|Program in Course Redesign
Tallahassee Community College
Tallahassee Community College is redesigning College Composition, a required course for all A.A. and A.S. degree-seeking students. The course serves approximately 3,000 students annually in sections of 30 students in a traditional format that combines lecture, discussion and writing activities.
A number of academic problems are associated with College Composition. The student body is diverse, and the course's traditional format makes it difficult to address individual needs. Considerable class time is given to reviewing and re-teaching basic skills, thus reducing the amount of time students have to engage in the writing process. Additionally, success rates are poor (less than 60% annually), and many students have to repeat the course. Finally, as is the case with many community colleges, there is a heavy dependence on adjunct instructors, leading to problems with instructional consistency.
The planned redesign has two major components. The first component involves using appropriate technologies to provide diagnostic assessments resulting in individualized learning plans; interactive tutorials in grammar, mechanics, reading comprehension, and basic research skills; online tutorials for feedback on written assignments; follow-up assessments; and discussion boards to facilitate the development of learning communities. Students will submit mid-stage drafts to online tutors at TCC or to SMARTHINKING, reducing the burden on the Writing Center and the amount of time faculty spend grading papers. These activities will take place outside the classroom and will be accessible to students at any time. The second component involves restructuring the classroom environment to include a wide range of learner-centered writing activities that foster collaboration, proficiency, and higher levels of thinking. By shifting many basic instructional activities that can be readily individualized to the online environment, the classroom portion of the class will be redesigned so that students and faculty alike can focus on the writing process and enhance the quality of the learning experience.
Quality will be enhanced through greater individualization and collaboration, decreased response time and, in the case of interactive tutorials, immediate feedback. Increased time-on-task, increased interaction both in terms of human interaction and interaction with instructional materials, and increased opportunities to engage in the writing process will further strengthen course quality.
TCC will assess the impact on student learning through a quasi-experimental study that will be conducted by using eight sections of the redesigned course and a similar number of sections of the traditional course. Courses will be similar in terms of the array of student characteristics. The study will compare performance on a pretest and posttest of grammar, mechanics, and reading comprehension. To assess the impact on writing proficiency, eight written assignments from redesigned and traditional sections will be compared by using a standardized grading procedure. Overall performance data also will be collected. Students will be tracked through the next English, second-level composition course and two Humanities courses. Finally, the performance of students from redesigned courses will be compared to that of students from traditional courses.
The redesign of College Composition will result in greater standardization and make it possible to decrease the number of full-time faculty teaching the course, resulting in significant savings. Additional savings will result from decreased faculty time spent in diagnosing skill levels, preparing lectures and assignments, monitoring progress, and providing assessment and feedback. Further savings will be realized by reducing the amount of time and resources that the Writing Center staff have traditionally spent in working with students on basic skills. Overall, reduction in the cost per student from $252 to $145 will result in an estimated savings of 43%. TCC will reassign full-time faculty to second-level English courses, which are more complex, less amenable to standardization, and far more difficult to staff with competent adjunct faculty.
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