|Arizona Board of Regents: Learner-Centered Education Course Redesign Initiative
Arizona State University
Course Title: Computing and Information Literacy
The Tempe campus of Arizona State University (ASU) plans to redesign its Computing and Information Literacy course. The traditional course enrolls ~2200 students annually in eight large lecture sections of ~270 students each that meet twice a week.
The traditional course faces a number of problems. It depends too heavily on assignments using commercial software. The material is not learner-centered and does not develop problem-solving skills. Current content is not designed to ensure that students with a broad range of learning styles and levels of preparation will master the content and succeed in the course. This leads to a high DFW rate, among the 30 highest rates at ASU.
ASU will use the Replacement Model in its redesign. The new course will feature learner-centered material focused on problem-solving and will be available in multiple formats to support different learning styles. Problem-solving projects using conceptual models and technology tools, such as XML, scripting, and open-source software, will enable students to interact with peers and solve real-world problems. The traditional format will be replaced with two redesigned formats. The first will be hybrid sections that combine lecture, lab and online resources. There will be one in-class meeting and an open, interactive lab session each week. Lectures will not be mandatory but will be encouraged. Projects and assignments will all be completed online with support provided via a discussion board forum and a lab. The lab sessions will be optional unless students are at risk of failing the course. In that case, the labs will become mandatory until the student exhibits content understanding and is making adequate progress.
The second format will be a fully online section, with a capacity of 500 students, which will replace all in-class meetings with online learning experiences. Students will work with web-based, multi-media resources aligned with the textbook. Automated weekly assessments will provide guided feedback and links to a plethora of online resources. The online option will be available for students who may already have a reasonable amount of computer experience. They will need to pass an online assessment prior to being accepted into the online format.
The redesign will enhance course quality by focusing on problem-solving with the kinds of technology resources the students will continue to use in school and work. Students will use WebQuests to develop critical-thinking and research skills. An advisory board will be created consisting of the redesign team, representatives of academia and industry as well as collaborators from the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University who have a strong interest in the project. This board will determine the specific content of the course and projects, helping to make sure the course stays current.
Student learning will be assessed by comparing data from two courses taught by the same faculty member before and after the redesign. Student learning outcomes from parallel courses taught by different faculty members during the pilot phase will also be compared. Exam questions will be selected from the traditional course and embedded in the redesigned course exams. DFW rates and student satisfaction surveys will also be analyzed.
The redesigned course will reduce instructional costs each term by 1) replacing four lecture sections with two hybrid sections and one fully online section; 2) increasing section size from 270 to 299, thereby maximizing classroom resources; 3) reducing the number of GTAs from two GTAs each teaching two sections each to one teaching three sections; 4) replacing six undergraduate graders with five undergraduate learning assistants (ULAs) and decreasing the ULA hours; and, 5) replacing two instructors with one faculty coordinator. The cost-per-student will be decreased from $50 to $38, a 24% reduction. The cost savings will be reinvested in redesigning other courses, using this initial redesign as a foundation to increase the quality of all courses across the curriculum. ASU-Tempe’s redesign plan will also be extended to the Downtown, Polytechnic and the West campuses.
In six prior terms of the course taught in the traditional format, an average of 26% of students earned 70%+ (a C or better.) In the redesigned format, 65% of students earned 70+ (a C or better) in a demonstrably more difficult course.
The redesigned course included a significant shift in content to ensure student preparation in computing and the use of modern tools and techniques to solve real word problems. The overall focus changed to learner-centered problem solving with technology. Content shifted from learning a few basic concepts and common tools, to covering a broader range of technology advances, and familiarity with a wide variety of tools to support future self-learning. Learning was facilitated through a larger number of hands-on projects and assignments, with less focus on memorization and testing.
Retention rates have historically fluctuated in this course. Similar results in the number of students withdrawing from the course remained between traditional and redesigned sections.
Other impacts on students
Student attitudes towards the course improved with the redesign. Using a five-point scale, overall course evaluations averaged 3.60 in traditional sections versus 3.92 in redesigned sections; a 6% increase. Student feedback on the redesigned course was positive and encouraging. When provided an opportunity to give open-ended, blind feedback about the course, many students commented positively on the amount of knowledge and skills they acquired, far in excess of what they had expected.
The cost savings plan worked better than expected. Delivering the redesigned course with less support than originally anticipated led to a cost reduction from $50 to $28 per student, a 44% savings. The course was more cost effective due to automation and heavy use of technology tools and the web. Approximately 80% of grading and feedback were automated. The school chose to sustain the model with a higher level of faculty support, which lessened the savings somewhat. The savings are still substantial: a reduction from $50 to $35 per student, which is a 30% savings.
Pedagogical Improvement Techniques
Cost Savings Techniques
A new faculty member was recruited to deliver the redesigned course and has successfully completed a semester. Feedback from the new faculty member is positive. She plans to maintain the course as designed. The transition of the course to the new faculty member was easily facilitated. Alongside the redesigned course, the team created substantial documentation to support faculty, GTA and ULA training. The new faculty member is continuing to implement minor changes in an effort to further improve the quality of the course and to address aspects of the course the team was unable to focus on due to the technical challenges faced. It is certain that the redesigned course will be sustained.