|Program in Course Redesign
The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi is redesigning World Literature, a required general education course that provides students the opportunity to learn critical reading, thinking, and writing skills through the study of primary literary sources. Each term 1000 students enroll. The traditional course has been offered in 16 multiple lecture sections (~65 students) per term, with eight sections taught by full-time faculty and another eight by adjuncts.
The course suffers from several problems typical of multiple-section courses: (a) course drift and inconsistent learning experiences; (b) inefficient use of faculty effort in course delivery; (c) ineffective learning and a high drop-withdraw-fail (DWF) rate; and (d) an insufficient number of qualified adjuncts.
The university is replacing these 16 minimally coordinated sections of World Literature with a coherent single online section. A course coordinator will direct the team-teaching of four faculty members and four graduate assistant graders. Each faculty member will teach his or her area of expertise for four weeks. The faculty team will offer course content through a combination of optional attendance live lectures and required, Web-delivered, media- and resource-enhanced presentations. The administration and scoring of quizzes and exams will be shifted to WebCT. Writing assignments will also be administered by WebCT and graded by graduate assistants trained for the task. The course coordinator will keep the entire team working in concert.
The team-based, technology-enhanced redesign will allow the university to solve each of the problem areas. First, by collapsing all 16 sections into one, course drift and inconsistent learning experiences will be eliminated. Second, by shifting teaching responsibility from 16 individuals to a single, small, coordinated team, faculty expertise will be maximized. Third, by delivering the course via the Web, the passive lecture environment will be replaced with media-enriched presentations that require active student engagement, thereby increasing students' opportunity for success. Fourth, by employing only faculty and trained graduate assistants, the university will eliminate the need for adjuncts for this course.
The impact of the redesign on student learning will be assessed through a variety of means including comparisons of before and after redesign DWF rates, course grades, responses to a uniform set of exams and quizzes, performance on similar written assignments, student surveys and faculty reports. To assess implementation, team-teaching faculty will keep journals and write brief end-of-term reports on the experience. These journals and reports will become part of a Web site used to disseminate information about how to transform a traditional multiple-section course into a single-section, technology-enhanced one.
Cost savings will be produced by teaching the same number of students with fewer instructors (and significantly reducing faculty time in the classroom by sharing the load), eliminating adjuncts, employing graduate assistants for basic but time-intensive grading of writing assignments, and shifting course management to WebCT. The university estimates a reduction in the cost-per-student from $70 to $31, a 56% savings. The time saved by full-time faculty will be redirected to redesigning other general education courses, enhancing upper-level undergraduate and graduate offerings and providing additional resources for research and service. The cash savings previously used to hire adjuncts will be used for similar academic enhancements.
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