|Program in Course Redesign
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
The Traditional Course
Intermediate Spanish Transition, taught every semester, is an intensive review course that combines two semesters of first-year college Spanish into one. Students enroll in the course as a result of placement scores on standardized tests. The course prepares students to enroll in second-year Spanish to fulfill a competency requirement for admission into the University and a general education requirement in four of the undergraduate colleges. The course has experienced phenomenal enrollment growth, from 378 students in 1994 to 1539 students in the 1999-2000 academic year. More than 60% of the 3,900 entering freshman want to take the course. Because of the increased demand coupled with a limited number of instructors, many students are unable to register for the course even though the university annually offers 57 sections of 27 students each.
The course meets 45 hours a week (three one-hour classes). In addition, students attend a one-hour audio lab each week. Adjunct instructors and teaching assistants (TAs) devote a total of 276 hours in each section to the following activities: 45 hours in class, 90 hours preparing for class, 141 hours grading assignments/exams. Instructors need a large amount of grading time to review the workbook pages and audio exercises required for each class period in addition to customizing listening comprehension quizzes and a weekly written assignment.
The most significant academic problem in the traditional course is that about 85% of in-class time is spent explaining and practicing grammar and vocabulary instead of practicing the expressive skills of speaking and writing. Yet theories of foreign language learning and recent research in second language acquisition indicate that learners cannot simply listen to input (i.e., practice grammar and vocabulary). They must be active conversational participants who interact and negotiate the type of input they receive in order to acquire language. The need to change the traditional course structure to allow more time for conversation coupled with large numbers of students makes this course ready for redesign using technology to foster learning.
The Redesigned Course
The course redesign has two main objectives: 1) to shift grammar, vocabulary, and listening to an online environment, thus freeing class time for interactive and collaborative learning experiences focused on information exchange, negotiation of meaning, interpretation, and authentic self-expression, and 2) to serve more students while significantly decreasing labor costs.
The learning goals for the redesigned course include the following:
Institutional objectives for the redesigned course include:
To achieve these goals, Intermediate Spanish Transition will be redesigned to reduce class time by one hour per week (from three to two), eliminate lab time, and substitute online instruction using the grammar and vocabulary exercises from a commercial text and links to the publisher’s online materials. Faculty will also develop some interactive material. Online exercises will provide practice in grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary. Students will work through a variety of exercises such as multiple choice, true/false, and short answer questions that will be graded by computer. Audio clips will accompany many of the exercises. In-class time will be used to reinforce and expand upon the skills developed through interaction with the online materials.
As a result of the redesign, instructional staff will be responsible for 30 instead of 45 contact hours per section per semester. The redesign will allow each TA to teach one additional section. The university will thus be able to increase the course by 19 sections per year, serving 513 more students. At the same time, institutional costs will decrease by one-third.
Traditional Course Structure
Initial Redesigned Course Structure
After the redesign pilot, UT modified its redesign by pairing first-semester TAs with experienced instructors as support partners and doubling the number of students in each section from 27 to 54.
Revised Redesigned Course Structure
In summary, the redesigned course will implement the following changes:
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