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Labor Saving Techniques

Virginia Tech

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?

According to the Planning Tool, the cost per student under the traditional format was $77. As shown below, then, total cost savings for AY 1999 - 2000 came to $73,282. With just one instructor handling all of the students, operating costs for the fall 2000 semester reached the level of $24 per student estimated in the grant proposal.

MATH 1114 Cost Savings

Semester
Cost per student
Traditional cost
Savings per student
Number of Students
Total Savings
Fall 1999
$36.87
$76.61
$39.74
1406
$55,874.44
Spring 2000
$49.40
$76.61
$27.31
637
$17,396.47
Total AY 99-00
$40.74
$76.61
$35.87
2043
$73,282.41
Fall 2000 (est.)
$23.25
$76.61
$53.36
1360
$72,569.60

The principal capital-for-labor substitution behind these numbers is the use of software for delivering content via Web-based presentations in place of parallel lecture sections. Some skill building occurs in the online quizzes, and now in the more interactive version of the presentations; these resources have replaced a great deal of grading time. Video solutions of homework problems provide another important capital item that replaces office hours and some class time.

At this stage we have not realized capital-for-labor substitutions in mentoring or in facilitating student interaction. The peer tutors available at the Math Emporium have provided important assistance at a lower cost.

We expected that the software could be used as an efficient way to monitor student progress. This capability was built into the pilot version of the course but was not utilized, partly because staff were fully occupied with various first-year problems. As the system was developed and corrected, the monitoring capability was dropped, and it is not in the current version of the system. It remains a possibility for the future.

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