|The Roadmap to Redesign (R2R)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Course Title: College Algebra, Precalculus for Business and Social Science, Precalculus I and Precalculus II
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) plans to redesign its precalculus offerings (College Algebra and Precalculus for Business and Social Science) and its general two-semester precalculus sequence (Precalculus I and Precalculus II.) These courses have an annual enrollment of approximately 1700 students and are taught primarily by adjunct instructors in multiple small sections of 40 students each.
In these precalculus offerings, the quality of student learning has been uneven, and overall student preparation for subsequent courses has been uncertain. Uniform student learning objectives have not been developed for the 42 sections of these courses offered annually, and assessments of student learning have occurred at the individual class level rather than for the entire course. In addition, the passive learning environment and the lack of extensive individual assistance to students have further limited the quality of student learning. The planned course redesign will involve developing uniform student learning objectives and assessing the achievement of those objectives.
UNCG will use the Replacement Model in its redesign. The course redesign will enhance the quality of learning by moving students to an active learning environment. The course software, MyMathLab, will provide interactive, guided, homework problems and practice tests; online tutorials and assessment tools; and student progress tracking. MyMathLab will also be used to generate personalized study plans for students to enable them to master the skills in which they are deficient. Classroom instruction will change from instructors lecturing to instructors facilitating the learning of problem-solving and mathematics skills. Classes will meet once rather than three times per week. Although presentations by instructors will still be part of the classroom experience, significant time will be used to guide students through their online experiences and to address individual needs. A new Math Help Center will also provide both online and face-to-face individual assistance.
Course-wide assessment of the achievement of learning objectives will be accomplished by using common tests for all major exams. Comparison of student learning outcomes from the redesigned courses with baseline data from the courses in the 2003-2004 academic year taught in the traditional format will assess the impact of the course redesign on learning. Although a component of the redesign process is the movement away from primarily problem-based exam questions that are graded individually by instructors to multiple-choice questions electronically graded, the exams for the redesigned courses will contain a minimum of two or three problem-based questions that can be compared with common content from the baseline, traditional courses.
The cost savings produced by the course redesign will be the result of increasing section size from 40 to 60 students and reducing the number of adjunct faculty teaching the course from 21 to 14. The cost of adding the Math Help Center reduces the net savings, but the redesign project will produce an annual savings of $63,780 as a result of reducing the cost-per-student from $109 to $71. The redesign project is an important component of an overall plan for the improvement of the quality of the math program at UNCG. Cost savings from this redesign project will be applied to creating new tenure-track faculty positions. When new larger capacity classroom buildings currently under construction are completed, the class size for these courses may be increased for greater savings.
During spring 2005, UNCG is running a pilot of its precalculus redesign, which essentially follows the plan they originally proposed. The pilot involves eight sections of College Algebra and Precalculus for Business and Social Science, six sections of Precalculus I and three sections of Precalculus II. These sections are taught by six different instructors and enroll approximately 800 students.
During fall 2005, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) fully implemented its redesign of College Algebra and Precalculus I and II, enrolling a total of approximately 800 students. Learning from its experience in the pilot project, UNCG offered a more complete orientation to students, restructured face-to-face class sessions, increased coordination among instructors and improved scheduling of tutoring and help sessions. The MyMathLab performance problems experienced at the beginning of the semester were resolved, and additional software issues were addressed. Average final examination scores in the redesigned precalculus sequence showed a significant increase over final examination results from traditional courses taught in fall of 2004. For College Algebra, there was a small decrease in final exam scores from fall of 2004 to fall of 2005. UNCG is analyzing this difference by comparing textbooks, online materials, student populations, student backgrounds and other factors. In spring 2006, undergraduate student assistants will be used to help grade homework and quizzes and respond to email.
In the redesign, did students learn more, less or the same compared with the traditional format?
The redesign project at UNCG involved three separate courses: College Algebra (Precalculus for Business and Social Sciences), Precalculus I and Precalculus II. The student learning outcomes of each redesigned course were compared to the traditional versions using test scores of common, comprehensive final examinations given to all students.
Student retention improved substantially in all three courses:
Were costs reduced as planned?
The redesign project followed the plan described in the original Course Planning Tool, saving the department approximately $64,000 per year as a result of reducing the cost-per-student from $109 to $71.
Pedagogical Improvement Techniques
What techniques contributed most to improving the quality of student learning?
Online homework, quizzes and tutorials. The redesigned courses used MyMathLab to provide interactive, guided, homework problems and practice tests; online tutorials and assessment tools; and student progress tracking. MyMathLab was also used to generate personalized study plans for students to enable them to master the skills in which they are deficient.
Tutoring. Extensive tutoring was available to students through face-to-face sessions with instructors and through the Math Help Center . Online assistance was also available.
Cost Savings Techniques
What techniques contributed most to reducing costs?
Increasing number of students per section . Cost reduction was achieved by increasing the student load of instructors without increasing their workload. In the traditional course, each instructor taught four sections with 40 students per section. In the redesigned course, each instructor taught five sections with 60 students per section.
Computer-graded homework assignments, quizzes and exams and online video tutorials. The additional student load was made possible because of the time-savings provided by technology. Using computer-graded homework assignments, quizzes and exams and online video tutorials reduced the need for face-to-face lectures and, therefore, eliminated a significant amount of lecture preparation time by instructors.
What implementation issues were most important?
Technology difficulties. In fall 2005, UNCG’s Blackboard system experienced severe performance problems for approximately ten days. Similar performance problems were then experienced with MyMathLab for several weeks. These technological problems were extremely frustrating to students and faculty members in this full-scale implementation of the redesigned courses and produced negative attitudes toward the redesign project.
Student acceptance of the redesign format. Even after being oriented to the redesigned course format, many students were dissatisfied. Non-traditional students seemed to experience the greatest difficulty. With blended and online courses becoming more common at UNCG, the team expects student acceptance to improve.
Will the redesign be sustained now that the R2R program has concluded?
The university will continue to explore the best format for these redesigned courses. Pilot testing of a completely online version of the redesigned precalculus courses was successfully completed during summer 2006. In fall 2007, the redesigned courses will be offered entirely online with section size increasing to 75 students. However, to meet the requests of students who prefer the traditional format, some sections of the courses will be offered with three class meetings a week. These more traditional, supplementary model sections will use MyMathLab for homework and both MyMathLab and Blackboard for other supplementary materials and communication. Quizzes will be both face-to-face and online. During the 2006-2007 academic year, all three models will be compared.
Will you apply the redesign methodology to other courses and programs on campus?
A new wireless/laptop initiative at UNCG will promote the effective use of technology in teaching and learning. By fall 2006, all academic buildings and public areas will have wireless access to the Internet. In fall 2007, incoming freshman students will be required to own a laptop. This initiative will not only promote the use of technology in instruction but also will insure that students will have greater access to the technology used in the redesigned course. With the use of technology in instruction becoming more common, the format of the redesigned courses should be more acceptable to students.