University of Southern Maine

How would you assess the transferability of the re-design approach you employed to new subject areas or disciplines?

What we are doing has specifically been designed with transferability in mind. We are using WebCT because it is the most widely used software product in the area. Anything that is created for this software will be easily available to anyone interested in using it. Furthermore, we are working with several textbook publishers (Allyn and Bacon, Houghton-Mifflin, Prentice Hall and John Wiley), developing packages that will work for their texts in WebCT. In fact, all of these companies have requested our advice in developing future products.

How are you disseminating the re-design among your colleagues?

This grant has contributed to dramatic changes in the number of other faculty that are incorporating technology into their classes. There were a handful of courses at USM that incorporated Web-based technology prior to the receipt of grant funds. We are now able to report that colleagues in the psychology department, other departments within the College of Arts and Sciences, and in other colleges and programs within USM and across the state have been working with us to incorporate technology into their courses. For example, using our intro course as a model, and taking advantage of other ideas, many faculty are taking advantage of our large computer room for their classes as well.

Most of the psychology faculty now incorporate a computer component in their courses. One instructor in second semester introductory psychology has adopted everything we are doing in the first semester. One reason for this is the data that we have developed showing the effectiveness of computer-augmented instruction. We have been able to show that students are ready to use machines, have access to them, do better with them than without them and retain more. Another big selling point is the automation of grading. Faculty hear this and they get excited about the possibilities. But most powerful perhaps are student comments. More than one faculty member has been asked why they do not use computers to disseminate course materials, and several students have complained on course evaluations about a lack of computer-enhanced instruction.

We may not get them to do the whole thing, (repeated testing and such), but we are getting them to provide students with immediate feedback about areas that need additional study. It is a gradual process, in that most faculty start with a single component of what we are doing (lecture notes on the Web, computer-based tests and quizzes, asynchronous linked discussion etc.) and expand what they are doing as they have success. In fact, we encourage this gradual approach to computer-enhanced instruction, in part because of the trepidation on the part of, especially older, faculty.

A majority of the sections of upper-level courses taught within the psychology department now have a computer component (only three did at the start of this program). The idea of quizzing students outside of class is catching on in a big way here. And psychology is not the only department showing such dramatic changes in course presentation. We helped faculty create Web pages, post lecture notes and incorporate computer based testing in their classes, with great success and no failures!

At least two introductory courses at the University of Maine at Presque Isle starting in the spring will be modeled after our course, and we are aware of at least two additional courses at the University of Maine at Farmington that will be using this model as well. Our physiological psychology course is also going to be taught based on this model.

We have presented demonstrations of the capability of WebCT and company specific products to interested faculty on our campus and elsewhere. Our presentations at local, regional and national meetings have created significant interest in what we are doing and how we are doing it – we get about an e-mail a week from people interested in how to do what we are doing. One of the things we had not anticipated was the degree of interest in what we are doing by faculty at other institutions. Our presentations at regional and national meetings have brought a number of e-mail requests for information. Colleagues at the University of New England, University of Maine at Augusta, the University of Maine at Orono and other, out of state, schools have contacted us with questions, comments, helpful and advice and requests for assistance in helping them redesign their courses.

Regional presentations include:

  • Annual Meeting of the Maine Psychological Association Annual Meeting, Colby College, ME. 2000
  • Annual Meeting of the New England Psychological Association, Bates College, ME 2000
  • University of Maine at Farmington, 2000
  • University of Maine at Presque Isle, 2000
  • New England Psychological Association meeting, 2001
  • Fairfield University. 2001
  • University of Maine at Augusta, 2001
  • University of Maine at Machias, 2001
  • University of New England, 2001
  • University of New Hampshire, 2001

National presentations include:

  • National Institute for the Teaching of Psychology Annual Conference, Tampa FL, 2000
  • Annual Meeting of the National Learning Infrastructure Initiative, New Orleans LA, 2000
  • Annual Meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association, Baltimore MD 2000
  • Symposium on the incorporation of technology into the undergraduate curriculum. John Wiley Publishing, Boston MA, 2000
  • Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Society, Miami FL, 2000
  • Seton Hall University conference on Technology in the Classroom, 2001

The following companies have seen the results of our effort and have considered or are revising their Web-based materials in psychology and other disciplines based on our experience.

  • Allyn and Bacon
  • Harcourt Publishing
  • Houghton Mifflin
  • John Wiley and Sons
  • McGraw Hill
  • Prentice Hall
  • Worth Publishing
  • WebCT

Our new computer facility on the Gorham campus, created with grant funds, is increasingly utilized as a resource by faculty on that campus. Instructors from at least one other large enrollment course, Biology 101, have talked with us about the use of this room for computer-based testing. Faculty teaching creative writing now routinely use half of the room for their classes, taking advantage of computers to facilitate student writing.

We have also been asked to teach k-12 teachers how to use this program. Some of our students are student teachers, and they have been talking to the people that supervise them. The result has been invitations to demonstrate what we are doing in 4 school districts in Southern Maine. Response has been so favorable that we are in the process of writing a grant proposal to fund WebCT throughout the State of Maine at the k-12 level.



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