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Course Development Issues

Northern Arizona University

To what extent have you been able to use previously developed materials in your re-design instead of creating new materials?

All learning materials were available from the ALEKS Web site; therefore, no new materials needed to be created. The suitability of the ALEKS learning materials was mixed. Students learned some topics easily and quickly; learning other topics was problematic for many students. Also, since there was not a perfect match between our course syllabus and the method by which topics were organized in ALEKS, it was necessary to present some topics outside of the ALEKS structure. In addition, students were required to master a few topics that were not part of our college algebra syllabus.

It was necessary to create multiple versions of unit and final exams. Producing the unit and final exams was relatively easy. Departmental faculty created a test bank for each exam consisting of ten versions of each test question. When a student wanted to take a particular exam, a quasi-individual test was created by choosing (via computer) one of the ten versions of question one, one of the ten versions of question two, etc. Answers to the questions were simultaneously generated for the instructor.

December 2002 Update: By using MyMathLab, most of the implementation difficulties we experienced during the spring 2002 semester vanished. The computer software was very user-friendly and dependable. With minor adaptations, we were able to use the unit and final exams from the previous semester. There was also a greater match between the software and the textbook. Hence, the need to present material outside the computer software was greatly reduced. The instructors spent most of their out-of-class time working through assigned homework problems in order to anticipate problems students may encounter.

What kinds of activities took up the most time in your course development effort?

A lot of time was spent trying to coordinate our lists of unit topics to ALEKS's internal prerequisite structure. This was unanticipated and turned out to be very frustrating for both the instructors and students. In the end, we believe it is an insurmountable problem that necessitates a new student learning software package. The ALEKS software has many strengths and is generally a good product. It is just not suitable for our particular college algebra course.

What kinds of support for your project have you been receiving from your department or the institution more broadly?

Although we experienced many problems with the pilot spring semester, the department and university still support the course redesign project and are struggling with us to make it successful.

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