The Learning MarketSpace, January 2006
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:
Offering perspectives on issues and developments at the nexus of higher education and information technology
First, Measure Something . . .
Everyone in higher education seems to be talking about accountability. Some (mainly public policy makers) think it’s a good idea. Others (just about everyone else in higher education) think it’s a bad idea. Still others (higher education associations and accrediting agencies) are caught in the middle, wanting to respond to legitimate requests for accountability yet wanting to resist requests that impinge on institutional autonomy.
Accountability implies measurement. One must be accountable for something to someone, and one must measure the “something.” Yes, but what is the “something” and who is the “someone”? Well, in this case, it seems pretty clear that the “someone” is policy makers serving as a proxy for the public. So the “someone” is not as much of a problem as the “something.” Here’s where things begin to get a bit fuzzy.
Echoing the predominant view, Paul Lingenfelter, Executive Director of SHEEO, has observed, “In postsecondary education the task of establishing criteria and data for effectiveness is substantially more complicated [than in elementary and secondary education] due to its many diverse missions. Postsecondary institutions provide remedial instruction for adults, and they develop the skills required to analyze blood samples, computer software, literature, and history. Their graduates are expected to teach children, to write newspaper articles, to manage small and multi-national businesses, to provide psychotherapy, and to design and build skyscrapers and telecommunication satellites. In addition, some institutions are charged with expanding knowledge as well as transmitting it. They conduct research and train successive generations of investigators.”
What you are going to measure depends on what you want to achieve. In the private sector, what you measure is simple: profit, the bottom line. Businesses succeed or fail based on their ability to deliver what their customers want and to do so better than their competitors. The American auto industry is in the midst of learning this lesson the hard way.
I daresay that the international economy is as complicated as Paul’s description of postsecondary education, but in the private sector, accountability is clear. The “someone” is stockholders, and the “something” is profit.
Even in parts of the not-for-profit world, we have examples of effective measurement. Medicine immediately springs to mind. Medicine is based on research and careful observation of practice. The bottom line is clear: curing illness. That’s what everyone in the health professions is trying to do. If a new approach or a new drug is discovered that cures or palliates a health problem, every medical practitioner begins to use it immediately. Doctors read journals and talk to other doctors about what works and what doesn’t work, and we all benefit from a community of practice.
So what’s higher education’s “bottom line”? Well, surely it must be student learning. Ah, but that complexity problem . . .
In 1995, Bruce Johnstone, former Chancellor of the State University of New York, received funding from the Ford Foundation to organize what he called a Learning Productivity Network to address the need for higher education to become more productive for the sake of students, parents, and taxpayers alike. At the initial meeting of the network—a panoply of higher education leaders—a debate immediately broke out. One well-respected participant said, “How can we talk about learning productivity--you can’t measure learning productivity because we don’t know what learning is.” His point, I believe, was that postsecondary learning is so complicated that we can’t possibly measure it, much less improve it.
My response that day was, “That’s ridiculous! Every day college faculty members measure and evaluate learning—in tests, assignments, exams, and so on.” Everyone who “practices” higher education measures and certifies learning all the time. We award credit hours and degrees as a certification of learning in every subject that we teach. So I don’t think the issue is “complexity.”
The issue is, of course, consistency. When professor X gives a grade of Y in organic chemistry, does it mean the same thing when professor Z gives a grade of Y, whether at the same institution or at a different institution. I agree that consistency is a problem. But perhaps the desire for consistency may be getting in the way of making any real progress on assessment. Are we letting perfect get in the way of good?
I suggest that if we begin to use the measures that we have—imperfect as they may be—we would begin to make progress on improving student learning. Grades given by college professors across the country are sufficient to award degrees and certificates, and while they are far from perfect as a consistent measure of student learning, they represent a good start.
