Missouri Course Redesign Initiative
Truman State University
Course Title: Lifetime Health and Fitness
Lifetime Health and Fitness is a course offered in Truman State University’s core liberal studies program. It is currently taught by seven different instructors in approximately 15 separate sections annually. Each of the sections enrolls about 80 students; the course serves about 1,300 students annually.
Truman plans to redesign this course for three primary reasons. The first concerns course drift. With multiple sections running concurrently, the faculty members recognize their tendency to emphasize personal points of interest in health-related behaviors and outcomes resulting in inconsistent experiences for students across sections. Course redesign will address this issue by creating one large section per semester with highly specific outcome objectives and a significantly smaller number of faculty members overseeing its offering. The second concern is with the resources required to offer multiple sections. With continuing budget restrictions, it becomes increasingly important to deploy personnel resources in a more efficient manner. The redesign will take advantage of available and emerging technology coupled with the use of student support to provide a more cost efficient means of instructing the course. The third area of concern relates to student attitudes toward the course. The course has maintained a somewhat negative reputation among students over time. Relatively minor changes to outcomes and format have done little to improve student attitudes. The hope for the redesign is that the extensive use of technology will reflect the changing ways in which students are learning and interacting with the world around them, and thus by extension, their feelings toward the course will improve.
Truman has selected the Online Model of redesign and will significantly reduce in-class instructor time. The redesign will shift the learning dynamic from instructor driven (passive) to student driven (active) by featuring on-ground and online, self-guided and instructor-guided learning experiences that complement foundational personal health course content. These experiences will take the form of stress management activities (e.g., yoga, progressive relaxation, guided meditation), behavior change activities (e.g., identify and implement a program designed to change a targeted health behavior), diet analysis, body composition analysis, cardiovascular endurance test (e.g., timed one-mile walk or 1.5-mile run) among others. Students will be required to access the self-guided supplemental experiences through the university’s Blackboard course management system or McGraw Hill Connect On-line Resource, which supports the course text, Fit and Well: Core Concepts and Labs in Physical Fitness and Wellness. Instructor-guided experiences will be completed in structured laboratory or field settings at scheduled times. By increasing active learning experiences, integrating online resources and assessments, and utilizing undergraduate learning assistants (ULAs) to serve as “peer health mentors,” the course will become more responsive to fast-changing personal health knowledge. In addition, the course outcomes will become standardized for all students, and student enthusiasm for the course will increase.
The redesigned course will be evaluated by Truman’s Center for Applied Statistics and Evaluation (CASE) by conducting learning outcome and attitudinal evaluation. CASE will provide an item-by-item analysis of the common final and will conduct focus groups and attitude surveys of both redesigned and traditional sections of the course.
The redesigned course will reduce course sections from 15 (annually) to two and reduce faculty involvement in course instruction from seven to two people team-teaching the one large section offered each term. By reducing the number of sections, integrating on-line resources and assessments, and utilizing ULAs, the course will become more cost efficient. The cost-per-student will decrease from $32 in the traditional course to $21 in the redesigned format, a reduction of 34%. Cost savings will enable faculty members to teach additional sections of other courses much needed to support the increasing number of majors, support Truman’s liberal studies program and spend greater time developing community/student partnerships.
In the redesign, did students learn more, less or the same compared to the traditional format?
Students in the redesigned health course learned just as much as those in the traditional version of the course. The means for the final exam in the spring 2012 traditional course (84.46) , the spring 2012 redesigned course (83.91), and the fall 2012 redesigned course (83.77) were all statistically similar (p > .05).
Other Impacts on Students
Exercise benefits. Students in the redesigned course were more likely to exercise as a result of taking the course than students in the traditional course. From the responses given in focus groups, students in the redesigned course enjoyed the entire semester of their exercise course as opposed to the half of a semester of exercise for the traditional students. Additionally, 81% of students in the redesigned course answered yes to the question, “Did you learn new ways to exercise in this course?” versus 59% of students in the traditional course. The percentage of students who answered yes to the question, “Do you feel that you exercise more as a result of taking this course?” was 63% in the redesign versus 55% in the traditional course.
