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Implementation Issues

University at Buffalo (SUNY)

Looking back on the course pilot itself, what worked best?

The use of undergraduate learning assistants (ULAs) rather than graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) was a huge success. Not only did it create a better learning environment for the students taking the course, but it was also a useful educational experience for the ULAs as well. The department is now using ULAs in one other course, and many more faculty wish to switch to ULAs as well.

The e-learning materials for the concepts labs were very successful.

What worked least well?

  • Course management software

If the course is hosted on campus, it requires considerable resources: it is still undecided where the hosting would take place. For national hosting, students pay the cost of hosting the course, which is desirable, but there may be security issues about storing student grades and information at any off-campus site. In summer 2000, we used WebCT with national hosting. In fall 2000 we will switch to Blackboard with local hosting. This will allow us to compare the two and better determine which approach is most beneficial and cost efficient.

  • On-line testing

On-line testing was found to be effective by students and faculty, but technical problems caused us to return to off-line testing. We predict that these technical issues will be solved by software venders within the next two years, and we will welcome the return to on-line testing.

  • The lab facilities, as it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the funds necessary to update computer labs.

What are the biggest challenges you face in moving from the course pilot to the project's next phase?

Software not being robust enough yet and problems with availability of computer labs for future versions of the course are almost certain to be problematic. Faculty development, while not a problem for current faculty, may be an issue for future faculty from a pedagogical rather than a technical standpoint. Data regarding student attitudes and reactions are not yet analyzed, but anecdotal evidence points to strong positive reactions.

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