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Dissemination

University of Massachusetts Amherst

How would you assess the transferability of the re-design approach you employed to new subject areas or disciplines?

The features of our redesign are completely transferable to other courses in Biology, and other science courses in general, and we believe that they can be adapted for large courses of many non-science disciplines. The student preparation page and Duck quizzing package are open source and currently available. The in-class communication system, ClassTalk, and similar packages are available commercially. Our redesign was constructed with the purpose of introducing some of the learning goals for our biology undergraduates, which are skills-based, to the large introductory majors class. As a result, the redesign has clear pedagogical goals and should be transferable to any course sharing these learning objectives.

We believe that all of our biology courses taught in large lectures are not only amenable for transfer but are desperately in need of such redesign. We have already used the redesign format in the second semester of Introductory Biology. Although the subject matter differed from that in the first semester of the course, the redesign was well received by instructors and students. The impact of the redesign is also being felt in the large sophomore courses. In the Spring semester of 2002, genetics will taught in the redesign format.

How are you disseminating the re-design among your colleagues?

We have made a number of presentations at local and national meetings and universities about our redesign of Introductory Biology:

  • STEMTEC, University of Massachusett
  • STEMTEC, Five College Roundtable, Amherst MA, November 2000
  • Michigan State University, East Lansing MI, January, 2001
  • Building Creative Learning Environments, University of Massachusetts, March, 2001
  • AAHE Conference, Washington D.C., March, 2001
  • Fairfield University, Fairfield CT, June 2001
  • EDUCAUSE, Indianapolis IN, October 2001
  • Syllabus2001, Santa Clara, CA, July, 2001
  • Lilly Fellows Program, University of Massachusetts

The presentation and a video are available at http://bcrc.bio.umass.edu/presentations/msu/.

Reactions so far have been positive with some individuals expressing great enthusiasm and interest. One earlier criticism of the active learning format was the decreased coverage of content. We feel that this has been addressed adequately with the preparation page. Another concern is the use of the technology, especially ClassTalk. Over the last four years significant improvements have been made in the use and reliability of ClassTalk. The availability of new wireless and wired systems should resolve this concern. A final concern is the added time and effort this teaching format requires both before and in class. We hope that the database of questions and the apprenticeship program will allay these fears.

As part of our dissemination plan, the Vice-Provost for Information Technology directed the making of a video chronicling the redesign process. We were very pleased to discover the utility of this video as a product for dissemination and have used it several times in both local and national presentations.

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