|The Roadmap to Redesign (R2R)
Calhoun Community College
Course Title: Business Statistics I
Calhoun Community College (CCC) plans to redesign its Business Statistics I course. Because it is included in several A.S. and A.A.S. degree curricula and is a requirement for students seeking a B.S. degree in Nursing, course enrollment is increasing. Annually enrolling more than 280 students, the course is taught in small sections averaging 20 students each by full-time and part-time faculty (6 and 8 sections respectively). Business Statistics I is a full equivalent of corresponding courses at state baccalaureate institutions to ensure that credits earned in the course are transferable. The traditional format requires students to attend three hours of classroom lecture each week. Some integration of computer-based instruction has been attempted, but these efforts have been less than fully satisfactory and have not been available to all students.
The traditional course suffers from four academic problems. First, because instructors design their sections individually, a major problem is course drift. Students arrive at the sequential course (Business Statistics II) with widely differing levels of preparation, requiring an extensive "review" that is more of a crash course in missing knowledge. Second, the course makes limited use of computer-based instruction and relies primarily on the traditional lecture method. Third, students enter the course with different learning styles, but the lecture method does not address these differences. Fourth, the course does not provide individualized attention for students experiencing difficulties. The result is that the first-time success rate (grade of C or higher) is only 65%.
Calhoun CC plans to use the Replacement Model, substituting a computer lab session for one of the three weekly class meetings. The course will be restructured to a modular format, with general topics divided into smaller units. The redesign will use a combination of StatTutor, iLrn, Minitab and WebCT software to provide automated tutorials, online exams, low stakes quizzes, and automated course management. The new course design will encourage active learning by including more hands-on problem-solving practice. It will allow faculty to identify problems earlier and provide students with timely, focused, individualized assistance. Course standardization will provide students better and more uniform preparation for their second statistics course. Finally, the redesign will allow the college to control the costs of increased enrollment while maintaining small class size.
The performance of students in the redesigned course and in the traditional course will be compared. During the pilot phase, faculty will develop and use a common comprehensive final exam for the parallel sections. Faculty will also use common statistical problems in the four other course exams and will develop and use an agreed upon "cut scale" in grading all exams to ensure valid comparisons are achieved. Similar comparisons of results during the implementation phase will be made using baseline data drawn from the pilot phase. In both instances, pass rates and final grade distribution will be compared. Faculty teaching sequential courses will be surveyed regarding their perception of the students' knowledge, and students will be given a pre-test upon entry into the sequential course to assess their level of preparation.
The redesign will allow Calhoun CC to accommodate an anticipated enrollment growth of up to 70% while enhancing course quality and coherence. Average section size will increase from 20 to 24, and the number of sections offered will increase from 14 to 20. The additional sections will be taught by part-time faculty as part of the redesigned, integrated course. In the traditional format, it costs Calhoun CC $47,888 to teach 281 students at a cost-per-student of $170. In the redesigned format, Calhoun CC projects costs of $52,740 to teach 480 students, which results in a 35% reduction in the cost-per-student to $110. The college anticipates additional revenue to be generated by increased enrollments.
The redesign of the Business Statistics I course has progressed well. CCC is using Carnegie Mellon University 's StatTutor for some hands-on computer labs and Minitab for Windows, which is packaged with the textbook, in other labs. During fall 2004, the course instructor collaborated with CMU to get ready for the pilot which began on January 10. The team developed an additional module on probabilities for use with Minitab since StatTutor does not cover this topic.
During summer and fall 2005, CCC continued implementation of its redesigned Business Statistics I course, conducting one class meeting each week in a statistics computer laboratory. The course instructor and the laboratory assistant were available in the lab to instruct and assist students with the scheduled assignments. The course included a number of online, low-stakes, homework assignments which accounted for approximately 12% of the course grade. Not surprisingly, about one third of the students completed these homework assignments in the statistics lab where they could obtain assistance from the laboratory assistant.
Students did not complain about having to take the online quizzes; they liked having the opportunity to improve their scores as they learn the material. Students actually studied the material as the course progressed. As the team hoped, the effect seemed to be strongest on the weaker students, who had been less likely to keep up with their work in a timely manner. Aside from the usual test bank bugs and first-week confusion, there were no administrative problems. The instructors, neither of whom used WebCT before, figured out enough to do what they needed to do with help from colleagues. Students reported very few problems with the server or software.
In fall 2005, the course enjoyed an 82% completion rate compared with the 65% rate in the traditional course. The overall course grade average was “B” (83%), and no “D” or “F” grades were given. Students either passed the course or withdrew based upon timely feedback received from their online coursework and instructor counseling. The redesigned course, and especially the online low stakes homework, received very positive comments from students on the end of course evaluations, and the instructors plan to continue to refine and improve the course in the coming semesters.
