Portland State University
How would you assess the transferability of the re-design approach you employed to new subject areas or disciplines?
A key aspect of our redesign is that it does not require all students, nor all instructors, to interact in the same way. Students preferring more independent development can get it and those needing the traditional contact hours can still get those hours while the institution saves money and serves a greater enrollment. This approach is extremely beneficial in the planning stages of course redesign. It permits greater flexibility in planning and reform and allows the designers to continue innovating. It is an effective method of reaching compromise between differing interests and of establishing dialogue and common interests.
The online environment allows for automation but maintains the ability of the instructor to supervise student work and assure compliance with course requirements. In this sense the online course is considerably more adaptive than stand-alone media materials. With regard to second language courses, we are seeing that any foray into online course delivery requires much qualitative training for the instructors and protection of students' creative interactions within the online format.
The most readily transferable and most labor-efficient aspects of the products used or created in the redesign are those that focus on automation. Courses already using mechanical grading or requiring instructors to grade mechanics could greatly benefit from a similar redesign. There is a wealth of online materials and WebCT materials for Spanish on the market. The WebCT content for the ¿Cómo? text will be available soon after the 2002-2003 implementation.
Course redesign, Internet enhancement and online courses are important solutions to financial and physical limitations at our university. The Vice Provost has identified a number of courses that would greatly benefit from a similar redesign. The administration is requesting proposals for redesign of these and other courses and is offering to allocate resources in support of those proposals. The redesign will become more attractive to many departments and faculty because much funding responsibility for courses is currently being transferred from colleges to departments.
December 2002 Update: The Second-Year Spanish Coordinator is currently applying for an internal Portland State University grant to help redesign her courses, integrating good practices and methods from First-Year Spanish. Both redesigns focus on automation of menial grading and of administrative tasks while extending communicative activity beyond the classroom.
How are you disseminating the re-design among your colleagues?
Two of our most successful disseminations of the project have been the MOPI Workshop we hosted and the PSU Teaching and Learning with Technology Fair. The workshop allowed us to tag some publicity onto the training. In winter 2002 we also sent the course coordinator and two instructors to a proficiency writing workshop at Southern Oregon University. While that workshop was not a forum for our publicity, it did allow the coordinator to meet Judith Liskin-Gasparro, a national ACTFL expert and Assistant Director of Middlebury College’s Spanish School.
The greatest concerns among the foreign language faculty at PSU are graduate assistant exploitation and reduced seat time. Our instructors are in need of greater financial support. Because of the way our graduate assistants' support is funded, we save money by having them teach more and earn more. The faculty fears that the additional work will be—because it has been in the past—detrimental to graduate students' success in their programs of study. Our course redesign does allow them to earn more money while reducing the workload per student. We will be monitoring instructor performance in their own programs of study to ensure that they have adequate time for their studies.
The resistance to reduced seat time stems partly from the perception by faculty, instructors and students, that seat time equals oral communication time, when this is often not the case. Our reduced seat time sections move to the online environment the reading, mechanical and drilling activities that would otherwise be performed in class. As the redesign encompasses a year-long course and proficiency cannot be accurately measured from one quarter to another, our most immediate indications of success will be student and instructor satisfaction. The Foreign Language faculty and others at the institution are reserved, but the current state budget crisis and the shift in course funding to departments is making them more interested in the final results.
December 2002 Update: Faculty involved in the redesign project have submitted proposals to present findings and to discuss the redesign project at several conferences in 2003. One such presentation will be:
"Redesigning the Giant Course: the Pew Grant Project in Spanish at Portland State University," Hawaii International Conference on Arts and Humanities, Honolulu, January 12-15, 2003.
Program in Course Redesign Quick Links: