked hard to develop common course topics based on the Psychology Practice topic lists, a common text and a common final. Previously faculty had selected their own topics and text within a general course syllabus. The team worked with Gordon Hodge at the University of New Mexico to better understand the role and process of mastery quizzing. After much discussion, MyPsychLab was selected as the quizzing platform. Working with the publisher, ECU was able to enlarge the quiz bank by including items from a second text. MyPsychLab reproduces the text online and provides links to video and other resources. Additional software, Microsoft's OneNote, has been adopted to be used by course assistants in breakout sessions. ECU will also use eInstruction's Classroom Performance System. Finally, funding to provide stipends for undergraduate course assistants has been secured, and some may earn course credit if they submit a portfolio. For more information about ECU's design, contact Dorothy Muller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Eastern Washington University (EWU), two seminar rooms have been constructed for the psychology redesign; each is equipped with a computer, LCD projector, and a Smartboard. An existing high-tech auditorium, seating 240 students, has been updated with a Smartboard and a Personal Response System. The Enterprise version of Blackboard 6 will be installed during winter 2005, permitting EWU to interface with Questionmark Perception for mastery quizzing. Conversion of the test bank for the selected text is underway as a joint undertaking by Worth Publishing and Questionmark. Included with the text is Comment software for online peer essay review and a CD supplement entitled PsychInquiry for activities and materials for student projects. During the pilot, ten Peer Mentors, selected from top juniors and seniors in psychology, will lead seminars of 12 students each, coordinated by a Preceptor. Initial and ongoing training will be provided by the Teaching and Learning Center. The team has worked with the offices of Academic Advising, Undergraduate Studies and the Registrar to develop scheduling solutions in order to enroll students simultaneously in the large lecture and the small seminars and to inform students about this new option. For more information, contact Larry Kiser at email@example.com.
During fall 2004, Georgia State University conducted a pre-pilot of its math redesign project with six sections. The goal of the pre-pilot was to select a common text and mathematical software (previously, each class used a different book and software package.) After careful consideration, the team selected Precalculus by Lial, Hornsby and Schneider and MyMathLab from Addison Wesley. During the fall, the team held workshops to discuss the project and to prepare and inform faculty about how to use the software. To learn more, contact Margo Alexander at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Louisiana State University (LSU), the redesign of college algebra is moving along very well. The LSU team profited from visits to both the University of Alabama and the University of Idaho. During fall 2004, the team tested MyMathLab in four large sections and one smaller one and has been working with the publisher to incorporate some needed additional features. During the spring 2005 pilot, students will spend a minimum of 2-3 hours per week in a computer learning lab; each of seven sections of ~40 students will also meet once a week with an instructor in a focus group. A second pilot in fall 2005 will involve three different groups of about 1000 students each, one with a larger emporium which is now being remodeled and equipped, one in sections of about 40 with TAs, and one with larger sections of around 170 taught by experienced instructors. LSU anticipates moving to full implementation in spring 2006. To learn more, contact Jimmie Lawson at email@example.com.
At Mojave Community College (MCC), the team is hard at work on its Buffet Model psychology redesign. They have decided to use a thirty-question survey created by www.idpride.net to assess student learning styles because of the quick results it can deliver. The team has created module-specific project contracts for students as well as a learning schedule that offers students a number of simultaneous buffet sequences that build upon and complement one another. They have also developed grading rubrics for different types of projects students might choose when making buffet selections. After much discussion, the team decided that students will not be given credit for completing individual modules because the current registration system does not allow partial course credits to be carried over to another semester. MCC intends to address this issue in the near future. Working with academic advisors, the team created an information packet that explains the new course design and the various types of learning styles it will address and includes a class meeting schedule and team biographies. To learn more, contact Danette Bristle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Ocean County College (OCC), the redesign team has decided to use McGraw Hill's Understanding Psychology by Robert Feldman because the accompanying interactive CD videos are an excellent complement. The publisher has agreed to create a searchable question database for use in mastery quizzing. OCC is working to fill its Course Assistant position, having created a job description as well as training materials. The team has encountered some internal workload issues raised by governance structures, which they are working to resolve through open dialog in meetings. OCC will also create two prototype "pause-and-play" interactive lectures to include in the pilot. Six of these key lectures will be completed by May for use in the full implementation in fall 2005. To learn more, contact Claudine Keenan at email@example.com.
Seton Hall University (SHU) is redesigning precalculus math and psychology. The math team is coordinating efforts with the Department of Freshmen Studies as well as the Equal Opportunity Program to establish a more accurate placement system. The team is also establishing an orientation for tutors and instructors and a course web site. SHU is also beginning a pre-algebra course redesign. The primary issue facing the psychology redesign is to identify software to supplement the Blackboard in order to improve mastery quizzing. The team has selected QuestionMark Perception, but various implementation and systems elements have taken longer than anticipated and still need to be completed. The team anticipates using the software in early January in the pilot phase. A more thorough evaluation of the previous version of the course has begun, which will allow for more specific and focused efforts to improve the success rates of the students. For more information about either redesign project, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the University of Alabama (UA), three pilot redesign sections, one for each of the traditional Spanish annual sequence, began on January 5, 2005. Three GTAs with native or near-native Spanish fluency, several years of teaching experience, and first-rate instructional technology skills are assisting students. The team is constructing WebQuest exercises to help students learn how to use the vast Spanish-language resources on the Internet effectively. The course design is highly integrated; for example, every time students are assigned a search on the Internet, they will incorporate the results into online portfolios. The portfolios, in turn, will be discussed and evaluated by peers in class, and finally the contents will be used as part of oral interview testing. Online activities in Aulas Virtuales will include work to be brought to class the next day, thereby reinforcing integration of work done online with in-class learning. UA has received permission from Thomson Learning to post video segments on its password-protected WebCT site and to modify additional materials for Tú Dirás components. For additional information, contact Alicia Cipria at email@example.com.
