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Labor Saving Techniques

University of Idaho

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?

Our goal is to improve student performance in these courses while teaching more efficiently. The definition of “efficiently” in the case of the University of Idaho includes the way in which university space is utilized as well as its investment of human capital. Because students meet in a classroom setting only once a week, two-thirds of the classroom space that was committed to these students is now free for other uses.

Relatively unproductive hours of faculty-student contact in a lecture hall have been replaced with just-in-time, one-on-one interaction between the teaching staff and the students. This has allowed us to broaden the teaching staff to include advanced undergraduate students, students in teacher training programs and graduate students along with experienced instructors. Consequently, the sheer number of contact hours has gone up dramatically for those students who need it and down for those who do not need it. Also, every topic in the course is presented in a series of on-line lectures that were created by our most talented teachers. On balance, compared to teaching students in 40-student classes, the teaching labor costs are about 20% less.

Collateral advantages to this way of deploying the teaching resources are that the students can make choices as to with whom and how they would like to learn and that inexperienced teachers can be placed in appropriate teaching assignments while they are being mentored by more experienced teachers. In the past, putting an inexperienced teacher in charge of a class led to dozens of complaints a year. This semester we had only a handful, and those students only needed some extra help creating the right mix for their learning. Finally, our advanced undergraduates all agree that they have learned a great deal both mathematically through review of material and in terms of teaching-learning.

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