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Implementation Issues

The University of New Mexico

Looking back on the course pilot itself, what worked best?

Originally, we believed that in order to see improvement in student performance we would need to develop a series of programmed self-instruction modules. The success of the pilot, however, suggested that providing students with self-paced mastery quizzes might be sufficient. To be effective, the quizzes need to be required, and the students need to complete them. Students were engaged by the interactive material found on the text's CD-ROMs; they reported finding the material worthwhile in helping them better understand the text and lectures. However, students sometimes did not use the CD-ROMs until they were demonstrated in the studio. Students generally liked using WebCT and communicating with the instructor and TAs by e-mail.

December 2002 Update: By maximizing the availability of quizzes in fall 2002 (i.e., providing partial-credit make-up quizzes throughout the semester and full-credit amnesty quizzes during the last three weeks), we encouraged students to take more quizzes than previously. Performance in the class was improved directly (higher total quiz points) and indirectly (exam performance). Identifying students at risk for receiving a C- or less, and requiring them to attend studios which focused on improving learning skills and motivation, appeared to lead to more students than in previous semesters receiving a grade of C or better.

What worked least well?

We have not experienced as much success with the studios as we had hoped. Although developed as a means of encouraging student interaction and discussion, most students resist attending, and when they attend their participation is usually minimal. Some students, however, report that the studios were the best part of the course. We have yet to find the formula for broadening their appeal, even among those students who would presumably benefit from attending.

December 2002 Update: Instead of requiring everyone to attend studios, the fall 2002 implementation suggests that focusing on students at risk for receiving a C- or less may improve overall success rate (C or better).

What are the biggest challenges you face in moving from the course pilot to the project's next phase?

The greatest challenge next semester involves successfully transitioning from the current graduate supervisor to a new person. The current supervisor has been responsible for implementing all of the WebCT components of the course, as well as overseeing the graduate and studio TAs and providing support to other instructors who teach the evening and weekend sections of the course. However, we are preparing timelines and manuals for subsequent supervisors and instructors, and the current supervisor will be available to provide assistance.

With respect to the course itself, the two previous implementations have met with some success. Coverage of course content is greater than that afforded in previous years. In the fall, we will offer only one section of the course, but the increased size should not pose any inordinate problems. We are fortunate in having established a good working relationship with the unit charged with administering university-wide WebCT; the past year has provided useful information in terms of server requirements and related issues. We will continue to use the CD-ROMs in the studios, which meet in a dedicated room within the department. Students will use computers provided by the grant to review material on the CD-ROMs and to access WebCT while they are in their studios. The university staffs a number of computer pods throughout the campus where students have access to the CD-ROMs and WebCT.

We anticipate no major challenges with regard to faculty development and support. Both the department and the institution have been supportive.

Most students support the changes brought about by the redesign. They like the idea of the mastery quizzes, if not the added work, but they usually recognize the link between taking the mastery quizzes and performing better.

December 2002 Update: Our greatest challenge was met when we successfully transitioned from the original graduate supervisor to a new person.

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