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Institution E: Basic and Developmental Reading

Abstract

INSTITUTION E proposes to redesign its Basic and Developmental Reading course to improve both course quality and delivery cost-effectiveness. The reading course offers remediation to students whose reading skills are below the required college level, and approximately over 400 students are enrolled in the course each year. Currently, the course is delivered in a traditional way as a three-credit hour, lecture-based course in a computerized classroom. Students have access to an online tutorial program but only on campus during the contact hours or in the college’s open lab. Twenty-four to twenty-six small sections are offered annually with an average of 17 students per section and are taught by two fulltime faculty and five to six adjunct faculty each semester.

The traditionally delivered reading course typically experiences high failure (W+F) rate ranging from 34%-45% semester average, and approximately 12% of students enrolled in reading each semester are repeating the course. Considering that 90% of the approved general education core courses at INSTITUTION E require reading (and/or math) as a prerequisite, progression is considerably delayed for those students who fail reading. The rigid delivery format creates a passive learning environment that allows very limited learning flexibility and individual assistance that is needed to meet individual student’s learning needs. Small sections entail a high cost in delivery, and employment of multiple instructors causes course drift that creates inconsistency in quality of course delivery.

The redesigned reading course will address the described academic problems by following the “Emporium Model” that uses technology and individual assistance in a structured reading center. It will move away from the traditional course delivery of small sections with three contact hours to a learner-centered, active learning mode supported by quality web-based, interactive, and modularized learning software. One large section of all enrolled students will replace the traditional small sections with three-contact hours. Two fulltime faculty members will share the duties of course planning and preparation, monitor student learning progress, and provide individual assistance and remediation to students as needed. The redesigned course will remove all adjunct course instructors, and Reading Center assistants and peer tutors will be used in the Reading Center to provide students with individual assistance and tutoring as needed.

The student-centered learning environment created by the redesigned course will enhance the quality of the course and student learning outcomes. Modularized course content, coupled with diagnostic assessment, allows flexibility of individual learning design. Web-based software offers automated and immediate feedback to better focus student attention on skills yet to be mastered, and online learning materials are accessible to students 24/7. Students will be required to have three reading center hours weekly and will enjoy the flexibility in determining when to come for individual assistance targeted on their specific learning needs. As they make expected progress, students will become more active and motivated to participate in the learning process to achieve their learning goals.

The impact of the course redesign on student learning will be assessed by using various methods. A pre-test and post-test will be used to measure student learning. Comparisons will be conducted to ascertain any differences in the areas of student test performance, student work, and course grades. Further studies will be carried out to track student academic performance in subsequent college-level reading intensive courses to assess how well the students are prepared in reading.

The redesigned course requires only half of the hours that fulltime faculty spent on the traditional course, decreasing from 1,212 hours to 606 annually. Hours associated with adjunct faculty teaching will be eliminated; instead, they are replaced with hours of less costly Reading Center assistants and peer tutors that provide face to face individual help in the Reading Center . The redesign expects to reduce the cost-per-student from $197 to $101, a 48.73% savings for INSTITUTION E. Potential savings are expected when fewer students will have to repeat the reading course and move more quickly onto their college level education. The savings generated by the redesign will be placed into the general funding for instruction used to improve the education of students enrolled at INSTITUTION E.

Introduction

INSTITUTION E plans to redesign Basic and Developmental Reading to improve the course quality and student learning outcomes. The college currently offers reading as a traditional lecture-based course with three-credit hours and three-contact hours. The reading course provides remediation to students who need it before they can take college level coursework. About 57% of first time freshmen enrolled at INSTITUTION E in fall 2007 were required to take the reading course, and the enrollment of the course was over 400 students annually. The course is delivered in a rigid, “one-size fits all” format, and the result is that student learning outcomes are less than desirable, and the college bears a high cost for course delivery. The purpose of the reading course redesign is to address the academic and cost reduction issues associated with the traditional delivery method of the reading course and to improve course quality and student learning outcomes by using a technology-driven instructional model that creates a learner-centered learning environment.

