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Course Development Issues

University of Dayton

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

Approximately 75% of our course Web site consists of previously developed materials. John Wiley & Sons, the publisher of our textbook, Drew Westen’s Psychology: Mind, Brain, & Culture has provided us with a great deal of electronic content. This includes a complete set of PowerPoint slides containing text and illustrations linked to the text, news articles related to psychology, video clips, and an extensive test bank of test questions.

December 2001 Update: During the fall 2001 full implementation, we uploaded more of the publisher-provided video clips. Students indicated that they found the clips among the most engaging and educational components of the online course. In addition, we upgraded the online materials to match the new edition of the textbook. As much of the publisher-provided content remained the same, this process mainly involved updating the copyright information and the page numbers in the syllabus.

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

We spent a considerable amount of time recording audio narrations for each one of content pages in the course. Although recording the audio clips was not that time consuming, developing the scripts was labor intensive. We knew from the outset that this would be a big job and the workload did not exceed our expectations. Bringing two additional faculty members in to script four of the chapters helped divide the labor.

December 2001 Update: During the fall 2001 full implementation, we were very surprised by the amount of time spent resolving student technical questions. Even with explicit instructions on how to access online content and activities, many students had difficulties. Although over 90% of the cases were user errors, it took a substantial amount of time to troubleshoot each problem and direct students to the proper support person or document. We found that our technical support desk was unprepared for many of the course-related questions it received. Since then, we have developed a process for communicating with the Help Desk to ensure that they have the information they need. In addition, we have asked all students to direct technical questions to the Help Desk and not to the course instructor. We have noticed a marked reduction in the number of student technical questions this semester.

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

Of course, the very fact that we conducted a pilot study brought undergraduates into the redesign process. We obtained a wealth of information from the students, both directly and indirectly (e.g., time and duration of course access). We also conducted a survey of students who avoided the pilot section of the course to assess their concerns about online learning. Finally, we had two graduate students working on the project who were responsible for monitoring the collaborative activities. Both graduate students offered insightful recommendations, many of which were incorporated into the course. In fall 2001, we plan to use upper-level undergraduate mentors to monitor the collaborative activities.

December 2001 Update: During the fall 2001 full implementation, we continued to collect student feedback. In addition, the expansion of the undergraduate mentors program allowed us to gather student insights.

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

Generally, the support that we have received from the university community has been strong and positive. Our department supported the redesign unanimously from the beginning and that support remains strong. In addition, we have been most gratified by the encouragement that we received from the Provost’s Office. Both the Provost and Interim Provost took a keen interest in our progress and have advised us as to how to best disseminate project information across campus.

December 2001 Update: Generally, the support that we receive from the university community continues to be strong and positive, particularly at the highest administrative level. This project has been promoted by both the President and Provost as a model for distance learning at the University of Dayton. We recently presented a brief overview of the course to the Board of Trustees. We still need to make progress on our intellectual property policy and our promotional materials for students and their parents.

We also still face some challenges at the level of the department and College of Arts and Sciences. Although initial departmental support was strong and unanimous, the logistical problems related to sustaining the course have started to emerge, particularly finding faculty members from outside the development team to teach the course in the future. Helping the department develop a sense of ownership for the course is a challenge that will need to be solved this semester.

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