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Course Development Issues

University of Iowa

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

We have used Mastering Chemistry, the Web-based, skill-building software authored by Patrick Wegner from California State University, Fullerton in the discussion sections using technology. Instructors also regularly solve problems generated by this software in the lecture portion of the course. The materials have been hosted gratis on servers maintained by Falcon Software, Inc. or Cal State, Fullerton. We have provided the author and the vendor with information about errors and suggestions for organization of the units in a more generally useful manner (i.e., to be independent of the order in any of a number of common textbooks).

Discussion section activities and laboratory experiments are ones that have been used in the previous format of the course. Additional development is underway to increase the discovery-based portion of the labs and to add additional experiments.

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

The most difficult issues involved facilities rather than academic issues. We converted a general assignment classroom into a technology one in which laptops are used with wireless connectivity to the Web. Remodeling work was completed several days before the start of the fall 2001 semester. Re-purposing a general assignment classroom on a campus with a shortage of such rooms required working through a number of bureaucratic procedures over several months. Since both general chemistry courses offer sufficient sections to occupy the room full time (i.e., 35 - 45 hour long sections per week), we were successful in implementing this conversion.

Reintegration of the laboratory content from a one-semester, two-credit course to two one-semester, one-credit courses requires a net increase in lab space because the enrollment in the first semester is substantially larger than that in the second. Potential space from another department awaited their move to other space being remodeled. The Chemistry Department was able to redefine a laboratory from research to teaching and temporarily move a lab course for non-science majors. The slow speed at which additional laboratory space was made available has delayed the implementation of the integrated laboratories until the fall of 2002. We anticipate a substantial opportunity for improved learning in this new venue.

The second most challenging effort involved the development of case studies that link the lab experiments to the lecture content around which threaded discussions will be organized. This is being accomplished by the PI, a research associate (available as the result of grant resources), the Director of Laboratories, and several interested faculty. Beginning in the fall 2002 semester, threaded discussions will be conducted in alternate weeks with the lab experiments. This part of the lab integration was held up by our inability to acquire additional laboratory space until recently.

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

Two Ph.D. students (one from chemistry, another from science education) and three undergraduate chemistry majors have been involved in generating course content or re-purposing existing materials. They have been very useful in this process.

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

  • We have received financial support from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to outfit the technology discussion classroom with tables and chairs, laptops and the wireless connectivity, and the presentation technology for the instructor's station (ca. $50,000).
  • We have received financial support from the Facilities Services Group to install new lighting, acoustical ceilings, power, Internet connectivity, carpeting and security features into the technology classroom (ca. $23,000).

  • Information Technology Services and Academic Technologies have provided technical and logistical support for the classroom.

  • We have received a grant from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for instructional equipment for the general chemistry laboratories including equipment for electronic data collection that enables inquiry-centered learning (ca. $42,000).

  • We have received a grant from the Provost's Office and the Video Center on campus to produce TA training video for new teaching assistants and for student orientation on the effective use of the cooperative learning in the wireless classroom (ca. $24,000). The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has provided a TA Trainers Award to develop additional materials for TAs (ca. $4,000).

  • The Department of Chemistry provided resources for a general chemistry server and personal response devices for use in large lecture auditoria (ca. $14,000). The Department has made additional space available for newly reintegrated laboratories and for outfitting those labs with hundreds of additional drawers of glassware and equipment. (ca. $25,000).

  • The College of Engineering has provided resources for summer support of the PI to begin development of case studies for a later phase of the curriculum development.

  • The National Science Foundation is providing support for the development of a math, calculator, and word-problem skills Web site to be used as an asynchronous learning tool in general chemistry. A second portion of that project is a Web-based placement examination in chemistry that will be used as the basis for advising entering students and as a standardized exam to evaluate student learning outcomes.

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