Here’s a simple example. As part of the application processes of the Program in Course Redesign and the Roadmap to Redesign, hundreds of institutions described success rates in their introductory courses that they want to improve through redesign. From those applications, we have a pretty good idea of the percentages of students who are unsuccessful in these courses by sector—about 15% at R1s, 30-40% at comprehensives and 50-60% at community colleges on average.
We also know that some institutions do a better job than others in regard to student success in these courses. If states and/or systems and/or institutions began by systematically capturing and reporting the percentages of students who fail to complete core courses, they would have a far better understanding of the state of student learning than they do today. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good start.
Think what the impact would be if all of us in higher education started to evaluate our efforts in improving teaching and learning by at least comparing grades. If we began to capture, report and compare student success rates in the context of our diverse efforts in higher education—and act on what we learned—how would our practices be different than they are today? Let’s consider some examples from applications of information technology to improve teaching and learning, NCAT’s particular interest.
Suppose, in each instance, we began by asking faculty members to report what difference particular applications of technology made in their courses as evidenced by improved student learning? Even if the measures were not perfect, we’d begin to make progress. We’d stop funding things that have no impact, and we’d start to spend our time and effort on those that can make a real difference. We’d start arguing about validity and reliability in the context of doing something to improve student learning. If we don’t start to look at the impact of what we’re doing on our bottom line, are we making a good investment in instructional technology?
The higher education community is filled with unproven assumptions about what works best to improve student learning. Can you imagine if doctors conducted their practices as we in higher education do? Ignoring what research we have? Ignoring when colleagues at a similar institution (or in one’s own department!) make dramatic increases in student learning? By beginning with capturing and reporting something as simple as successful completion rates, we begin to identify promising practices and hopefully stop treating students with the educational equivalent of bleeding patients to cure them!
We also start to get at the consistency problem as well. Once comparative grading practices were made public, the argument about the validity and reliability of grades would begin in earnest.
First, measure something . . .
--Carol A. Twigg
Featuring updates and announcements from the Center
On January 25, 2006 , Peter Ewell, Vice President of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, was recognized for his outstanding contributions to the higher education community. The Washington , DC event gathered more than 50 friends and colleagues to show their appreciation for the wide range of Peter’s contributions to many significant initiatives in higher education. Peter has been a consulting member of the NCAT team since the initial Call to Participate was issued for the Program in Course Redesign (PCR) in 1999. His expertise has served as the basis for measuring and monitoring the increased learning that the PCR institutions have achieved, working with each team to design an assessment plan and monitoring data collection and reporting. Peter’s participation in both the Roadmap to Redesign (R2R) and NCAT’s Lumina-funded project on underserved students has also been invaluable. Peter is also a founding member of the NCAT Board of Directors. We join the higher education community in congratulating Peter Ewell on his efforts to improve student learning and institutional effectiveness in colleges and universities across the United States .
Many ask us, “What’s next?” for NCAT. Recently, Bill Graves, Senior Vice President for Academic Strategy at SunGard Collegis, conducted an interview with Carol to find out the answer. Entitled “The Future of Course Redesign and the National Center for Academic Transformation,” the interview will appear in the February/March issue of Innovate, a bimonthly, peer-reviewed online periodical. The journal focuses on the creative use of information technology to enhance educational processes in academic, commercial, and governmental settings. Bill and Carol discuss the meaning of redesign at NCAT and its new emphasis on state-based initiatives. The interview will be available at http://innovateonline.info/index.php.
We particularly like one of the papers, “A Question of Effectiveness: Michigan ’s Solution to the College Cost Crisis” by Timothy M. Kuehnlein, Jr. and Olin Joynton in the recently published Lumina Foundation for Education collection, Course Corrections. In preparation for a November 2005 Summit on College Costs, Lumina solicited papers from experts on possible solutions to the college cost crisis. Nine papers were selected and published prior to the summit, one of which was written by Carol Twigg. The Michigan paper examines two state policy initiatives to contain college costs: 1) a state income tax credit for students attending colleges that limit tuition increase rates to the rate of increase for the U.S. Urban Consumer Price Index (CPI) introduced in 1995, and 2) the governor’s January 2004 offer to return 3% of a 2003 5% mid-year cut to public colleges that limited tuition increases to the Urban CPI. Among the paper’s findings are the following: 1) costs for two-year colleges in Michigan went from higher than the national average to lower than the national average; 2) percentage increases for both two- and four-year colleges in Michigan were considerably lower than those for the nation as a whole; and, 3) the number of rebates in 2004 caused a dramatic one-year increase in colleges restraining tuition within the 2.3% limit needed to qualify for the tax credit and the budget restitution. The paper illustrates how state policy makers can establish incentives that motivate institutions to seek constructive solutions to containing college costs. A pdf version of Course Corrections is available at http://www.collegecosts.info/pdfs/solution_papers/Collegecosts_Oct2005.pdf.
In the January/February 2006 issue of Change magazine, Carol Twigg interviews Greg Bowe, the former director of the writing program at Florida International University. In the article “Resourcefulness Is More Crucial Than Resources,” Bowe describes how a redesign of a basic writing course not only reduced instructor workload but also improved student learning in a course that is crucial to student success. Organized around the concept of “writing circles,” the redesign allows students to work collaboratively on writing assignments with instructors and other students in five-person groups. Students benefit from the increased interaction since faculty are able to spend more time working directly with individual students rather than grading papers. Unfortunately, Change does not make its issues available online. For more information, contact Greg Bowe at email@example.com.
Featuring initiatives to scale course redesign through state- and system-wide redesign programs
Institutions in the first round of the University of Hawaii System ’s (UH) redesign program have completed their pilots. Each has started its second term, incorporating changes based on their experiences during the pilot. The project teams will discuss their experiences to date with NCAT staff at a workshop in Honolulu on February 2, 2006 . The second round of grant applicants are preparing for their second workshop to be held in Honolulu on February 3, 2006 . Teams will learn more about the redesign process including NCAT methods to measure and document student learning and tools to plan cost savings. Final proposals are due on March 15, 2006 with the redesign pilots scheduled for spring 2007. For more information about the UH initiative, see http://www.thencat.org/States/Hawaii_System.htm or contact Hae Okimoto at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Representatives of nine redesign teams met in Columbus , Ohio on January 17, 2006 to share the outcomes of their pilot redesigns as part of an Ohio Learning Network (OLN) program entitled “Technology Innovation Course Redevelopment Grants.” Each institutional team described the successes, the challenges, and the implementation issues they had encountered. Preliminary results are encouraging with several institutions already showing significant learning gains and cost savings. All participants benefited from the ideas and suggestions of others in the group and took home new approaches and strategies to use as they continue to improve their redesigns and move to full implementation of their plans. The diversity of course areas selected further demonstrates how NCAT’s methodology can be applied throughout the curriculum. To learn more about this statewide initiative, see http://www.thencat.org/States/Ohio_Learning_Network.htm or contact George Steele at email@example.com.
Interest in state and system course redesign programs begins with a diverse set of issues. While the overriding concern of each state or system is improving quality and reducing costs, each is also interested in solutions that produce measurable results for specific problems. For example, at the Tennessee Board of Regents there is particular emphasis on increasing the number of Tennesseans that persist and complete a degree. The board is interested in focusing on the first year of college and determining which courses could be redesigned in order to produce better outcomes. Texas is engaged in its “Closing the Gap” initiative which seeks to add 600,000 students to the higher education system by 2015. Course redesign is one strategy that can lower the per-student cost of adding capacity to the system. The state of Virginia , where enrollment pressures are great, is also investigating course redesign as a way to accommodate more students cost effectively. Other states such as California , Illinois , Idaho and Maryland are engaged in early conversations with NCAT around the more general issues of quality improvement and cost containment. To explore how your state or system might partner with NCAT, contact Carol Twigg at ctwigg@theNCAT.org.
