Labor Saving Techniques
Penn State University
Given that a major goal of the course re-design project is to substitute technology "capital" for faculty teaching "labor," in what particular aspects of the course and its delivery are you finding that you are able to do this?
The course structure has been altered from three lectures per week by instructors and four recitation sections per instructor meeting two times per week (led by graduate teaching assistants) to one large group meeting (conducted by the instructor) and two computer labs (one led by the instructor, one by a TA). The role of the instructor has shifted from teaching/lecturing to being a facilitator of learning. This conclusion is supported by observational data. In labs students work on activities individually and in groups of four. While they are working, the instructor walks around the room insuring that all the groups are on task. The instructor provides assistance and guidance when needed, but the responsibility of completing the work and distributing effort is the students'.
Actual faculty class contact time has increased from three to five periods per week, but time for preparing lectures and making out quizzes and exams has been reduced considerably more. The resources for the course are pre-developed and shared by all course instructors, eliminating substantial duplication of effort.
The changes enable a reduction in the number of TAs needed from 12 to 6, with 8-10 undergraduate interns offsetting one TA. In fact, the amount of time expended by TAs is such that only four are really essential, thereby providing opportunities for training of two future TAs each semester on a continuing basis, an unexpected bonus. We will be using four second-year TAs in the labs, with the other two TAs serving as backups in emergency situations and handling tutoring labs for students needing additional help or for make-ups due to absenteeism.
On-line quizzing is conducted at the end of most lab sessions. This involves no manual grading, thereby sharply reducing manpower needs (particularly of TAs). The use of TESTPILOT sharply reduces the amount of time graduate students spend on grading and recording of quizzes and homework done in the PC labs.
We conduct RATs using bubble sheets processed by our University Testing Services and a commercially sold machine that we purchased, so no manual labor is involved.
A reasonably sophisticated but easily navigated Web site contains not only the management aspects of the course but also a large number of student aids and resources (solutions to problems, study guides, supplemental reading materials for topics not otherwise treated in the hard print text, self-assessment activities, etc.) Having assignments, quizzes, exams and RATs. on the community Web site saves a considerable amount of instructional time, both for instructors and TAs.
Program in Course Redesign Quick Links: