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Labor Saving Techniques

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

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?

Since we are in the development phase, we have not seen an exchange of technology capital for faculty teaching labor because the pilot required much more work on the part of the graduate teaching assistants this first time than it will once implemented across the board. We should, however, see some cost savings in the next academic year. Once fully implemented, the online material will help build language skills for students and at the same time reduce grading for the graduate teaching assistants.

December 2001 Update: In the first phase of this project (spring 2001), the graduate teaching assistants and instructors who taught both one comparison class and one experimental class met three times to discuss their experiences. These focused sessions were recorded and transcribed. An analysis of the content of the sessions indicated that the GTA and instructor comments were almost entirely related to implementation issues of the online material. The general consensus was that the experimental courses required more work on their part than the comparison courses during the developmental phase because of the number of student complaints about server problems (slowness), confusion within online activities, wrong answers, harsh grading of practices, and technical issues (obtaining software for audio component), etc. GTAs and instructors spent much time orienting students to the course management system, resetting practices and responding to student e-mails.

Interviews with the GTAs and instructors conducted in Phase II of this project (fall 2001) indicated that after the problem with the course delivery server had been resolved, they felt freed up to devote time to better planning and the grading of Bluebooks and Collaborative Homework Assignments (CHA). (At the start of the fall 2001 term, there were problems with the course delivery server causing the first four to five weeks of class to be extremely problematic in dealing with resulting technical issues.) When asked to compare their load this semester after the server problem was resolved to their work load teaching in the traditional format, most admitted that they could definitely see that teaching in the redesigned format would require less grading time. Unfortunately, because the first four weeks of class were so stressful and required so much out of class time, most were not yet convinced the new format is less work. Our hope is that in the third phase of the project (spring 2002), we will have worked out all material and technology-related issues and that GTAs and instructors will finally obtain a more representative experience regarding labor savings in the online component.

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