During spring 2006, CCC fully implemented the Business Statistics I redesign. In summing up their experiences, the team commented, “It's all going so smoothly! We wonder what happened to all the computer snarl-ups and student confusion we experienced before. Glitches still occur, but with less frequency and seriousness, and student confusion is nearly absent altogether.” As before, the online quizzes provided discipline for the students, making sure that they kept up with their work rather than putting it off. As was expected, students now accept the online element as part of the course rather than as an "extra" imposed upon them. The team looks forward to comparing results from spring 2006 with past semesters.
In the redesign, did students learn more, less or the same compared to the traditional format?
Students in the redesigned course made lower scores on final exams and in the course as a whole when compared to those in the traditional course. This may have been a consequence of differences in academic ability of the students in the two groups measured by college grade point average, as well as significant gender differences which are known to affect exam performance, none of which could be controlled for in the experimental design.Improved Retention
In fall 2005, the course enjoyed an 82% completion rate compared with the 69% rate in two prior semesters of the traditional course. The overall course grade average was “B” (83%), and no “D” or “F” grades were given. In spring 2006, the course completion rate dropped to 46%. This may have been due to the fact that the College changed its class schedule to reduce the number of days students would have to commute weekly in an effort to reduce their expenditures on gasoline. Traffic in the lab—an integral element of the redesign—fell off markedly, even though there were more students participating in redesigned sections that semester than before. This may have affected both course completion and student exam performance.Impact on Cost Savings
Were costs reduced as planned?
Calhoun Community College’s plan included increasing the number of students from 281 to 480 and the number of sections from 14 to 20, with the additional sections being taught by part-time faculty as part of the redesigned, integrated course. The final enrollment at the time of full implementation of the redesign was 391, and the number of sections increased to 17. Calhoun also added a half-time lab assistant with a background in statistics to the final redesign, which was not anticipated in the plan. With these changes, the cost- per-student declined from $170 to $144, a 15% decrease rather than the planned 35% decrease. If enrollment grows to the anticipated level in the future, the cost-per-student will further decline.Lessons Learned
Pedagogical Improvement Techniques
What techniques contributed most to improving the quality of student learning?
Incorporating computer-based exercises. Frequent whole-class trips to the lab put a computer in front of each student and allowed them to solve pedagogically useful problems under the direction of a team member. This technique afforded the instructor the opportunity to view and assess student work in a timely manner, provide prompt feedback, and to provide more individual attention to those experiencing difficulty. This was almost impossible to do in the traditional course, and when attempted, it was too time consuming. Adoption of this technique provided opportunities in the classroom and in the lab to spend more time on teaching statistical analysis.
Online quizzing . Many of the students the team hoped to affect most by the redesign—those in the middle ability and performance range—appeared to benefit from the online quiz component of the redesign. Improved study habits were forced upon them by the use of weekly quizzes. Allowing retakes to improve their scores gave them an incentive to keep trying, and to keep studying the course material. It also encouraged them to ask their instructors far more questions than in the traditional course. Even though students were allowed to take the quizzes from any location, many of them chose to take them in the department lab, partly for convenience, and partly for the presence of a statistics tutor in the lab and other students to study with. This encouraged them to study in groups and work collectively far more than in the traditional course.
Increased student computer use. Many students appear to be familiar with the Internet and use it frequently but too often only for frivolous purposes. Encouraging them to use the computer for coursework met some resistance at first. Once they became accustomed to doing their quizzes online and using StatTutor, it was much simpler for instructors to distribute the syllabus, course handouts, etc. through the course web site and for students to contact their instructor by email. Students have started to think of the web site as a primary source of information for the course and are much more likely than before to use it intensively. As the web site is also designed as a portal to the wider resources of the web, students have increased their familiarity with other online sources of information.
Improved lab access. Implementing the course redesign persuaded the college to change the official status of the department lab from an “accounting” lab to a “business administration” lab. The new lab assistants, hired contemporaneously, were required to have a background in statistics, and tutoring and software maintenance for the statistics courses were made part of the job description. Previously, use of the lab by accounting courses was always given priority. The team has taken this opportunity to make full use of the lab, which has proven very helpful to business statistics students and faculty alike. Statistics students have come to think of the lab as a second classroom for the course.
Raised awareness of the importance of prior preparation. While none of the faculty was surprised to learn this, the redesign results highlighted the importance of student ability and prior learning as the single most important predictor of student success in the course. The team is developing methods to identify at-risk students more quickly than in the past and to encourage them to make use of the tutoring that is now available in the lab.
Cost Savings Techniques
What techniques contributed most to reducing costs?