Historically, INSTITUTION E used to offer two reading courses to accommodate students at two reading levels: Basic Reading and Developmental Reading. Due to small enrollments and the difficulty of scheduling the Basic Reading course, Basic and Developmental Reading was designed to combine both Basic Reading and Developmental Reading and has been offered since fall 2005. The combined course covers a wide spectrum of reading skills in order to serve the wide range of student needs. The reading course is offered in a computerized classroom with a traditional instructor-centered and lecture-based format. A reading textbook is used supplemented with some online tutorial software. The traditional lecture-based delivery method allows very little or no individual assistance in class to accommodate the wide range of student learning needs. Although online reading software is used to assist students with their individual learning, its usefulness is limited since it is supplemental and only available when students are on campus.

Students are often frustrated in the traditional reading class, and the course typically experiences high failure (W+F) rate ranging from 34%-45% semester average, and approximately 12% of students enrolled in reading each semester are repeating the course. Considering that 90% of the approved general education core courses at INSTITUTION E require reading (and/or math) as a prerequisite, progression is considerably delayed for those students who fail reading. The rigid delivery format creates a passive learning environment that allows very limited learning flexibility and individual assistance that is needed to meet individual student’s learning needs. Small sections with an average of 17 students entail a high cost in delivery, and employment of multiple instructors causes course drift that creates inconsistency in quality of course delivery.

Course Redesign Model and Application of Five Principles

The redesigned reading course will address the described academic problems by following the “Emporium Model” that uses technology and individual assistance in a structured reading center. As guided by the five principles for successful course redesign, INSTITUTION E’s reading redesign will address the entire reading course rather than individual sections. The two reading faculty will work as a team and make collective efforts in both the redesign and its implementation to ensure redesign success.

The redesigned course will move away from the traditional course delivery of small sections with three contact hours to a learner-centered, active learning mode supported by quality web-based, interactive, and modularized learning software. One large section of all enrolled students will replace the traditional small sections with three-contact hours. Traditional class meetings will be eliminated as the means of course content delivery. Instead, students will be required to spend three mandatory hours weekly in a reading center where they will have access to quality web-based interactive learning materials and resources and individual assistance provided by fulltime faculty, Reading Center assistants, and peer tutors. Students will also have access to web-based online learning materials 24/7 anywhere they choose to. The redesigned course will be further enhanced by using the online course management program of Desire to Learn to provide additional online assistance from the fulltime faculty instructors. The software Tegrity will be utilized to provide students with prerecorded lectures/discussions of the key concepts of the course, and these recordings will be available to students online through Desire to Learn 24/7. Students will also be required to carry out collaborative learning activities by joining a group as an “online learning community” and complete weekly online discussion and reflection on the learning content using Desire to Learn.

Students will receive individual face-to-face assistance in the Reading Center that opens for 35-45 hours a week and in the college’s Learning center for additional hours. Both the Reading Center and the college’s Learning Center are staffed with fulltime faculty, Reading Center assistants, and peer tutors that provide students with one-on-one assistance, tutoring, personal encouragement, and the human touch to help keep students on the right learning track.

On-going and prompt feedback will be provided to students by the interactive web-based instructional software adopted for the reading course, MyReadingLab. With timely feedback, students will be able to better focus their time and attention to the reading skills yet to be mastered. Each and every learning activity in the software will be graded and assessed to provide students with specific feedback and encourage them to stick to the task. Students will be allowed to repeat the practice and assessment until they master the specific skill before they move on to the next.

To ensure that they spend sufficient time on task, students will be required to spend three mandatory hours per week completing learning activities in the Reading Center . Students will be encouraged to spend additional on-task hours needed to make proper progress either in the Reading Center or anywhere else they choose to. Modularization with specific learning objectives and set timeline for each module will provide students with a course structure that will ensure that students will progress in a timely manner. Automated reports on “time on task” for each student will be generated by the learning software, and student learning progress will be closely monitored by two fulltime faculty instructors. Individual meetings and additional remediation will be required of students who are not progressing as expected in mastering their learning objectives against the deadline scheduled for each learning module.

The college will take various measures to assess the piloted redesign to determine its impact on student learning. Data will be collected by using a pre-test and a post-test to determine the improvement of the reading skills and overall reading levels of the students enrolled in the redesigned course. Parallel comparisons between the redesigned course and the traditional sections will be conducted on grade average, grade distribution, and student success (or failure) rate, and student performance on the departmental final exam will be compared and analyzed. Student success rate will also be compared with the baseline obtained using the last two years (2005-2007) average to further decide any significant difference in learning between the redesigned and the traditional reading course. The results of a survey administered to assess student satisfaction with the redesigned course delivery will be analyzed for feedback for course improvement. The impact of the redesign will be continuously assessed using similar methods after the full implementation, and further studies will be carried out to track student academic performance in subsequent college-level reading intensive courses to assess how well the students are prepared in reading.

