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Labor Saving Techniques

University of Iowa

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?

Current cost savings come from substituting capital (Web-based homework) for labor (TA graders) producing an annual savings of $37,448.

Our redesign anticipates cost savings achieved by reintegrating what was a separate a laboratory course with the general chemistry course. One fewer faculty instructor will be required in the delivery of the new integrated courses. An unanticipated cost saving has also been realized. Improvements in the organization and delivery of the redesigned course caused the engineering department, which previously used a parallel course sequence (the majors sequence), to change to the redesigned course. As a result, Chemistry will no longer offer the majors sequence, which will free three instructors to take on other responsibilities.

A second unanticipated cost saving will be realized from implementing a new, dedicated server to deliver the Web-based homework and customized cooperative activities for discussion sections. We will also use the new server to deliver laboratory content and questions and to collect experimental data and reports electronically. Previously, laboratory graders spent time physically collecting paper reports, documenting that they were submitted on time, correlating a report with a person's identity, and returning comments. Virtually all of those tasks will be automated and performed by a database. This represents the efforts of one to two TAs per semester (i.e., $17,500 to $35,000 savings).

A third cost saving opportunity will be realized by using our new server and our ability to support databases and dynamic Web pages (using Active Server Page and Cold Fusion Server). The pre- and post-experiment lab questions need to be changed each semester to prevent mass reproduction of old reports. The cost and time involved in desktop publication of a new version will be avoided by delivering different questions to each student from a database. Collecting the experimental data via forms and lab reports via Word documents to a database provide substantial timesaving for the TA employed as graders.

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