Labor Saving Techniques
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona)
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?
Our single most effective capital for labor savings was the use of our Learning CD, which replaced multiple small-group tutorials. During the development period, we moved away from an animated interactive linear format to one of discovery and analysis. A number of operant conditioning and gaming techniques have been utilized to increase students' time on task. During the full implementation period we will be able to identify which principles of psychology utilized in our lesson design worked best to increase students’ time on task. Previous research has demonstrated that time on task is the single most important predictor of increased learning.
The use of a random test generator proved to be an effective labor savings technique. Testing took place in TA-monitored computer labs. Due to the random question generator, an individual item might also be on only 5 out of 132 other tests. Therefore, we had confidence in the security of the test items. This saved us from checking individual photo identification against Scantrons with four test forms, a method we previously used to reduce the opportunities to cheat. Ninety-five percent of the students preferred computer testing, stating that it enabled them to better focus their attention and finish their tests more quickly. They also felt better about the process than the traditional paper and pencil testing, in part, because they received immediate feedback on their performance and could identify areas of weakness. It was a large labor saver because students could look up any discrepancies they felt were on their tests before speaking with faculty.
Additional savings were also realized by the use of an on-line daily/monthly calendar. Our use of it was unanticipated, but it allowed for the delivery of content, the building of student skills and the monitoring situations as they arose.
The use of a Technology TA significantly reduced faculty time spent trouble-shooting technology issues and problems as well as encouraging and mentoring of students in the use of technology. Comparatively speaking, the Technology TA held more virtual hours that were well attended by students than the Psychology TA and the course instructor combined.
Immediately prior to the beginning of the pilot period, we decided to utilize WebCT as our principle Web site. Due to California’s blackouts, we also had an alternate site and a class mailbox on another server. Having two servers may sound as if this caused an increase in faculty labor. However, in the end, it saved time due to the ease of contacting students during power reductions, when servers went down and other typical technological problems occurred. It also increased students’ confidence that the faculty had planned ahead and that their time was not wasted by making multiple distressed emails and phone calls.
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