|Program in Course Redesign
Florida Gulf Coast University
The Traditional Course
Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) is redesigning Understanding the Visual and Performing Arts, a required course in its general education program. This course is designed to allow students to develop a broad-based understanding of a variety of art forms and the critical and creative thinking skills to analyze and participate in these art forms. The traditional course is taught primarily in face-to-face sections of 30 students each. Two 15-student sections of a distance version are also taught each semester. Because of increasing enrollments, the number of sections has grown from 7 sections with 180 students in the 1997-98 academic year to 31 sections with 800 students in 2001-02.
There are several academic problems to be solved:
The Redesigned Course
The learning goals for the redesigned course require students to
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.
The redesigned humanities course will include three modules, one focusing on the Visual Arts (including Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture), one focusing on the Performing Arts (including Drama, Music, and Dance), and one focusing on the historical contexts of interrelated art forms (including the Renaissance through the 20th Century). Faculty experts in the six fields will redesign the course and outside experts will critique the content. The course will be taught by rotating full-time faculty members working with a course coordinator and a group of preceptors. The faculty member will provide intellectual leadership to the course, while the course coordinator will oversee the mechanical aspects of the course. Preceptors will be responsible for interacting with students, monitoring student progress and grading critical analysis essays.
Students will take practice tests on each subject area in the visual and performing arts and on the context areas in order to prepare for the objective portion of the Module Exams, as well as engage in web board discussions in order to prepare for the short essay portion of the Module Exams. Students will also participate in learning experiences in their home communities related to the arts.
A structured buffet of learning experiences tied to each content module will be developed to meet the varying needs of students with different learning styles. These experiences will include live lectures and discussions, labs and other hands on experiences, taped lectures, commercially produced videos, and web based resources. Students will be directed to learning activities most directly suited to their learning styles as measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) instrument. (All students at FGCU take a course entitled Styles and Ways of Learning where they assess and learn more about their own learning styles and others.)
Peer learning teams will be created with an awareness of different learning styles, grouping some students with different learning styles and others with similar learning styles. These groupings will be tracked and evaluated also.
Each of the three modules will have the same format with the following elements:
Students will also demonstrate their learning through a series of structured essays. Students will have the opportunity to discuss sample essays with their Peer Learning Teams before writing their own essay. One student from each team posts a summary of their discussion to the Class Discussion List.
Short essays in the module exams will be evaluated using the Intelligent Essay Assessor (IEA), a computer program designed to grade well structured essays. The Intelligent Essay Assessor, once programmed, will assess student essays that are between 100 and 500 words based on their content and their grammar, mechanics, etc. In order to program the IEA, FGCU must do two things: 1) input a digitized version of the textbook into the program so that it knows the vocabulary and 2) input graded samples of essays that respond to the prompt. Once programmed, the software will be able to grade the short essay questions and provide a score; FGCU will have sample student essays on the web that will offer guidance to the students who get low scores. The preceptors, based on pre-established rubrics, will grade the longer essays.
Eliminating course drift and offering all students the same set of course experiences will improve quality for all, whether students are studying on or off campus. All students registering for the course will receive the same content information and have the same assessment experiences, allowing FGCU to be certain that students meet the learning goals and objectives developed for the course. FGCU's goal is to increase the number of students receiving A's and B's and decrease the DWF rate. The objective is to create a structured, consistent but flexible learning environment that accommodates 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. These measures will first be tested in the traditional course environment in order to provide an additional baseline. 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 focused looks at particular aspects of the design such as how the Peer Learning Teams are functioning, will also be conducted.
Traditional Course Structure
Redesigned Course Structure
In summary, the redesigned course will implement the following changes:
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