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Course Development Issues

Tallahassee Community College

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

Almost all of the technology-based course materials were previously designed. The Web site was custom designed for TCC by the publisher.

Newly created materials include course assignment material; a scoring rubric supporting new curriculum; a library module (using one pre-built module (TILT) and one new one); a procedure for grammar skills review; course-specific critical reading support material; and a tutoring procedure in Writing Center involving computer-housed reviews.

All features above, electronic and otherwise, are suitable, except for Grammar skills and Reading skills review. So far, the materials supplied by the publisher have been inadequate for a variety of reasons. This inadequacy is likely responsible for the disparity between the redesigned and traditional sections with regard to English Language and reading scores. In the traditional sections these skills were addressed explicitly within the classroom whereas it tended to be a "hit or miss" situation in the redesigned courses. The team is actively working to resolve these issues with the publisher over the summer.

Among the problems encountered with the Grammar Skills Review are diagnostic tests invalid (not suitable, not secure, or not available); Learning/ Review material (too brief, not interactive, inadequate routing technology from diagnostic to modules, not correlated with Grammar Text); and Assessment/Outcomes Tests (problems with validity, access, reporting problems due to multiple management systems). Reading Skills Review problems include materials separate from course readings not suitable, or access problems; and materials in text companion Web site labor intensive, or comprehension specific.

December 2002 Update: The team continues to use previously designed technology-based interventions, materials and services. No new materials (beyond those listed above) have been created and the team is still working to refine and maximize the utility of the materials supplied by the publisher, as well as other ancillary modules.

A plan is underway to centralize and automate all of the diagnostics, review materials, and practice tests for the College Level Academic Skills Test (CLAST) campus-wide, and this may provide the access students need while relieving Freshman Composition of the responsibility. Existing modules would then be strictly for student review within the context of the course.

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

The team expected to spend most time learning the technology but found that they spent equal time determining best practice for redesign features. This, of course, is an ongoing endeavor. The team spent the majority of their time addressing three issues.

  • Basic Orientation to Redesign Possibilities

This took a great deal of time because the team did not just want to move the course to an electronic environment. They wanted to take this opportunity to totally redesign the course to offer students a truly learner and learning centered environment. This, of course, raised numerous questions and possibilities.

  • Best Educational Use of Myriad of Redesign Features and Tools

This mirrored the first issue in terms of the number of possibilities and the amount of discussion that ensued.

  • Learning Technology of the Tools

Several of the faculty on the team had taught Web-based courses and so had some familiarity with the technology. For others it was a steep learning curve in order to stay abreast of the technology and half a step ahead of the students.

December 2002 Update: During the fall, 2002 semester, the team spent a great deal of time mentoring adjuncts and other full-time faculty. The team leader put out numerous bulletins to assist faculty and mentors, including step-by-step guidelines for orientation, tips for success and flow charts to help with diagnostics and review modules. The online training site was revised to make it more "user friendly" and some further revisions are planned for the spring.

Some problems arose because, although they initially gave their full support to the project, some faculty members were unwilling, or unable, to make the transition when the time came. The Vice President and the dean are working to provide incentives to help faculty fully engage in the redesign, both conceptually and in practice.

Have students been directly involved in the re-design process?

Students were involved in the redesign in several ways. Individual feedback was gained through one-on-one mentoring and conferencing. Surveys that asked students to rate the use and efficacy of the redesign features were distributed. Instructors in the pilot modified all redesign elements based on student input and student outcomes, especially skills review and in class essay assignments. The only reported drawback to including students in the redesign process was the large number of features of redesign during pilot. Having so many different issues to address made it difficult for students to focus on any issue that was working or not working well.

December 2002 Update: Students continue to provide feedback through individual conferencing and through a site use survey. The pilot version of the survey was modified slightly but has provided the same overall information. Students continue to find the Web site, the discussion board, electronic responses to drafts via SMARTHINKING, and the in-class word processing time, the most useful and central to the course. Students are also providing feedback through their interactions with faculty and with each other on the discussion board.

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

The team has received full support in every way. The team had complete autonomy to proceed as it saw best. The Dean supported the team's decision for full implementation of some redesign features in Fall 2002 while continuing to pilot more troublesome aspects. The department is in full support of new curriculum and is willing to learn redesign features and participate in training. The administration gave full support for assistance from every branch. The Institutional Technology staff gave full assistance for all technological features. The Dean purchased supporting software and hardware, made available an additional computer classroom, funded development of an online training site and engaged actively in the search for Reading Review Modules. The Academic Support Division/ Writing Center is integrally involved in defining its own role in providing support services in redesign.

December 2002 Update: The team has expended a great deal of time and effort in moving the project forward, and the redesign continues to receive full administrative support and, for the most part, the department continues to be very supportive. Further institutional support is as follows:

  • The IT department is working with the team to explore moving the project to the TCC server instead of the publisher's server.
  • The Vice President has authorized a "one time only" reduced class size for faculty with the understanding that they commit to full participation.
  • The Dean has scheduled all Freshman Composition courses for fall 2003 in computer equipped classrooms with Web access so that all sections have equal access to technology in the classroom.
  • Reassigned time for lead faculty to work with adjuncts and oversee program coordination.
  • Access to SMARTHINKING for all Freshman Composition students proposed for 2003-2004.

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Program in Course Redesign Quick Links:

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Lessons Learned:
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