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Impact on Cost Savings

Drexel University

Were costs reduced as planned?

Although Drexel did not carry out its original plan, the team nevertheless achieved almost the same cost savings that was originally planned.

In the middle of the project, the department of mathematics and computer science was split into independent departments. Mathematics remained in the College of Arts and Sciences, and computer science moved to the College of Engineering. This resulted in a change in the scope of the project because of a shift in the way the target courses would be used. The current approach is for all of the computing-oriented majors to master programming to an equivalent knowledge level so they can take higher level computer science courses, for which computer programming is a pre-requisite. Rather than combining two related courses by creating multi-level modules for different majors as planned, the two separate but related courses continue to be offered.

In addition, decreased demand for computer science majors has led to a decline in enrollments in both courses. Course enrollment in Computer Programming I declined from ~700 to ~250; course enrollment in Computer Programming B declined from ~300 to ~160. The total enrollment change from 1024 to 414 represents a 60% decline rather than the expected growth to 1300. The precipitous decline in enrollment contributed to the savings; fewer expensive TAs were needed to staff the course.

The cost-per-student in Computer Programming I was less than planned, declining from $156 to $125 rather than to $100, a savings of 19% rather than the projected 36%. In this course, the mix of faculty changed, accounting for the decline in cost. No adjunct faculty members were involved in the course after redesign, and the number of auxiliary faculty declined from five to three. In addition, the number of TAs was reduced from nine to four. Graduate student assistants paid by the hour increased slightly and undergraduate student assistants, who are paid $8 per hour and provide excellent assistance, were added to work in the lab.

The cost-per-student in computer programming B was greater than planned, declining from $208 to $52 rather than to $100, an increased savings of 75% rather than the projected 52%. In a significant change from the original plan, all TAs were eliminated. The four sections of the course were taught solely by adjunct and auxiliary faculty, who were paid much less per hour than TAs.

The initial cost of the traditional course was $172 – a weighted average of the combined enrollment of the two courses. The original cost-per-student for the redesigned course was projected to be $100; the actual cost per student was $97 based on a weighted average of the enrollment of the two separate courses.

Cost savings were achieved by automating most of the paper-handling activities of the two courses, including laboratory assignments, quizzes, and homework assignments, as intended. These documents were delivered, collected, graded and returned to students in a paperless environment that mimicked the detailed feedback available on paper through the use of pen tablet PCs. Several software tools were created and implemented to help expedite these processes. As a result, auxiliary and adjunct faculty and TAs were able to handle additional sections of the course without working increased hours. In addition, because the primary course materials were standardized and available online, the department was able to change the course staffing to use non-tenure track faculty instead of tenure-track/tenured faculty without a reduction in quality.

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