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Course Development Issues

Riverside Community College

To what extent have you been able to use previously developed materials in your re-design instead of creating new materials?

The course redesign uses a previously developed Web-based program (ALEKS) for students’ homework assignments. This program allows students drill-and-practice on topics that ALEKS determined they were “ready to learn” and also provides a text-based mini-tutorial for each topic. ALEKS allowed instructors to cut time from lectures that was usually spent on drill as well to reduce paperwork and grading.

A test-generating program available through a textbook publisher was used for midterm exams. The program allowed a single test to be developed and put on the lab server so that students could take their midterms on computers in the lab. The program algorithmically changed the values in the problems, scrambled question order, and scrambled answer order so that two students, sitting side-by-side in the lab, would be taking different tests. The computer graded the tests so that students got their results when they were finished and could print a diagnostic on topics that they missed. During the pilot semester, students were allowed another chance to retake the midterm if they were unhappy with their first results. For the fall 2001 semester, the number of tests was increased from two to four and retakes were not allowed. Again, the time spent making up and grading tests was virtually eliminated, with the added benefit that the Elementary Algebra course standardized both midterms and the final exam.

What kinds of activities took up the most time in your course development effort?

Creating the common syllabus, the common final, and the lab worksheets were the redesign development tasks that required the most time. Committees completed these activities, and sometimes reaching a consensus on topics required time, patience, and some give-and-take. It was expected that these tasks would require the most time.

Have students been directly involved in the re-design process?

Students were directly involved in the redesign process through participation in focus groups. It was very helpful to get their perspective and, in most cases, their views coincided with those of the instructors. The only problem encountered with students was actually getting a significant number of them to participate in the focus groups.

What kinds of support for your project have you been receiving from your department or the institution more broadly?

Departmental support has been very good, with a great deal of involvement from faculty on all three campuses. Institutional support was evidenced in the allotment of space and equipment purchases for the lab.

The level of support from discipline members from all three campuses has been exceptionally high, with faculty members spending a great deal of time and effort in committees to design course materials and determining adjustments that need to be made for full implementation. More broadly, the institution has been supportive in helping to locate space on all three campuses for the labs and purchasing equipment and furniture.

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