|Program in Course Redesign
The Ohio State University
The Traditional Course
Ohio State University (OSU) is engaged in a second-generation redesign of Introductory Statistical Concepts, a five-credit course enrolling 2,850 students at the main campus and 400 students at branch campuses each year. Prior to 1990, the course was taught using three lectures and two recitations per week. In 1990, the course was redesigned by replacing the recitations with hands-on experiments, group activities and a greater emphasis on real examples in an active learning laboratory environment.
The current course is offered in two versions: 1) an on-campus version with about 750 students per quarter and 2) a self-paced, distance version with about 150 students per quarter. Students in the latter option, as well as the 400 students at branch campuses, do not have the opportunity to participate in the active learning laboratory at the main campus. (OSU has found that the self-paced students achieve a median score on the final exam that is 7% below that of the students in the on-campus sections.)
The increased learning that resulted from the 1990 redesign was offset by increased costs due to the following inefficiencies:
Most importantly, students with highly variable learning styles and study skills are inefficiently served by a single "fixed-menu" course delivery strategy.
The Redesigned Course
The redesign will provide choices so that students with different learning preferences can be successful. OSU will implement a "buffet" strategy, offering students a choice of interchangeable paths to learn each course objective in the framework of a four-stage learning model: 1) familiar example, 2) alternate context, 3) general principle, and 4) hands-on practice.
The "buffet" will include lectures, individual discovery laboratories (in-class and Web-based), team/group discovery laboratories, individual and group review (both live and remote), small group study sessions, videos, remedial/pre-requisite/procedure training modules, contacts for study groups, oral and written presentations, active large group problem solving, homework assignments (TA graded or self-graded), and individual and group projects. Thus for a specific objective, students may choose to hear and discuss a familiar vivid example in lecture, view and read about a real example in an annotated video presentation, encounter an example in a group problem-solving session, or generate an example through a group project. Students may choose to practice working with a concept in a data analysis laboratory, in an individual web based activity, in a facilitated study session, or by explaining it to others in a jigsaw formatted review.
The buffet strategy will also allow choice in the sequence in which the four stages of learning are presented. For example, it will match the learning style of students who learn better by starting with the big picture and moving to specific examples as well as students who learn by starting with specifics and moving to the general principle. Because students will work through an online assessment of study skills and learning styles early in the course, they will have the kinds of information and assistance needed to make appropriate personal choices.
The structure of the course will include in-class orientation to both the model and the course content. To promote student commitment to follow-through on their choices and to enable efficient tracking of their progress, students will enter into an online "contract" at the beginning of each unit that captures their choice of learning modes. Students will be given a set of default study options generated by the software to match the assessment results; the defaults can be changed at any time according to student preferences. The finished contract will include a detailed list of assignments linked to both the learning objectives and deadline dates.
The software will monitor student progress on an individualized basis throughout each unit, providing a variety of learning activities and suggesting alternative learning strategies. In addition, OSU will establish a statistics help desk that will operate similarly to other online help desks. It will provide answers to Frequently Asked Questions and will employ a tiered approach, saving highly skilled personnel to respond to the more difficult or complex questions.
To gain an overview of how the buffet approach will work in practice, follow the link to see how Jaqueline, a hypothetical student, will experience the course.
One of the goals for this redesign is the elimination of course repetitions. OSU will modularize course content and allow students to earn from one to five credits based on how far they successfully progress by the close of the quarter. Thus, several hundred students who currently fall behind and feel compelled to withdraw will have the option of continuing in the next quarter without having to repeat the full five credits. Analysis of previous data on drops shows that OSU will be able to eliminate one-fourth of the course repetitions, thereby opening slots for an additional 150 students per year. In addition, by requiring students to demonstrate a passing level proficiency in one unit before proceeding to the next, severe deficiencies will be identified and addressed early, resulting in a lower failure/withdrawal rate.
Teaching styles and capabilities also vary, and Ohio State plans to match the TAs who support the course with the delivery options for which they have a talent or experience. OSU will institute a multi-level certification process for TAs that involves a series of training experiences and demonstration of proficiency in discrete areas. TAs who do well in one-on-one help but have not yet mastered the management of whole-class discussions will facilitate study sessions or provide individual help during problem-solving sessions. TAs who have a talent for facilitating small-group discussions and managing the dynamics of hands-on laboratory experiments will utilize these skills rather than being overburdened with grading duties. The program will reward TAs with cash bonuses and greater choices of assignments as they progress from one level of certification to another. In addition, the team will work with OSU's Office of Human Resources to adapt a successful program in customer-service training for university staff so that faculty and TAs will be better able to handle course-related customer services issues.
Ohio State's assessment plan will involve both "before-after" comparisons of student mastery of statistics concepts and the investigation of differential outcomes for different "buffet" choices. As a result, it will collect summative data on effectiveness and provide considerable information about the interaction between student characteristics and specific aspects of instructional provision. Because the department has already established and benchmarked learning outcomes for statistics concepts in considerable detail and uses common exercises to operationalize these concepts, the basis of comparison is clear. The course team also plans to follow students to and beyond graduation to examine retention of key statistical concepts.
Traditional Course Structure - Lecture/Recitation Format
Traditional Course Structure - Self-Paced Format
Redesigned Course Structure
In summary, the redesigned course will implement the following changes:
Program in Course Redesign Quick Links: