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Course Readiness Criteria - Example 3

Are the faculty able and willing to incorporate existing curricular materials in order to focus work on redesign issues rather than materials creation?

Ideally, one wants the faculty to have a "head start" in the redesign process if possible. Is the discipline one with a comparatively large existing body of technology-based curricular materials and/or assessment instruments? Are the faculty willing to employ an appropriate blend of "home-grown" (created by local faculty) and purchased learning materials in a non-dogmatic fashion? (Or do they believe that they must create everything themselves from scratch--the "not-invented-here" syndrome?) Are they willing to partner with other content providers such as commercial software producers or other universities who have developed technology-based materials?

Here are some examples of the ways various institutions responded to this criterion.

Cal Poly Pomona (Biology)
Pennsylvania State University (Statistics)
University at Buffalo (SUNY) (Computer Literacy)
University of Central Florida (American Government)
University of Colorado-Boulder (Astronomy)
University of Southern Maine (Psychology)
University of Wisconsin-Madison (Chemistry)

Cal Poly Pomona

The redesign proposed here is not a start-up effort. It draws upon a rich array of home-grown, CSU system, and commercial software products. In general, these products are characterized by wide scope, high quality, and easy availability.

Course redesign will:

  • incorporate products of Logal Software, Inc., Cambridge, MA by prior agreement allowing Cal Poly Pomona Biology Department to add to or modify their product for local use.
  • include previous products of the CALI project (Computer Assisted Laboratory Instruction) at Cal Poly Pomona.
  • use some of the products of the CSU MERLOT project produced by the CSU Center for Distributed Learning. These plug-in laboratory simulations and exercises will complement the pedagogical innovations present in our custom software.
  • adopt and adapt for this purpose software products previously developed at Cal Poly Pomona for the Integrated Science General Education Project funded by the National Science Foundation and 12 other grants.

Pennsylvania State University

There is a rapidly expanding body of technology-based instructional material for statistical education. Many long-standing publishers of statistical textbooks are in the process of producing technology-based materials that can be purchased by the student as a "textbook." Moreover, several new companies focusing entirely on electronic media are developing statistical education materials. In addition to these commercial sources, the Web contains many resources that have been developed at other universities. We plan to select some of these materials for the redesigned course.

Another important part of the curricular materials will be the statistical software the students will use to perform statistical analyses. Fortunately, there are a variety of easy-to-use packages available, one of which, MINITAB, is a local company with departmental connections.

The project team can also utilize its own existing internal resources. For the past year, the team has been creating a resource kit (see, which features small- and large-group activities, projects, on-line data collection forms and data sets. The team has also created a number of multimedia modules to help students visualize important statistical concepts.

These internal and external resources will be organized to form the core of the redesigned course.

University at Buffalo (SUNY)

Computer literacy is an area where there is a large existing body of technology-based curricular materials, although not all of them are based on sound pedagogy. The publisher of the text (Prentice Hall) adopted by the course team manages a web site with several types of on-line materials that could be effectively used in the course. The course team has been discussing with the publisher the possibility of using the limited customization of the on-line materials that will make them more effective for use at UB (e.g., simply changing the name of a drive used in a textbook example so that it agrees with the name of the drive being used by the UB students). In addition, a wide variety of technology-based curricular materials are available for computer literacy from other sources. Universities as well as commercial organizations (such as CBT and ExecuTrain) have developed and made available technology-based materials for computer literacy.

University of Central Florida

The American National Government course by virtue of its content matter is an ideal candidate for utilizing information technology due to the abundant copyright-free Web sites that deal with American politics. Sites include U.S. federal, state, and local government executive, legislative, and judicial sites; newspapers, weekly news periodicals, and TV news sites; foreign government sites; U.S. and foreign interest group sites as well as transnational and international agency sites.

In addition, an increasing number of American National Government textbook publishers are also providing supplementary Web assignments and exercises. These could be incorporated into assignments without the need to create materials or Web sites from scratch. Many textbook publishers also provide tests and assessment instruments that can easily be incorporated into media-enhanced classes.

Textbook publishers, such as W.W. Norton, are also using WebCT for supplementary Internet materials. Since UCF is using WebCT as its course management tool, faculty can readily use available commercial materials. The faculty are willing to incorporate existing curricular materials into the course redesign.

University of Colorado-Boulder

Of course! Nobody wants to re-invent the wheel. We are already using each other's course materials extensively. We are committed to creating a central body of computer-based resources, which will be accessible to all, and we are committed collectively to improve these resources as we use them.

We have already developed a substantial body of such resources. For the first semester of this course, planets and the solar system, Professor Fran Bagenal has developed Java-based interactive labs ( as well as a distance education course ( SITE NA ). For the second semester of the course (Stars and Galaxies) Professor Richard McCray has developed a complete on-line hypertext, with many images, animations, and links to external sites and Java applets for constructive learning. (See SITE NA, especially the link hypertext). The hypertext is constantly under development. This hypertext has been used to teach this course by Professor McCray and Professor Juri Toomre, both in small interactive sections (where we can gauge student response intensively) and in large (~200 students) lecture sections. We have also developed some homework problems that make use of Java applets for interactive learning and that can be submitted via CGI scripts for efficient grading and record keeping. One of our major goals with the resources of a Pew grant would be to fully build this interactive homework resource.

We don't have the slightest qualms about using materials not invented here.

The hypertext course referred to above makes extensive use of educational materials developed by NASA and other universities. Indeed, we make very good use of Java applets developed by Terry Herter of Cornell University thanks to a long-term support to Cornell through the Pew Charitable Trusts. We also make extensive use of web-based astronomy educational materials developed at the University of Arizona, the University of Oregon, UCLA, and several other universities. We cooperate with people who are doing this work and link to each other. The materials we develop are available to the world. We regard our contribution in developing web-based instructional tools not only as a resource to use at the University of Colorado, but also as our contribution to a world-wide infrastructure for astronomy education. We are delighted that an increasing number of other colleges and universities make extensive use of the resources that we have developed.

University of Southern Maine

The faculty of the Psychology Department at USM have no interest in developing new curricular materials, software or hardware for this course in house. The quality of materials that already exist within and outside the department is far above what we could do ourselves. We propose to use what exists and what will be developed in cooperation with others, not to develop something new on our own. We are teachers, not programmers or educational technologists. We see the development of technology as something that someone else is probably going to do more efficiently and effectively than we are. We have therefore outsourced our technology. An additional benefit of this strategy is that these outside sources are more likely to help others to incorporate technology into their courses.

Universal Learning Technologies (ULT) produces software that enables enhanced presentation of textual materials on the web. Their product, Bravo!, provides a platform for creating a web-based version of almost any text. Using this system, it is possible for students to communicate with each other and their instructor, to learn what they know and need to learn, to perform activities that will in many cases replace the lecture-based presentation of materials and to access materials from other sources. It enables web-based communication between people separated by time and/or distance. Furthermore, these materials are designed to be used by the visually impaired, increasing access to course materials by those who are physically or psychologically isolated from campus.

Several publishing companies have allowed their texts to be presented on the web in the Bravo! format. Others are considering doing so. This product has the potential advantage of being generally available to anyone interested in using it because a single publisher does not market it. This increases the overall utility of what we are proposing to do, in that it makes it possible to employ this technology with any textbook used in any course.

ULT is actively involved in the proposed grant, already creating many of the activities that we feel are important to facilitate learner-centered instruction. We will continue to take advantage of their considerable expertise in course and material design, developing activities that students can use to actively learn concepts that would otherwise be learned through lecture. Because ULT will retain ownership of these activities and will be able to market them to publishers and faculty, courses on other campuses stand to benefit from what we are doing.

QM produces test generation packages that are already widely used at USM and by other institutions. Their current web-based product, Perception, enables immediate feedback on incorrect responses to exam questions, including where to turn to learn information that was incorrect on the exam. By enabling students to take multiple versions of their exams, we use this system to promote mastery of the material rather than performance on a single exam. In addition, the system may reduce cheating because each exam can be made to be unique.

The system developed by QM is readily adaptable to many testing requirements. Questions can be incorporated into exam packages from ASCII or can be typed in directly. Many question styles are possible, including but not limited to multiple choice, true/false, essay, short answer/fill in the blank and numerical. In effect, this product provides a mechanism for putting almost any test material on the web and providing immediate feedback on student performance. They are also developing a library of questions for general use that will include the questions developed for our course. Thus, again, others stand to take advantage of our efforts to use technology to improve course delivery.

Every introductory textbook in psychology comes with at least some web-based materials. These products may include lists of web sites, computerized grading and activities that promote active learning. Also, text-specific exam questions are usually available. The products produced by ULT and QM can incorporate these materials, making it possible for virtually anyone to use the technology to improve delivery of their course materials. We will be working with both corporations to make it possible to link incorrect exam answers to specific pages in the text. This will create what amounts to a "Teaching Machine," not in the Skinnerian sense of the term but as a way to promote active involvement of the student in their own education - they will be able to effectively learn by making mistakes.

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Chemistry has available a broad range of IT-based learning materials. Many of these have been written by faculty elsewhere and published through the Journal of Chemical Education (JCE), whose editorial offices are on this campus. Others have been published commercially by software companies and textbook publishers. The JCE materials are collected from chemistry departments throughout the U.S. and the world. They are peer reviewed before they are added to the collection of published software and multimedia.

For the past ten years JCE materials and those from commercial publishers have been used in the introductory chemistry curriculum, and recently they have spread to organic and analytical chemistry as well. Initially students used the materials in a chemistry computer room. Then use was expanded to include computer rooms (DoIT InfoLabs) across the campus.

In 1998 all students in Chemistry 103-104 received as part of their laboratory manuals two CD-ROMs containing chemistry software and multimedia. These have been used by the students in both lecture and laboratory parts of these courses. One of the CD-ROMs was also used in Chemistry 109, an accelerated, one-semester course for chemistry and engineering majors. The department has also purchased from a commercial software company a complete set of chemistry tutorials for general and organic courses and has developed its own video materials for lecture demonstrations. The main criterion has been the quality of the materials, their applicability to the specific courses we teach, their ability to help students learn, and their ease of use by students.