Learning Materials

The redesigned course will adopt the web-based reading software called MyReadingLab published by Prentice Hall. The web-based reading program is specifically designed for developmental reading students and combines diagnostic, mastery-based practice exercises, tests, and assessment to assist students to acquire target reading skills to accomplish the desired learning outcomes. All items in the learning software are assessed and graded, and the program offers students instant feedback on their learning activities. It also provides students with a tracking system called Student Gradebook that shows students’ scores on all exercises and tests taken and informs them of the topics/skills that they have mastered. Such a design encourages students to take an active role in controlling their learning.

Content-wise, MyReadingLab contains 16 modules, and each module covers a reading skill or a study skill. Each student will have an assessment-based personalized study plan that addresses his or her individual learning needs. Students will begin their learning by taking a diagnostic test both on reading skills and reading level, respectively. The reading skills are assessed through a skill-based test that assesses student mastery of the fifteen critical reading skills. Based on the result, students will be directed to specific modules for help and practice on their individual reading skills. Each module contains a variety of tutorials, practice exercises, quizzes, and tests. Likewise, student reading level is assessed through the widely used “Lexile Framework” measurement which measures both student ability to read and text difficulty on the same scale. Based on the assessment results, students are offered a uniquely designed reading program that allows them to apply their reading and critical thinking skills to improve their overall reading level.

MyReadingLab also provides a comprehensive course management and tracking system for instructors to allow them to monitor student progress and measure student performance. All exercises, quizzes, and tests are automatically graded and tracked online. Its “Gradebook” reports enable instructors to monitor an individual student’s performance or the performance of an entire class. It generates “alerts” on those students who have not achieved mastery in a skill after extensive practice, have not reached the benchmark, or have not completed the work within the set timeframe. This will allow instructors to make necessary correctives actions to help students to move along. Its “time on task’ reports inform instructors on the time each student spends completing a specific task. With such a tracking mechanism, faculty will be able to save time on course management and spend more time providing face-to-face assistance to students.

Modularization Strategy and Learning Flexibility

One major element of the redesign plan is to modularize the course content of the reading course to allow students the flexibility to control their own learning. As is indicated in the above section, the learning materials, MyReadingLab, will be adopted for the course content which will be structured and delivered in modules based on the desired reading skills. The following highlights the major elements of the modularization strategy used to redesign the course:

  1. The redesigned course will have 16 modules designed based on the target reading skills and study skills for reading. Each module will have clearly defined module learning objectives, tutorials, practice exercises, assessment for mastery, and a built-in deadline for the module.
  2. Students will take a diagnostic test on their reading skills and a diagnostic test on their overall reading level to ascertain their reading capability. Based on the diagnostic results, students will have a personalized study plan that will contain the modules necessary for students to work on the reading skills that they are lacking and to improve their reading levels.
  3. The flexibility built in the modularized course allows students to start anywhere of the course based on their actual learning needs and progress though the modules at their own pace towards their final learning goals. The modularization allows students to work at their own pace and spend the amount of time needed for the accomplishment of the module objectives within a structured time. At any given points, students enrolled in the course may be working at different modules based on their study plan.
  4. As part of the Emporium Model adopted for the redesign, students will have the flexibility to decide when to come to seek and receive individual support and assistance from their instructors, Reading Center assistants, and peer tutors available in the Reading Center . Remediation will be provided to those who are behind the learning schedule, and corrective actions are taken by the instructors to keep students on the right track so that students will be able to finish course within the semester. Online resources and learning materials are available to students 24/7, and other multimedia materials are designed and available online to assist students with their learning for each module by using Desire to Learn, Tegrity, other online programs.
  5. Students may exit the course early at anytime when they pass all the required module tests and the comprehensive post test for the course both on skills and reading levels. Early exit will allow students to spend additional time on other courses they are taking and also increase their confidence as successful learners.
  6. The modularization will create a learning environment that will allow both students and faculty to focus on the skills that students are lacking. The modularization encourages students to play a more active role in the learning process.

