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Impact on Cost Savings

Carnegie Mellon University

Were costs reduced as planned?

There is a change in the actual from the projected cost savings at this point in the project’s efforts. CMU planned to reduce costs by reducing the total number of graduate teaching assistants from 10 to 5 per year. During spring and fall of 2002, the reduction was only from 10 to 7.75 TAs. For this reason, the reduction in costs went from $195 per student to $171 per student, a reduction of 12% rather than the hoped-for 29%. The total savings from the two course redesigns taken together is 25% rather than 39%.

Both the development and the full implementation of StatTutor are taking longer than other less programming-intensive strategies might take. There are still a number of lab assignments and a large number of homework assignments for which StatTutor lessons have not been constructed. The team is in the process of constructing those, and once they are done, the need for TA assistance in labs will be further reduced. In addition, an effort to push the use of StatTutor into homework assignments was not included in the original cost projections, which will reduce the grading load on both graduate and undergraduate TAs, freeing that human capital for other purposes. Finally, StatTutor is an essential part of an effort to put the entire introductory statistics course in an online format that promises even more substantial capital-for-labor substitution for the part of the course that involves more declarative content now being delivered in lecture format.

At the same time, reassigning TAs to research projects rather than to labs as originally planned became a concern to the department as the project progressed, which in turn caused the department to move more conservatively than originally expected. This issue is discussed more fully under implementation issues.

The availability of StatTutor (along with other curricular redesign) is allowing the department to collapse what was a one-year sequence into a single semester course. This has resulted in additional cost savings.

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