The Idaho Board of Education and several institutions in the state are considering how course redesign can address some of the institutional issues they face. During the last six months, NCAT staff have made presentations to three of the four four-year institutions in the state. In June 2005, NCAT presented at a University of Idaho campus-wide conference to provide an orientation for faculty about changes needed to accommodate “Net Generation” students. In September 2005, NCAT staff visited Boise State University to help the university think about innovative ways to address significant demand in lower-division, general-education courses. At Idaho State University, more than 50 faculty members participated in a day-long seminar in January 2006 to think strategically about how they might leverage technology dollars more effectively to produce greater student learning. In addition, NCAT participated in a half-day seminar in November 2005 sponsored by the Idaho State Board of Education. The participants, key contacts from ISBE’s Technology Grant Program, learned about how to leverage their investments in technology to increase student learning while controlling the cost of instruction. NCAT hopes to work in partnership with Idaho institutions to leverage this interest in course redesign.
Featuring progress reports and outcomes achieved by the Roadmap to Redesign
Most of the R2R projects fully implemented their redesign plans during the fall 2005 term while several conducted a second, larger pilot and plan full implementation in spring 2006.
During the summer and fall 2005 semesters, Calhoun Community College (CCC) continued to implement its redesigned Business Statistics course. The course now includes a number of online, low-stakes homework assignments which account for approximately 12% of the course grade. About one-third of the students complete homework assignments in the lab where they may obtain assistance. In the fall semester, the course enjoyed an 82% completion rate compared to a 65% rate in the traditional course. The overall course grade average was “B” (83%) with no “D” or “F” grades. Students either passed the course or withdrew based on timely feedback received from their online coursework and instructor counseling. Students made very positive comments about the redesign on course evaluations, especially the online low-stakes homework. CCC instructors will continue to refine and improve the course in the coming semesters. For additional information, contact Randy Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org.
During fall 2005, the team at Chattanooga State Community and Technical College (CSCTC) focused on retention and communications in their continuous improvement of General Psychology. They called all students who had not logged into the course web site within the first two weeks of the term and all at-risk students at mid-term. The strategy paid off: many students responded by increasing participation or by dropping the course to avoid a final failing grade. In addition, three of the four faculty members teaching the redesign now have offices next to the designated classroom. This proximity has addressed most student concerns about teacher availability. Students used North Carolina State ’s Index of Learning Styles to help them identify their learning strengths and weaknesses. These assessments helped the team refocus some class activities. Students collaborated with a local TV station by commenting on a topic-related video produced by the station, which was captured on tape and broadcast on the local evening news. In spring 2006, the team will use a student response system to foster increased student engagement. The team is currently analyzing fall 2005 data comparing unit exam scores, student grade distributions, student retention rates, course evaluation surveys, and pre/post assessments. To learn more, contact Donna Seagle at email@example.com.
East Carolina University ’s (ECU) second pilot of its redesigned Introductory Psychology course went more smoothly than the previous one with a significant decrease in confusion. ECU offered one large section that combined three traditional sections taught by the same professor who participated in the spring 2005 pilot. Improvements included 1) registering students for MyPsychLab on the first class day, 2) a two-day per week course structure with a master lecture on one day and breakout discussion groups on the second, 3) giving mastery quizzes greater value which encouraged students to use them more fully, and 4) shortening quiz completion time which reduced student attempts to share quiz questions and answers. The team continues to work on other challenges: 1) the number of D’s, F’s, and drops remained too high, 2) fall grades were adversely affected by a new departmental policy requiring students to complete a mandated research requirement for 5% of their course grade, and 3) students appear to be opting out of the redesigned course for spring. Piloting will continue in the spring with one large section, adjustments in the number of mastery quizzes allowed, and more structured training for discussion group leaders. A benefit of the redesign has been that additional psychology courses are incorporating redesign principles and other departments are showing increased interest. To learn more, contact Dorothy Muller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In fall 2005, Eastern Washington University (EWU) scaled its redesign of Introductory Psychology from one pilot section (~180 students) to two fully implemented sections (250+ students each.) A new assistant professor taught one section, and preliminary results indicate that this went well. EWU moved from having a full-time preceptor as one instructor's assistant to two part-time graduate teaching assistants supporting two instructors. In a one-day session, 30 undergraduate mentors were trained to use a new type of electronic response pad to lead question-and-answer sessions. Mentors adapted quickly to the technique and reported high levels of success. Training mentors in weekly meetings throughout the term paid off; seminar attendance was excellent, and students rated the seminar discussions as the best part of the course. Participation in online mastery quizzes was carefully monitored during the eleven-week term. A series of warning letters with increasing penalties emphasized the importance of participation and the consequences for failing to do so. The team believes that this process motivated students to attend lectures and seminars, and the number of non-participating students diminished dramatically. Raw performance scores and student evaluations for the fall sections were higher than both pilot offerings. For more information, contact Bill Williams at email@example.com.
As Louisiana State University (LSU) prepared for the spring 2006 semester, the team could not help but reflect back on fall 2005. In an end-of-the-semester survey, 55% of College Algebra students said that their performance in the course was negatively impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and/or Rita, which the team believes is a conservative estimate. LSU used three delivery systems for College Algebra in fall 2005; all students took the same final exam. Large lectures using a traditional three-day-a-week format taught by the most experienced career instructors had a median exam score of 154. A redesigned modified emporium with focus groups and learning lab time taught by a mix of experienced instructors and new TAs had a median of 148. The traditional small lecture three-day-a-week format classes taught by new TAs had a median of 128. The overall median was 139. In addition, 80% of the students who participated in at least 70% of the focus group classes and required two-hour per week labs in the redesigned emporium earned a grade of A, B, or C. During the spring 2006 semester, all College Algebra students will use the redesigned format. LSU is moving a five-hour precalculus course to the redesigned format as well. The team is excited to announce that the university has just committed $400,000+ to renovate space for a second 116-seat math learning lab to open in fall 2006, bringing lab capacity to 232 seats to accommodate almost 3,000 students. For more information, contact Phoebe Rouse at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Montclair State University (MSU) is conducting its initial pilot in the spring 2006 semester. Six of 13 Elementary Spanish sections will participate. Students in the redesigned sections will enhance their classroom experience by working on electronic versions of a workbook and lab manual and will spend more time on task by working on a series of online activities and quizzes. Comparisons between the language acquisition of these students and those in sections that will follow a more traditional model will be made using the results of a final oral exam and a questionnaire that will be administered before the final written exam. To learn more, contact Edwin Lamboy at email@example.com.
In fall 2005, Seton Hall University (SHU) fully implemented its redesign of Beginning Algebra and Pre-Algebra using MyMathLab integrated with Blackboard. Students enjoyed the active learning environment and did more homework using MyMathLab’s tutorial tools than in previous years to the delight of the teaching team. Online testing with immediate feedback worked well. The team used student scrap papers to determine if partial credit should be awarded. Students gave favorable reviews to the class structure and delivery. The instructors liked being able to give students more one-on-one instruction and enjoyed grading fewer papers. Overall SHU believes that the redesign has been a success. The team will continue to fine-tune the redesign. To learn more, contact Wendi Sethi at Sethiwen@shu.edu.
Texas Tech University (TTU) completed full implementation of its Spanish redesign with almost 800 students enrolled. The team has not yet analyzed the survey and performance data (over 100,000 data points) from the fall 2005 semester, but anecdotal and impressionistic information indicates it was very successful. There were no significant problems with the implementation. During spring 2006, TTU will pilot a similar redesign of the first-semester, second-year Spanish course with 12 redesigned sections (240 students) and 12 traditional sections (360 students), with planned full implementation scheduled for fall 2006. The development and validation of ACTFL -derived assessment /grading protocols for each of the four skills continues. In November 2005, TTU reported on their redesign project at the ACTFL meetings in Baltimore . The team is also sharing its redesign approach with the University of Missouri-St. Louis. For more information, contact Fred Suppe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After a pilot of one section of each course in spring 2005, full-scale redesign of three Spanish introductory courses at the University of Alabama proceeded as planned in fall 2005. Most technology issues were resolved so that spring 2006 will progress more smoothly. The redesign team received an Active and Collaborative Learning Grant from the University Provost, which funded four technology carts equipped with a computer, projector, visual presenter and DVD player. These carts provide mobility and access when no multimedia rooms are available. Assessment based on common rubrics took place for every section and will be compiled at the end of the year. For more information, contact Alicia Cipria at email@example.com
Full implementation of the redesign of College Algebra at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UM-SL) was launched in fall 2005. The new Mathematics Technology Learning Center (MTLC) includes 110 computers, 70 in learning clusters and the rest in a testing area, and space for small group work using white boards. All faculty and TAs who are teaching College Algebra have office hours there. The redesigned course had three sections (65 students each) and one evening section (20 students.) Students spent four hours a week in the MTLC, meeting their instructor in the classroom for one hour a week. With these changes, UM-SL doubled the size of most sections without increasing the cost per section. Full implementation was a success. Student complaints were minimal: a few grumbled about using computers for homework but many expressed their appreciation of the method. The MTLC simplified the logistical problems of handling large numbers of students in various computer labs across campus. Now all students go to the MTLC for lab sessions and for tutoring help. Student performance was extremely good with a pass rate (grade of C or better) of over 80% compared to a pass rate of 50-55% before the redesign. With the availability of the MTLC, UM-SL is introducing pilot sections of several other lower level math courses modeled on the successful format of the College Algebra course. To learn more, contact Teresa Thiel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) piloted the redesign of Precalculus Mathematics during the fall 2005 semester in three sections using the emporium model and ThomsonNOW online software. Four sections, using a replacement redesign model, emphasized sample problem-solving over lecture during three weekly class meetings. Eight traditional lecture-based sections served as the control. Total enrollment for all sections was nearly 300 students. Initial comparison of the pre-test/post-test data indicates improved learning outcomes in both the emporium and replacement redesigned sections. The findings are consistent with the results of a common set of mid-term questions administered earlier in the semester. The redesigned course will be fully implemented in spring 2006. Modifications will include larger recitation sections and closer integration of the online math system and sample problem sets used during the recitations. UNC-CH also piloted a redesign of College Algebra during spring 2005 with full implementation during fall 2005. To learn more about the UNC-CH redesigns, contact Charlie Green at email@example.com.
In fall 2005, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNC-G) offered all sections of College Algebra and Precalculus (~800 students) and all sections of Introductory Statistics (~300 students) in the redesigned model. Learning from its experience in the pilot project, UNC-G offered a more complete orientation to students, improved scheduling of tutoring and help sessions and restructured face-to-face class sessions in both courses. Both math courses increased coordination among instructors and resolved performance problems with MyMathLab software. The inability of Blackboard to limit the number of short quiz attempts by students still presents a problem (for fall 2005 quizzes were counted less toward the final grade.) In spring 2006, undergraduate student assistants will help grade homework and quizzes and respond to email in both courses. To learn more about the Statistics and Pre-Calculus math projects, contact Ray Purdom at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wayne State University (WSU) completed its fourth semester of full implementation of the Precalculus Math redesign. The 100-station lab served 1,100 students in Beginning and Intermediate Algebra in fall 2005. In its last report, the team was worried about long lines. To prevent them, the team extended the lab hours to 79 per week and staggered due dates for each of the 12 sections. These changes were very effective. During the first few weeks, students occasionally had a short wait, but they soon learned when the busy times were so that by the fifth week, there was virtually no wait time. WSU is moving ahead with plans for a new lab with 160 computers. When this lab is complete, hopefully in fall 2006, WSU will be able to add additional courses. The team believes they have finally worked out all of the orientation problems. WSU had about 85% attendance (the highest yet) at the required orientation for winter 2006. The team also conducts two make-up orientations. The team initiated some changes for fall 2005 that they expected would improve results (changing the grading system to ABCU instead of SU and requiring that all students work in a notebook.) Unfortunately, these changes were not as successful as expected. WSU is analyzing the data to get a true picture of what is happening. For more information, contact Patricia Bonesteel at email@example.com.
To read project descriptions of all of the R2R projects, see http://www.thencat.org/R2R/R2R_ProjDiscipline.htm.
Linking content and software providers with leading edge institutions
In its latest electronic newsletter, The League for Innovation included a link to a recently published paper, “Making the Grade: A Report on the Success of MyMathLab in Higher Education Math Instruction.”MyMathLab is a set of online math course materials developed by Pearson Education. The majority of math redesign projects in both the Program in Course Redesign and the Roadmap to Redesign are using MyMathLab with very successful student learning results.The report examines several case studies in which MyMathLab has been successfully implemented in both distance and onsite learning environments. Case study interviews, statistical data, and an analysis of features illustrate MyMathLab's consistently positive impact on the quality of learning and cost reduction in higher education math instruction. The report is available at http://www.mymathlab.com/success.html. For more information about MyMathLab, contact Karen Silverio at Karen.Silverio@awl.com.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) used Thomson Brooks/Cole'sThomsonNOW online teaching and learning product. To ensure that students receive full benefit from the program, faculty members establish two deadlines a week, which means that students work at least 220 problems a semester in addition to any assigned textbook homework they complete. Students can take quizzes outside of class as many times as they want before the deadline and receive immediate feedback. Using ThomsonNOW frees up class time and allows instructors to move to one or two classes a week with other class time devoted to open lab time. With ThomsonNOW, instructors can customize exams using any combination of multiple-choice or free-response questions from their own test items or from the textbook. Students benefit because they get lots of practice along with immediate feedback. In addition to UNC-CH, other institutions successfully using ThomsonNOW include Purdue University , Edison Community College , Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and the University of Illinois . For more information, contact Molly Reese at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reporting on initiatives that share the Center's goals and objectives
Enrollments in basic Spanish courses at Penn State have increased 57% over the last five years, straining the resources available (classroom space and qualified instructors) to meet demand. In response, Penn State redesigned basic Spanish using a replacement model where students meet two days per week and work online for the other parts of the course. In the traditional model, TAs taught three sections of 25 students per year; in the redesigned model, TAs teach four sections of 22 students per year. TA workload has actually decreased despite serving more students since homework and quizzes are graded automatically. TAs now spend more time reflecting on and improving their teaching, creating learning activities and sharing materials with other peers. Student learning has been as good as or better in the areas of grammar and vocabulary acquisition, listening and reading comprehension. For more information, contact Nuria Sagarra at email@example.com.
Rockford Business College (RBC) faculty identified a number of issues that they wanted to address in their introductory computer course: homework was not being graded as quickly as needed, the number of sections offered was insufficient to meet student demand, and there was wide variation in what students learned and retained. RBC wanted to increase consistency among course sections so that all students would be prepared for subsequent courses, make learning more interactive; and increase the number of students in a section. In summer 2005, RBC began using Course Technology’s Skills Assessment Manager (SAM), which simulates Microsoft Office to teach Word, Excel and Access. SAM provides a pre-test and post-test to measure student achievement and automatically grades all assignments and records the outcomes. Now those who formerly graded homework are available for other tasks. Students from multiple sections meet at the same time in what RBC calls a “combo lab” (what we could call an emporium), where faculty members work with students from different sections at the same time. Consequently, RBC can schedule low-enrollment classes that are required in smaller majors more often. Students can move more quickly when they master the course material, Overall, more students are served with greater flexibility and RBC has reduced costs. To learn more, contact Marcy Sylvester at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 2006, The National Center for Academic Transformation