Cost Reduction Strategy

The cost for the traditional course will be greatly reduced by changing the delivery methods and employing a staffing strategy that uses mixed instructional personnel. As described in the above sections, INSTITUTION E will redesign the basic and developmental reading course by using the Emporium Model that employs a structured reading center. The redesigned course will move away from the traditional course delivery of small sections with three contact hours to a learner-centered, active learning mode supported by quality web-based, interactive, and modularized learning programs. One large section of all enrolled students will replace the traditional small sections and the traditional three-contact hours. Two fulltime faculty members will share the duties of course planning and preparation, monitor student learning progress, and provide individual assistance and remediation to students as needed. The redesigned course will remove all adjunct course instructors and the associated cost. Reading Center assistants and peer tutors will be used in the Reading Center to provide students with individual assistance and tutoring as needed.

The redesigned course requires only half of the hours that fulltime faculty spent on the traditional course, decreasing from 1,212 hours to 606 annually. Hours associated with adjunct faculty teaching will be eliminated; instead, they are replaced with hours of less costly Reading Center assistants and peer tutors that provide face to face individual help in the Reading Center . The redesign expects to reduce the cost-per-student from $197 to $101, a 48.73% savings for INSTITUTION E. Potential savings are expected when fewer students will have to repeat the reading course and move quickly onto their college level education.

The savings as a result of the redesign of the reading course will be placed in the college’s general funds for instruction and to be reallocated for support of the educational needs of students enrolled at INSTITUTION E.

We plan to produce cost savings as follows:

  • Reduce the number of sections from 24 to 2 and increase the section size from 17 to 200.
  • Reduce the number of part-time faculty teaching the course from 4 to 0.
  • Change the mix of personnel teaching the course. Please describe:

There is one section of the redesigned course per semester. Two fulltime faculty members will share the duties of course planning and preparation, monitor student learning progress, and provide individual assistance and remediation to students as needed. The redesigned course will remove all adjunct course instructors. Reading Center assistants and peer tutors will be used in the Reading Center to provide students with individual assistance and tutoring as needed.

Timeline of the Redesign

The redesign will be carried out in phases that cover four semesters in a period of two-years. Table 1 depicts each phase and its major activities.

Table 1

Timeline for Redesign

Phase

Time

Major Activities

Redesign Planning

Fall 2007

  1. Build consensus on campus among faculty, administration, and IT support staff to ensure the redesign success
  2. Complete the redesign planning using the Emporium Model; carry out research needed for the redesign and the learning materials by faculty and redesign project coordinator
  3. Establish the Reading Center and secure equipment needed for the redesign
  4. Conduct training of faculty, Reading Center assistants, and peer tutors on the software, MyReadingLab
  5. Conduct activities/orientations to prepare students/parents and the campus for the implementation of the pilot redesign

Phase I Pilot

Spring 2008

  1. Pilot the redesign using the Emporium Model and offer one section of 50 students for the redesigned course
  2. Conduct necessary training of faculty, Reading Center assistants, and peer tutors to use the learning software and provide individual assistance in the Reading Center
  3. Monitor student performance and collect data on student learning
  4. Conduct data analysis to determine the redesign impacts on student learning

Phase II Pilot

Fall 2008

  1. Revise and modify the redesign as needed based on the analysis of the Phase I pilot redesign
  2. Conduct Phase II pilot of the redesign using the Emporium Model and offer one section of the redesigned course with 50 students
  3. Conduct necessary training of faculty, Reading Center assistants, and peer tutors to use the learning software and provide individual assistance in the Reading Center
  4. Monitor student performance and collect data on student learning
  5. Conduct data analysis to determine the redesign impacts on student learning

Phase III Pilot

Spring 2009

  1. Revise and modify the redesign as needed based on the analysis of the Phase II pilot redesign
  2. Pilot the redesign using the Emporium Model and offer one section of the redesigned course with 50 students
  3. Conduct necessary training of faculty, Reading Center assistants, and peer tutors to use the learning software and provide individual assistance in the Reading Center
  4. Monitor student performance and collect data on student learning
  5. Conduct data analysis to determine the redesign impacts on student learning and prepare for the full implementation of the redesign in fall 2009.