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Implementation Issues

The Ohio State University

Looking back on the course pilot itself, what worked best?

  • Student Choice

The orientation process went very smoothly as all students were given their first choice of large group activities, while 90% of students got their first choice of small group activities and the remainder received their second choice.

  • High Student Satisfaction

The "marketing" of the buffet idea to the students seems to have been very successful. High student satisfaction levels with being given a choice and with other aspects of course organization were apparent. For example, nearly every student completed the on-line contract within the first 24 hours of the course.

  • Course Content Links

The links between the concepts introduced, the examples, and the activities in the lecture hall and the concepts reviewed, the examples, and the activities in the labs seem to have become more obvious to students (a feeling that the lecture and lab components were disassociated has plagued the course in the past).

December 2002 Update: Similar results for the orientation process occurred in the fall 2002, although 9% of the students failed to complete the contract before section assignments were made. The fall 2002 quarter started on a Wednesday, giving students only 3 days rather than 5 to complete their contracts.

What worked least well?

Some students were resistant to having a different instructor on the Wednesday sessions of their Monday/Wednesday/Friday large group activities. We expect this problem to be alleviated next quarter as we more clearly delineate the purpose of the different sessions within the common framework.

The instructors' interface to the course website, that was functional prior to the pilot, was not fully operational during the pilot and workarounds were cumbersome. This issue is now resolved, but a clearer method to catalogue, prioritize, and resolve future technological glitches/needs must be established before autumn.

December 2002 Update: A group writing method of learning that was piloted in fall 2002 with 50 students did not achieve the same level of student satisfaction as did other components of the course, although student performance on exams did not appear to suffer for this group. A revamped version of this offering will not come online until fall 2003.

What are the biggest challenges you face in moving from the course pilot to the project's next phase?

There is an increasing focus on the challenge of maintaining high levels of student success with decreased contact hours as a result of new data on our traditional independent study course demonstrating poor performance even for some well-prepared students. For example, nearly half of the students in the self-paced class scored below 70% on the common final despite exhibiting stronger study skills, greater self-confidence, and less text anxiety in the school strategies inventory at the start of the quarter.

As the number of possible choices in the buffet increases, it will become more challenging to keep content coverage moving at nearly the same pace for all students. This is important to facilitate common exams. The challenge of producing the desired on-line tracking system is likely to become more difficult if the maintenance of the current technology begins to use up substantial time.

The development of TA and faculty instructional guides is a key component of the developmental part of the project that is currently being worked on. The challenge of having a faculty member who is not part of the project team implement the buffet approach will be faced in spring, 2003. Finally, ensuring that students make choices in the buffet that are best for their learning (and not based on the perceived amount of work) will be more challenging as the "buzz" about the course develops. Although careful planning has avoided significant problems to date, clearly substantial challenges still remain in the implementation of the full buffet model.

December 2002 Update: Students did not choose some out-of-class offerings at the expected rate in fall 2002 and winter 2003. Revamping these offerings to ensure that they are both effective and desirable to students has put the project approximately one quarter behind its original schedule--i.e., delaying full implementation until fall 2003.

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