|Program in Course Redesign
University of Dayton
The University of Dayton plans to redesign Introductory Psychology. More than 50 percent of all students at the university take this course at some point during their academic careers. Twelve sections of the course are taught in the traditional lecture style each year, enrolling an average of 71 students per section. Students attend lectures three times per week; grades are based on several multiple-choice tests. Currently there is not set of shared learning objectives for the course. Individual instructors develop their own syllabi and content, resulting in redundant effort, disparate learning opportunities and objectives across sections, and assessment difficulties.
The current course structure offers few opportunities for students to think critically, explore psychological research methods, and understand how psychological concepts, theories, and research findings can be applied to real world events and issues. Large enrollments inhibit collaborative and active learning; writing exercises and active learning opportunities are scarce. Even engaging in simple student-instructor discussions can be problematic.
To address these problems, the university will create an online learning environment that is richer than the current course while solving many of the course’s major problems. The goals of the redesign are better subject matter mastery, higher levels of student satisfaction with the process, and a stronger sense of belonging to a community of learners. Network-accessible, interactive course resources will be available 24*7. Interactive applications and simulations will illustrate key theories, concepts, and research findings and methodologies. Grades will be based on four online exams; a proctored, comprehensive final; and performance on collaborative writing assignments focusing on important applications of psychological theory and research. The redesigned course will also be fully groupware-enabled. Students will engage in both synchronous and asynchronous discussions with other students and with the instructor and in other collaborative activities.
A comprehensive assessment plan will focus not only on student performance and attitudes, but also on other variables known to moderate course effectiveness such as learning style and other individual differences. Incorporating a true experiment to assess impact, the plan involves random assignment of students to "experimental" (re-design) and "control" (traditional) groups operating in parallel during the pilot phase of implementation. A range of instruments including objective tests, attitudinal and learning style instruments, and subsequent tracking will be applied as outcome measures and the results compared. The plan is based upon a successful experience in implementing a similar design for a previous, admittedly smaller, course.
Cost savings will be realized by 1) reducing faculty staffing requirements by nearly two-thirds, a shift from three to four faculty members teaching a total of 12 sections per year to one or two faculty members teaching a reduced number of sections per year (with additional teaching support staff); and 2) reducing student seat time by more than 90 percent while increasing the time students spend engaged in active learning. Over 60 percent of the redesign will rely on integrating commercially available and pre-existing Web-enabled materials; new online content development will be held to under 40 percent. The result will be a projected decline in the cost-per-student from $139 to $78, a savings of 44 percent.
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