|Program in Course Redesign
Florida Gulf Coast University
Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) is redesigning Understanding the Visual and Performing Arts, a required course in its general education program. The course helps students develop a broad-based understanding of a variety of art forms and the critical and creative thinking skills needed to analyze and participate in these art forms. The traditional course is taught primarily in face-to-face sections of 30 students plus two 15-student distance sections each semester. Because of increasing enrollments, the number of sections has grown from 180 students in seven sections in the 1997-98 academic year to 800 students in 31 sections in 2001-02.
Because the traditional course utilizes a large number of adjuncts (approximately 20 of the 31 sections are taught by adjuncts), the university has experienced course drift. Many adjuncts have a limited background and lack the depth to teach the required wide range of the arts. In addition, coordinating the adjuncts' teaching so that they adhere to the course's learning goals and objectives has been difficult. Many adjuncts, for example, have decided not to use the standard text for the course.
The redesigned course will allow FGCU to maintain the most important elements of humanities courses—the active engagement with ideas and the collaborative and experiential learning experience—while reducing seat time. All students will be in a single section, using a common syllabus, textbook, set of assignments and a course Web site. Students will be placed into cohort groups of 48 and, within these groups, Peer Learning Teams of six students each. Students will be directed to learning activities most closely suited to their learning styles as measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) instrument. The goal is to create a structured learning environment that maximizes flexibility and caters to individual learning styles through the use of technology. The course will be taught by rotating full-time faculty members who will provide intellectual leadership in their areas of expertise, a course coordinator who will oversee the mechanical aspects of the course, and a group of preceptors who will be responsible for interacting with students, monitoring student progress and grading critical analysis essays.
Quality will be improved by eliminating course drift and offering all students the same course experience. All students registering for the course will receive the same content information and the same assessment experiences, allowing the university to be certain that students meet the learning goals and objectives that the team has developed for the course. FGCU intends to increase the number of students receiving A's and B's and decrease the DWF rate. The goal is to create a structured learning environment that maximizes flexibility and caters to individual learning styles through the use of technology.
To assess the impact of the redesign on student learning, FGCU will rely on a "before-after" design, utilizing a considerable past library of student exams and essays as a baseline for comparing student outcomes. For essays, a common scoring rubric will be used. Monitoring DWF rates and student surveys complete the impact-assessment design. A range of implementation measures including focus groups and surveys of attitudes toward technology, as well as an examination of particular aspects of the design such as how the Peer Learning Teams are functioning, will also be conducted.
The course redesign will off-load many labor-intensive activities, such as presenting content information and grading exams and papers, to technology. In addition, FGCU will use an alternative staffing model that makes the best use the faculty, a course coordinator, and preceptors. The result will be a 39% reduction of the cost-per-student from about $132 to $81 with an increase of 150 students. Savings will be used to support enrollment growth without a commensurate increase in cost.
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