Consolidating sections. The redesign of Business Statistics I coincided with the college’s effort to increase efficiency by reducing the number of lower enrollment sections taught by consolidating them into larger sections. Fewer sections were offered and average enrollment increased in each section.
Shared resources. The re-designation of the accounting lab to an accounting and statistics computer lab enabled the college and the business department to maximize the use of the existing resources, while fully supporting both programs. The hiring of computer lab assistants with backgrounds in statistics and accounting was a major contributor to supporting student needs while reducing costs.
The willingness of other R2R participants to share resources was another major contributor to reducing costs. The team’s ability to use Carnegie Mellon’s StatTutor program, without incurring additional costs, has proven to be a great benefit to both the college and its students.
Cost effective learning and technology resources . Recognizing that large expenditures for the redesign would not be forthcoming—and would defeat the cost-reduction goals of the project—CCC initiated the redesign with the resources already in place. These, along with upgrades and improvements in the campus computer network, have proven to be more than sufficient to accomplish their goal. The team carefully scheduled use of existing lab computers, chose software and upgrades to mesh with the redesign effort, and made use of freely available resources. The textbook was chosen in part because the publisher was willing to bundle the necessary statistical software package with the textbook for a nominal amount. The college’s IT support staff was frequently consulted during the implementation and proved to be helpful in resolving the problems that arose. They also provided valuable advice that helped the project avoid problems that would otherwise have occurred.
What implementation issues were most important?
College and departmental support. The college administration has been a strong supporter of the redesign and was willing to make adjustments to accommodate it. The business administration department has been very supportive of the redesign and has allocated funds for purposes important to the redesign. As other faculty have become more aware of, informed about, and involved in course redesign, support has increased significantly. Provision of information about course redesign before, during, and after redesign has been critical to success and is now ongoing within the college as it becomes more involved in other course redesigns.
Redesign team personnel. The implementation of the project was complicated somewhat due to the loss of key personnel. The redesign effort began with a team of three instructors (two full-time and one part-time.) During the pilot course phase, one full-time instructor retired and the part-time instructor accepted a position at another institution. The loss of the part-time faculty member significantly affected the project. At the time there was no one on the faculty to replace her, and consequently the redesign had to be scaled back. Some of the measurement rubrics the team had planned had to be abandoned. The appointment of a second full-time faculty member in the field did not occur until the next academic year. Fortunately, the new instructor has become an active participant in the redesign and will help broaden the implementation on the main campus in the coming academic year.
Faculty training. Naively, as it turned out, the team thought that other full-time and part-time faculty would eagerly embrace a new way of providing instruction, especially if it resulted in increased student success. Believing that minimal training would be needed, they did not adequately address this in their implementation plan. The result was some faculty reluctance to fully embrace the redesign and “let go” of some classroom instruction time for the hands-on computer lab time component. Learning from this difficult start, the college is now conducting training for full and part-time faculty who teach in any of their redesigned courses.
Will the redesign be sustained now that the R2R program has concluded?
Sustainability for the redesigned Business Statistics I course will not be an issue. The faculty members who teach the redesigned course have seen its benefits and are committed to further improving on the initial effort. Additionally, the second semester sequence course, Business Statistics II, is scheduled to begin the redesign process in the upcoming school year. The resources necessary to support both courses are sufficient for the foreseeable future.
Will you apply the redesign methodology to other courses and programs on campus?
Perhaps the greatest benefit of the Business Statistics I redesign process has been its extension across the College. The college has adopted the NCAT’s course redesign process in a grant-funded initiative to redesign 38 of its large enrollment courses over a five-year period. The lessons learned in the redesign of Business Statistics I have been applied to the redesign work now underway in ten other courses. Coordination of the redesign initiative across all the campuses in the college has proven more difficult. The historic autonomy of one of the campuses and the restrictions placed on another by a federal court consent decree have hampered the team’s ability to extend the implementation as fully as desired. Some improvement in each situation appears likely in the near future, however, which should allow implementation to continue.
Within the Business and Computer Information Systems Division, instructors in the Computer Information System department have seen the desirability and necessity for standardizing assessment of learning outcomes. They have adopted common exam questions for unit exams and a standard final exam for the Microcomputer Applications course.
As a result of work on the R2R project with Business Statistics I, other disciplines have begun to increase their use of technology in the delivery of course material. The most dramatic impact has been in our Mathematics program where three developmental mathematics courses have been consolidated into one course, with students doing all graded homework online and proctored testing done online in the Math Computer Lab. This redesign allowed the math department to reduce 15 individual class sections (348 students), each taught by a full-time or part-time instructor, to 1 large (308 students) class section taught by one full-time instructor and two laboratory assistants.