|The Roadmap to Redesign (R2R)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Course Title: Introductory Statistics
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) will redesign its Introductory Statistics course. The course has an annual enrollment of approximately 800 students and is taught primarily by adjunct instructors (16 sections) plus graduate teaching assistants (4 sections) in multiple sections of 40 students each. In the traditional format, students attend class three times per week.
The quality of student learning in Introductory Statistics has been uneven, and the overall student preparation for subsequent courses has been uncertain. Uniform student learning objectives have not been developed for the 20 sections of this course offered annually, and assessments of student learning have been 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.
The course redesign will enhance the quality of learning by moving students to an active learning environment. UNCG will use the Replacement Model in its redesign, reducing the number of required class meetings per week from three to one. Classroom instruction will change from instructors primarily lecturing to instructors discussing online assignments and resources, and learning issues and strategies. Online, interactive, guided homework problems, practice tests, tutorials and assessment tools that promote active learning will be required.
Student progress will be monitored closely, and both online and face-to-face assistance will be provided to students. A combination of several software resources will provide both online materials and will track student progress. The software will also be used to generate personalized study plans for students to enable them to master necessary skills. A new Math Help Center will also provide both online and face-to-face individualized assistance.
Course-wide assessment of the achievement of the course learning objectives will be accomplished by using common tests for all major exams. Comparison of student learning outcomes from the redesigned course with baseline data from the traditional course in the 2003-2004 academic year will assess the impact of the course redesign on learning. Exams for the baseline traditional course and for the redesigned courses will be similar, primarily multiple-choice questions selected from the textbook's test bank. Comparison of student learning will be made using a minimum of 20 common content questions from the baseline and redesigned course exams.
The cost savings produced by the course redesign will be the result of increasing the class size from 40 students to 60 students and reducing the number of sections from 20 to 13. As a result, the number of adjunct faculty teaching the course will decline from 16 to 13. GTAs will be reassigned to the Help Center. The cost of adding the Math Help Center reduces the net savings, but the redesign project will produce an annual savings of $15,919 as a result of reducing the cost-per-student from $102 to $82. 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 an eight-section pilot enrolling approximately 500 students taught by two instructors. Since UNCG submitted its proposal, a new software package, E-STAT Pack developed by W. H. Freeman, became available and the team has adopted it. E-STAT Pack, an expansion of supplementary software used in previous course redesign projects, includes video student tutorials (developed by Brigham Young University); audio applets; textbook exercises, which provide feedback to students; case studies; and, an easy-to-use statistical software package incorporating graphing features. The faculty received training in the use of E-STAT Pack in fall of 2004.
During fall 2005, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) fully implemented its redesign of Introductory Statistics, enrolling a total of approximately 300 students. Learning from its experience in the pilot project, UNCG offered a more complete orientation to students, restructured face-to-face class sessions, and improved scheduling of tutoring and help sessions. The inability of Blackboard to limit the number of student attempts on short quizzes still presents a problem, but these quizzes were counted less toward the final grade during the fall 2005 semester. 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 to the traditional format?
Student learning outcomes in the redesigned course were compared to those of the traditional course using test scores of common, comprehensive final examinations given to all students. The final examination average increased from 63.5 for the traditional course to 68.5 for full implementation of the redesigned course. This difference was statistically significant at the 99% confidence level.
Student retention improved with the DFW rate dropping to 60% in the redesigned course compared to a DFW rate of 70% in the traditional course.
Were costs reduced as planned?
UNCG carried out its planned cost reduction strategy. The number of sections was reduced from 20 to 13, and section size increased from ~40 to ~60. The number of faculty was reduced from 16 to 13, and the number of GTAs teaching sections was reduced from 4 to 0. In addition, overall faculty presentation and test-proctoring hours were reduced by an additional 350 hours above what was initially planned, thus reducing the workload of the instructors.
Pedagogical Improvement Techniques
What techniques contributed most to improving the quality of student learning?
Online homework and tutorials. The redesigned course used E-STAT Pack developed by W. H. Freeman, an expansion of supplementary software used in previous statistics course redesign projects. E-STAT Pack includes video student tutorials developed by Brigham Young University; audio applets; textbook exercises, which provide feedback to students; case studies; and, an easy-to-use statistical software package incorporating graphing features.
Online quizzes. The redesigned course used online quizzes developed by Brigham Young University , administered and electronically graded through Blackboard. Students took approximately 50 quizzes a semester. In the first two semesters of the redesigned course, students were allowed to repeat the quizzes as many times as they wished with the final score being counted. In full implementation semester, students were only allowed to take each quiz twice with the highest score being counted. This change promoted increased preparation for quizzes, less guessing at answers and greater learning.
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. With students taking so many online quizzes, UNCG experienced a number of problems with technology failures. By choosing different Blackboard testing options, UNCG minimized these problems. Blackboard’s inability to allow only a finite number of quiz attempts made maximizing the learning potential of the quizzes difficult. Creating each quiz twice manually and allowing only one attempt per quiz solved this problem
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 completely online versions of the redesigned Introductory Statistics course was successfully completed during summer 2005 and 2006. In fall 2007, the redesigned course will be offered entirely online with section size increasing to 75 students. However, to meet the requests of students who prefer the traditional format, two sections of the course will be offered with three class meetings a week. These sections will be based on the supplementary model and will use the E-STAT software for homework 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.