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Program in Course Redesign

University of Dayton

The Traditional Course

Introductory Psychology enrolls students from nearly every major and academic division; over 50% of students take the course. Each year, 12 sections are offered, with an average of 71 students per section. Three faculty members each devote 50% of their workload to teaching the course. They deliver the course in traditional lecture format with two to three lectures per week, covering the specific sub-disciplines of the field in a modular fashion. Student learning is evaluated through several multiple-choice tests. Although the lecture-test format is similar across sections, in the traditional course model faculty develop their own syllabi and content so that there is no shared set of learning objectives for the course.

The traditional course faces four significant academic problems:

  • Students do not have the opportunity for collaborative, interactive learning; student-instructor discussions; analytical writing; or exposure to psychological research methods. The large number of students enrolled makes these critical learning activities costly, and almost impossible, to offer.
  • Faculty must cover a certain amount of information during class time, which limits students to minimal textbook coverage of applications. As a result, students often fail to understand how psychological theories, concepts, and basic research findings apply to real-world events and issues.
  • The lack of a common syllabus causes redundant effort, disparate learning opportunities and objectives, and assessment difficulties when measuring the course as a whole.
  • The traditional lecture course is work-intensive and not as effective as it could be in fostering student learning.

The Redesigned Course

The prime objective of course redesign is to use technology to reduce costs while enhancing quality through interactive, collaborative, self-paced, student-directed learning. In general, the goals of redesign are better subject mastery, higher levels of student satisfaction with the process, and a stronger sense of belonging to a community of learners.

The learning goals for the redesigned course will require students to

  • define psychological terms and concepts;
  • explain the physiological, behavioral, cognitive, social, and developmental processes that underlie psychological behavior;
  • compare and contrast major theories of psychological behavior;
  • describe the role of research and the different research methods used in the field;
  • think critically about psychological concepts, theories, and research findings and express those thoughts cogently in writing; and
  • apply major psychological concepts, theories, and research findings to real-world events and issues.

In order to achieve these learning goals, Introductory Psychology will be redesigned for online distribution, using pre-existing commercial technology. Faculty and students will meet in large groups only a few times per semester: at an orientation session, a series of featured presentations, and one comprehensive final exam. Instead of attending lectures, students will download interactive content from the web and discuss that content with other students and the instructor using a variety of computer mediated communication tools (e.g., applet demonstrations, streaming video, collaborative writing and problem-solving exercises). Online delivery allows for greater depth of learning, as students participate actively in solving problems. Online delivery also allows for greater breadth of learning, as explanations and activities are more easily drawn from diverse sources (e.g., films, journals, Web sites, faculty-created applications).

Collaborative technology will enhance the quality of student learning by allowing students to communicate synchronously and asynchronously with other students, faculty, and various instructors and assistants responsible for administering the course. The course will be fully groupware-enabled. Students will be divided into virtual teams with their own customized workspace to foster a learning community. Faculty will visit these communities on a regular basis to check work, provide feedback, and conduct online study sessions for exams.

The redesigned course will also foster quality student learning by aiding in outcome assessment, made possible by regularizing learning objectives and course content. The redesigned course is expected to increase student time-on-task by 70% and make learning resources available to students 24x7.

Traditional Course Structure

  • 16-week term
  • 12 sections annually of 71 students each
  • 3 (1-hour) lectures weekly
  • Three faculty members each teach two sections per term. They prepare and deliver three lectures per week; develop syllabi, lectures, learning activities and exams; evaluate student assignments and exams; and hold office hours.

Redesigned Course Structure

  • 16-week term
  • 6 sections annually of 150 students each
  • 1 orientation during the first week
  • 1 final exam
  • All other student experiences are online
  • Three faculty members each teach one section per term. They review and update learning materials and exams as needed, conduct orientations in the first week and arrange special presentations during the term, monitor student online discussions, evaluate student assignments, and interact with students asynchronously as needed.
  • One teaching assistant per section monitors students’ online discussions, interacts with students asynchronously as needed, and evaluates student assignments.

Summary

In summary, the redesigned course will implement the following changes:

  • Break the credit-for-contact model
  • Use interactive, commercially-available technology to create a web-based learning environment available 24x7
  • Regularize the learning environment across sections
  • Reduce the number of sections and faculty as the locus of learning shifts to the student
  • Reduce lectures from three per week to a few per semester
  • Use discussion and written work as well as tests to measure student learning
  • Foster active, independent learning
  • Foster critical thinking and writing skills

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