Two math faculty from the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UM-SL) visited the University of Alabama and returned with a clearer understanding of what issues they need to address in the redesigned course. During fall 2004, most of the faculty teaching College Algebra started using computer-based homework, creating a core of faculty familiar with the software. Use will continue in the winter and the summer. The UM-SL has allocated a large unused area to be converted over the next six months for the Mathematics Technology Learning Center in time for the fall 2005 full implementation. The campus is making financial arrangements for refurbishing this area and acquiring networked computers. This is a major commitment on the part of the campus, and the team feels that having reached this stage is a strong achievement. The course pilot will be offered in spring 2005 to a smaller section (55 students) due to lack of suitable computer facilities. For more information, contact Teresa Thiel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) has enrolled about 75 students in its spring 2005 redesigned precalculus algebra pilot. The team has created MathPort, a facility located in a student residential hall, which will be open Monday through Friday between 12:00 pm and 8:00 pm for face-to-face assistance, exam preparation, or proctored exams. Because all undergraduate students at UNC-CH are required to own laptops, students will use their own laptops in the MathPort to work on their day-to-day assignments via network ports or the wireless access system. MathPort will also offer optional lectures for students who prefer traditional forms of content delivery. The MathPort facility will be coordinated by the Director of Teaching Training for the Mathematics Department and staffed by graduate teaching assistants and undergraduate tutors. Quizzes and exams will be automatically graded with TestGen and posted to Blackboard, so that students will be able to continually monitor their progress throughout the course. To learn more, contact Charlie Green at email@example.com.
Both of the redesign projects at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) are on schedule. Math faculty have received training in the use of the MyMathLab. At UNCG's request, Prentice Hall (Pearson) is coding the review section of the textbook into MyMathLab, and Addison-Wesley (Pearson) is adding an additional 150 problems to MyMathLab. These additional materials will then become available to other users of the software in the future. The statistics redesign team has selected a new software package, E-STAT Pack, developed by W.H.Freeman and the Statistics Department at Brigham Young University. UNCG has also significantly expanded the face-to-face help that will be available for both precalculus and statistics students in comparison to its original proposal. The general university tutoring service will provide additional assistance, and the team has scheduled several more blocks of computer lab time for instructors. To learn more about either redesign, contact Ray Purdom at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wayne State University (WSU) is ahead of most R2R projects due to prior preparation. Beginning in spring 2005, all Basic Algebra students at WSU will take the course in the newly designed Math Emporium. This new lab houses 100 student computers and was built in time for the fall 2004 term. Nearly 1000 students were enrolled in the newly designed course in the fall. The new model allows some students to move more quickly through the materials, completing the course at their own pace. Approximately 80 students finished the class early, one as early as the third week! Students also appear to be more engaged with the material; instructors report fewer disruptions caused by disengaged students. A number of challenges remain, but the team believes most are related to "start up" and can be easily overcome with time. Student orientation will be redesigned to become more interactive, and a number of logistical problems related to due dates will be addressed. The team is optimistic that all issues will be resolved by fall 2005 and has begun discussing a redesign for Intermediate Algebra. To learn more, contact Patty Bonesteel at email@example.com or visit the project web site at: http://www.lib.wayne.edu/geninfo/about/grants/roadmap_to_redesign/.
Reporting on initiatives that share the Center's goals and objectives.
Teaching Teams at the University of Arizona
One of the highly successful innovations in the PCR has been to include undergraduates as part of the instruction team in redesigned courses. The Teaching Teams Program at the University of Arizona (UA) similarly uses preceptors (undergraduates) to assist with large enrollment courses in multiple disciplines. Started in the Department of Planetary Sciences in 1998, the program has now become a university-wide initiative. Preceptors register for three credits and receive both centralized training that serves as a basis for their course assistance responsibilities and ongoing training from the course instructor. To learn more about this program, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://teachingteams.arizona.edu.
Automated Grading for English Placement
The University of Houston has outsourced the grading of campus English placement exams to the College Board. In the past, two people graded the essay portion of each test, but now a computer grades the essays, assigning scores of 1 to 8. As reported in the 11/9/04 Chronicle of Higher Education, this shift from human grading to automated grading has increased the consistency of the evaluation for students. Although not a frequent occurrence, faculty who are concerned about the results of automated grading may request that the outcome be re-graded by a person. The use of automated grading means that the essays graded first as well as those graded last get the same consideration since the computer does not tire after grading many essays. To learn more about this service, contact the College Board.
The National Center for Academic Transformation serves as a source of expertise and support for those in higher education who wish to take advantage of the capabilities of information technology to transform their academic practices.
Copyright 2005, The National Center for Academic Transformation