Increased options of activity (lab) classes for students. In previous semesters activity (lab) classes were limited to interests/expertise of 8-10 coaches who taught the classes. The classes that were offered were typically traditional exercise classes with little regard to current student interests. The redesigned course had upper-level Health and Exercise Science students and other qualified students offering a variety of classes that were popular with the student population. The classes were received with more enthusiasm, and evaluations showed that student attitudes were more positive toward the new class.
Were costs reduced as planned?
Truman planned to reduce course sections from 15 (annually) to two and reduce faculty involvement in course instruction from seven to two people team-teaching the one large section offered each term supported by undergraduate learning assistants (ULAs.) The cost-per-student was planned to decrease from $32 in the traditional course to $21 in the redesigned format, a reduction of 34%.
The structure of the plan was implemented. The redesigned course was handled by two experienced and highly capable non-tenure track faculty. This allowed a tenure track faculty member to teach two sections of a seminar in graduate admissions that were going to be cancelled. The part-time faculty members who were full-time employees were reassigned to other Exercise Science classes such as nutrition or first aid and CPR. Adjunct faculty members who taught the traditional course were not reassigned or renewed.
However, the two instructors were supposed to be quarter-time; instead they were half-time. The ULAs were to be paid $1,875; instead they were paid $4,969.89. The impact of those changes was to raise the cost per student from $32 in the traditional course to $43 in the redesigned format, an increase of 34%.
Cost Reduction Techniques
What techniques contributed most to reducing costs?
Online/hybrid content delivery. The physical resources required to deliver the redesigned course were reduced by the online/hybrid content delivery. One of the important motivating factors for moving the course to an online delivery format was the lack of an adequate classroom to accommodate large sections of the traditional course. Eliminating eight sections of the classroom course made that space available to other departments and reduced the university overhead for the classroom space.
What implementation issues were most important?
Content delivery method. Students reported in the evaluation of the pilot course (spring 2012) that they rarely watched the video lectures, so the majority of them were eliminated. More focus was then placed on utilizing Connect LearnSmart as an interactive tool to help the students learn the concepts of the chapter.
Scheduling/space conflicts. In the spring 2012 pilot of the redesigned course, student activity/lab instructors were allowed to choose their class time/space from a blank slate. This proved to be overwhelming as the space is a shared space between athletics and academics. In subsequent semesters the time slots available for classes have been narrowed; student instructors must choose a time/space from a standardized template.
Working technology. One big issue was making sure the codes the students purchased worked properly for them to register to use the Connect website. In working closely with the textbook representative and the Connect support team, the team was able to resolve the issues in a timely manner. Other technology issues included making sure the LearnSmart modules were accessible and working properly when the students wanted to work on them. Close contact with the Connect team led to finding a relatively quick solution.
Facilities issues. When the scalability of the redesigned course was tested with the full implementation, it was found to be less than optimal to manage, especially the full semester activity course. The redesigned course doubled the physical space requirements for activity courses as well as the need for, and wear and tear on, activity course equipment.
Will the redesign be sustained now that the grant period is over?
The traditional model of the course included two separate courses—Lifetime Health & Fitness (1.5 credits) and Lifetime Physical Activities (.5 credits) for a total of two credits. The redesigned course Lifetime Health & Fitness (three credits) included expanded course content and doubled the physical activity portion from half a semester to a full one. There is substantial faculty governance resistance to “inflating” the Personal Well-Being requirement from two credits to three credits. It was acceptable to Undergraduate Council but not Faculty Senate for students to have a choice of either the two-credit model or the three-credit model.
The department is unwilling to offer the redesigned course as a two-credit class. It is too resource-intensive to sustain if the credit hours generated are reduced by 33-50%. Faculty Senate plans to revisit this issue.
Because many students prefer the full semester activity class, while others are more comfortable with the less intensive option, the department plans to offer one section of the redesigned course to approximately half of the HES enrollment (300 seats) and four sections (300 seats) of the traditional course if Faculty Senate accepts the three credit hours. If not, no sections of the redesign will be offered.