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Program in Course Redesign

University of Central Florida

The Traditional Course

American National Government is an introductory-level course, one of two options in the General Education Program Social Foundations requirement of the University of Central Florida (UCF) and the option that 75% of students choose. Students in any given section of the course represent varied majors, levels of interest, and exposure to the subject at the high school level. The course enrolls approximately 2,200 students in 30 sections annually. Each section enrolls 80–100 students. The traditional course is taught primarily by lecture, with some sections employing a Web component that does not substitute for class time. During the fall and spring semesters, six faculty teach 13 sections through traditional lecture (three 1-hour or two 1.5-hour periods per week) and test formats, supported by three graduate assistants who assist with exams and grading. Some faculty have incorporated Web-based materials as a classroom supplement. Instructor-student and student-student interaction is consistent with that of a large lecture course. Although data collected on traditional lecture sections during fall 1998 show a success rate (a grade of C or better) of 78%, the number of students who must retake the course is over 100 per year.

Two specific problems need to be addressed:

  • Retention in large-enrollment general education courses needs to be improved. UCF has experienced increased success rates for students in sections that are partially Web-based. These success rates have been higher than the success rates of traditional lecture sections: 85% vs. 78%. A higher success rate is also expected to be seen in American National Government after the course is redesigned, thereby reducing—by at least one—the number of sections needed for repeat students.
  • The course requires too much lecture time in an environment with scarce space for large lectures. UCF’s dynamic growth has created a shortage of classroom space (currently more than 40%). The cost of classroom space for the traditional 100-student section of this course is $1,189. Overall, UCF currently pays $1.8 million annually for rented classroom space.

The Redesigned Course

The course will be redesigned to substitute Web-based, asynchronous, modular learning for 67% of the lecture time, thereby reducing the number of lectures per week from three to one. A pilot phase will first reduce lecture time by 50%. Course redesign not only will enhance the learning experience and increase the success rate for students but also will address the very real space and related cost problems of the university.

The learning goals for the redesigned course will require students to

  • understand the three major topics of the course (founding principles and the Constitution, institutions, and mass politics);
  • show critical and analytical thinking skills and conceptual understanding of the material;
  • be aware of the skills and values essential for the healthy functioning of democratic principles; and
  • more actively participate in activities that facilitate student-centered learning.

To achieve these learning goals, the course will replace classroom time with interactive Web-based modules. The modules will motivate students to become active learners and will encourage critical thinking and analysis. The modules will use existing, stable Web sites, many of which are administered by state or national governments, to provide dynamic course content. Examples of potential course activities include self-paced, auto-graded quizzes and games with instant feedback; interactive, Web-based election simulations; and test banks to review and prepare for exams. Web-based teaching methods, tools, and learner activities will make the course learner-centered and enhance the development of a community of learners.

To promote collaborative learning, instructors will divide students into groups of five to eight for activities with discussion components, thereby creating a small-class atmosphere and learning communities within the larger class setting. Examples of potential group activities include role-plays, simulations, case studies, and collaborative writing and peer review of research and writing projects. Within this environment, faculty and GTAs will provide mentoring and tutorial support for technology-challenged students.

Traditional Course Structure

  • 16-week term
  • 13–15 sections of 80–100 students each per term
  • 3 (1-hour) lectures or 2 (1.5 hour) lectures per week
  • Six full-time faculty teach all sections of the course, preparing lectures, assignments, and tests and delivering three hours of lectures per week.
  • Three GTAs grade assignments and exams.

Redesigned Course Structure

  • 16-week term
  • 12–13 sections per term
  • 1 (1-hour) lecture per week
  • Remainder of learning activities via the Web and in small groups at times selected by the students
  • Six full-time faculty teach all sections of the course, preparing lectures, assignments and tests and delivering one lecture per week. They also engage students in online discussions.
  • Three GTAs grade assignments and exams.

Summary

In summary, the redesigned course will implement the following changes:

  • Reduce seat time by 67%
  • Replace lecture-based learning with Web-based modules that promote active learning
  • Offer collaborative, small-group learning experiences by creating working groups of 5–8 students
  • Increase students’ interaction with course content, other students, and the instructor
  • Eliminate at least one section as a result of increased student retention and completion rates

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