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Labor Saving Techniques

University at Buffalo (SUNY)

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?

A small amount of substitution of capital for labor was predicted in the following two areas: 1) the use of existing on-line course materials available from textbook publishers as learning supplements for students and 2) the use of commercially available software for course management and on-line testing. The first did lead to a savings in faculty time compared to developing supplemental materials ourselves. The second did not result in savings of faculty time since the existing products do not have the necessary features and are not yet stable enough. We have gained significant insight into the problems both through our own experience and through the experience's shared by faculty from other universities at a panel we organized at a national conference. We propose to share these insights through a workshop for faculty, textbook publishers and course management developers. However, we still predict that once the software becomes more stable that there will be some savings in terms of faculty time.

The major savings was in the form of labor for labor substitutions through the use of undergraduate learning assistants rather than graduate teaching assistants. This change has also made the largest contribution to increased student learning and has lead to a recoverable cost savings of $134,000 a year, bringing down the per-student cost down from $248 to $114 with enrollment held constant.

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