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Program in Course Redesign

The University of Southern Mississippi

The Traditional Course

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 1,000 students enroll. The traditional course is offered in multiple lecture sections of approximately 65 students, 16 sections per term, with eight sections taught by full-time faculty and another eight by adjuncts.

The course suffers from problems typical of multiple-section courses:

  • Course drift and inconsistent learning experiences occur because faculty members design the course to suit their individual interests.
  • Large numbers of full-time and part-time faculty design individual sections.
  • Inefficient use of faculty effort in course delivery occurs as each person tried to cover all content areas.
  • Ineffective learning and a high drop-withdraw-fail (DWF) rate exceeding 25% in some sections result due to the large section sizes and the passive setting.
  • An insufficient number of qualified adjuncts is coupled with rising student enrollments.
  • Students with highly variable learning styles and study skills are inefficiently served by a single "fixed-menu" course delivery strategy.

The Redesigned Course

The university will replace 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 on a particular theme for four weeks, together providing the full range of content.

The faculty team will offer modularized course content through a combination of optional attendance live lectures and required, Web-delivered, media- and resource-enhanced presentations. Students will develop the three target competencies (critical readings, critical thinking and critical writing) through a series of increasingly demanding readings and assignments devised to encourage students to think about and write about literature first as isolated texts, then as texts in relation to one another and finally as texts related to human culture.

Each module will last four weeks with one faculty expert responsible for content in that period. As part of a team, that expert will also collaborate on the design of quizzes and exams and the selection of complementary materials. Students will complete a pre- and post-quiz for each module. Links to additional required literary and/or critical readings, audio and/or video files and other resources devoted to particular authors or themes will be provided. The goal is to engage the student in an active learning environment, rather than as a recipient of a passive lecture.

The administration and scoring of quizzes and exams will be shifted to WebCT. Providing immediate feedback, these quizzes will keep the students updated regarding their understanding of the particular themes. Multiple-choice exams will be administered by WebCT after each module as one assessment of learning.

Writing assignments will also be administered by WebCT and graded by graduate assistants trained for the task and using the college-wide five rubrics. Students having trouble with a particular rubric will be referred to the Writing Center or for additional help online. The course coordinator will keep the entire team working in concert.

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 website used to disseminate information about how to transform a traditional multiple-section course into a single-section, technology-enhanced one.

Traditional Course Structure - Lecture/Recitation Format

  • 16-week term
  • 16 sections (~65 students each) per term
  • 2 contact hours per week: 2 (1.25-hour) lectures
  • Sixteen instructors (8 full-time faculty and 8 adjuncts) each teach one section. They design a syllabus, select text(s) and media, prepare and deliver two or three lectures per week, create and grade assignments and exams, and hold one office hour per week.

Redesigned Course Structure

  • 16-week term
  • One 1,000-student section each term
  • 24/7 access to online learning environment
  • 2 optional contact hours per week: 2 (1.25-hour) lectures
  • One faculty course coordinator directs the instructional team. The course coordinator constructs the online course; edits taped lecture materials; assembles appropriate media; prepares video, audio, and text files; directs four team-teaching faculty; directs and provides training for four graduate assistant graders; monitors student progress; reports final grades to the registrar; responds to administrative and rudimentary technology questions; and assesses impact, implementation, and overall progress toward goals.
  • Four faculty members team-teach one virtual section. They meet with the entire faculty team weekly; collaborate with the others and the course coordinator to select texts, media, assignments, and tests; prepare and deliver two live lectures per week (optional student attendance) for four weeks of the term; hold two office hours (one online) per week during his or her four-week teaching block; keep a journal charting the progress of the course; and write a final report assessing impact and implementation.
  • Four graduate assistant graders assist in teaching the course. They attend orientation and weekly in-service training meetings, grade WebCT-administered writing assignments, and hold approximately three office hours (at least one online) per week.

Summary

In summary, the redesigned course will implement the following changes:

  • Create a unified, coherent and consistent approach to the teaching of World Literature
  • Combine all 1,000 students into one large section taught by content experts
  • Involve students in an active online environment
  • Assess student learning uniformly through consistent quizzes, exams and writing assignments
  • Leverage an already-existing infrastructure and individualized support system
  • Eliminate the need for adjuncts
  • Serve the same number of students previously served by 16 faculty and adjuncts with a faculty course coordinator, four faculty team-teachers and four graduate assistants

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