|Program in Course Redesign
The University of New Mexico
With an undergraduate minority student population of approximately 46.4% (31.3% Hispanic, 5.5% Native American and 9.6% other), the University of New Mexico (UNM) leads the nation's research universities in student diversity. UNM also has one of the lowest student retention rates among public research universities. Fulfilling the social and behavioral sciences requirement for the undergraduate core curriculum, General Psychology is the largest and most popular undergraduate "killer" course, enrolling 2,250 students in nine sections each year. The traditional course has been taught in a lecture format with no recitation sections. UNM's primary redesign goal is to improve the course's 42% DWF rate (30% of which represent failures, a disproportionate number of which are minority students.) Institutional research data confirm that such poor performance contributes to UNM's low retention and graduation rates.
The new course will reduce the number of lectures each week to one and will incorporate a weekly 50-minute studio session led by undergraduate teaching assistants (UGTAs) in computer labs. UGTAs will be drawn from students who have shown a 90% or better mastery of the material in previous sections of General Psychology or who are upper-division honors students. These activities will be supplemented by interactive hybrid Internet/CD-ROM activities, quizzes, and programmed self-instruction offered on a 24/7 schedule. Students will take repeatable quizzes each week requiring a C-level of mastery, course management software will enable the team to track student learning proficiency. An active intervention strategy will ensure that students are making progress. Graduate teaching assistants will monitor quiz performance and will contact and counsel students who fail to achieve a C level of performance as to how to improve.
The course redesign will enhance the learning experience for students in several key ways. First, course content will be consistent across sections. Second, while the traditional course format has focused on improving teaching, the redesign will focus on what the student is learning by assessing learning outcomes and providing frequent feedback to the students and instructors. Third, the redesign will foster greater peer interaction and work within teams as well as increased student contact with upper level peer leaders to facilitate learning. Fourth, an active intervention strategy will ensure that students are making progress in the course rather than waiting until final exam time to discover that they are not.
The impact of the redesign on learning will be based on a standard general psychology assessment examination administered pre- and post- in both traditional and re-designed sections. Survey data looks at changes in attitude on a post-hoc basis and a pre-survey looks at a number of expectations items plus readiness to use technology. All of these standard data are individually-identifiable, enabling a range of analyses of differential impact to be undertaken using an established cohort tracking database; this capacity is especially salient given UNM's distinctive student population.
The redesign will produce substantial cost savings by: 1) reducing the number of faculty and instructors teaching the course; 2) reducing the course failure and retake rates; and, 3) increasing student retention and graduation rates which affects state funding. The cost per student will be reduced from $72 to $38, a 47% decrease. Reductions in instructor time devoted to lecture presentation and delivery represent the source of greatest savings from the redesign. Faculty time is reduced from 1,056 hours to 220 hours per year and professional/staff time from 90 hours to 8 hours per year. Overall, annual course delivery costs decrease from $161,184 to $85,012, a cost savings of $76,172 to the department.
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