|Program in Course Redesign
Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis
The Traditional Course
Introduction to Sociology fulfills requirements for students in several Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) schools. Approximately 2,000 students enroll in Introduction to Sociology each year. In fall 1998, 13 sections of the course were offered—2 with 200 students each and 11 with 35–45 students each. Classes met twice a week for a total of 2.5 hours of instruction.
Introduction to Sociology has historically been taught in a traditional format by faculty and teaching assistants. Students take examinations, write papers, participate in class discussions, and complete additional assignments that vary by instructor. There is no common textbook. Some instructors have a large component of technology embedded in their instruction, while others use virtually no technology in their teaching. Research methods are taught differently in every section. In large sections, examination questions are objective and standardized, and required papers are of limited length and depth. A teaching assistant helps prepare, proctor, and grade exams. Small sections require more writing. Overall, sections are taught independently, without coordination of content or approach.
The most significant academic problem in the traditional course is the 39% DFW rate (the percentage of students receiving a "D" or "F" or withdrawing from the course). The traditional lecture-and-testing format does not offer students the opportunity to learn collaboratively from one another or interactively from tests. Another significant problem is a lack of coordination among sections. There is no pooling of resource material and no standard expectation for collaborative learning.
The Redesigned Course
The goal of the redesign is to use technology to increase students' learning, lower the DFW rate, and decrease the costs of instruction for students, faculty, and IUPUI in general. The prime objective is increasing students' learning. Collaborative learning theory suggests that the more often students are able to engage in extended discussion, the more likely they are to learn the course material. The new approach to teaching Introduction to Sociology should motivate students to participate more fully in the collaborative learning environment and should help instructors be more efficient and effective in their roles as course facilitators. The university also expects the DFW rate to decline 10% as a result of the redesign.
The learning goals for the redesigned course will require students to
To achieve these learning goals, the course will have a standard research module for all sections, with a special focus on the collection and analysis of data. The research module will provide students with several opportunities to work independently and collaboratively on their writing and analytical skills. A "student social survey" will be used to introduce—and help students relate to—specific course topics and will provide data for students' presentations and papers. Each of these learning resources offers instructors an opportunity to challenge students to think critically.
Interactive testing will also be introduced. Quiz questions will be available from a test bank, and at least one common, standardized examination will be offered. In large sections, all examinations will be delivered interactively; students will be allowed to take these exams outside of class, which will free in-class time for additional student-teacher interaction and will increase the potential for the assessment of students’ learning.
A common software system will be used to allow faculty to easily develop, distribute, and manage course material and effectively monitor students’ participation, allowing early intervention in problem situations. The software will also create a common discussion space that will allow all students (resident and commuter, traditional and nontraditional) to work collaboratively without location and time restrictions.
In addition, some sections of Introduction to Sociology will be linked to Elementary English Composition (which is required of virtually all students on campus) in order to strengthen students' understanding and skill in writing about sociology. Linking these two courses will provide a more substantive topical component for writers in Elementary English Composition and will provide better writing instruction in Introduction to Sociology.
Traditional Course Structure
* Five or six professors teach one or two sections per semester. They prepare and present lectures, create and update examinations, grade papers and examinations, monitor students’ progress, respond to students via e-mail, hold at least two office hours per week, and supervise undergraduate teaching assistants in the large sections.
Redesigned Course Structure
In summary, the redesigned course will implement the following changes:
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