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The Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning: Mississippi Course Redesign Initiative (2007– 2010)

Improving Learning and Reducing Costs:
A Summary of Program Outcomes

By Carol A. Twigg

From September 2007 to September 2010, the National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT) conducted a program in course redesign in partnership with the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) called the IHL Course Redesign Initiative (IHL CRI). The goals of this partnership were to 1) build on the successful models and lessons learned from NCAT’s national programs to create a course redesign program within IHL; 2) adopt new ways to improve student learning outcomes and demonstrate these improvements through rigorous assessment; 3) reduce instructional costs and free up instructional resources for other purposes; 4) produce a number of successful IHL course redesigns that could be spread to institutions throughout the system; and, 5) develop the internal capacity of IHL faculty and staff to continue the course redesign process. All of those goals have been achieved.

The IHL CRI awarded grants of $50,000 and $100,000 to support the redesign process through a competitive process. NCAT engaged the IHL institutions in an extensive planning process to teach applicants its principles of course redesign. The NCAT process required faculty teams to follow a highly structured, iterative course redesign development process. Of the 22 teams which began the process, 16 were ultimately selected for funding. The final selection was made by IHL. The following proposals were funded: Alcorn State University: College Algebra, Delta State University: College Algebra; Jackson State University: College Algebra and Intermediate Algebra; Mississippi State University: Biology, Survey of Chemistry I, Statics and Elementary Statistics: Mississippi University for Women: College Algebra and Intermediate Algebra; Mississippi Valley State University: Intermediate Algebra; University of Mississippi: Business Calculus; University of Southern Mississippi First-Year Spanish, Intermediate Algebra, Introduction to Computing, Nutrition, Psychology and Technical Writing. Fifteen of the 16 projects completed the redesign process and fully implemented their redesigns in fall 2010.

The results achieved by the IHL CRI were impressive, especially in the first semester of full implementation which occurred during a time of severe budget crisis. The redesigns impacted approximately 15,000 students. Seven of the 15 projects demonstrated improved student learning as measured by direct comparisons of content mastery. Seven produced learning equivalent to the traditional format. In two projects, student learning outcomes decreased, though these decreases were not significant. One project did not measure student learning. Course completion rates (as measured by a final grade of C or better), in general, showed no difference or declined. These differences, again, were not significant or can be attributed to possible grade inflation in prior offerings of the courses. All projects reduced their instructional costs—on average by 38%. The annual savings for the 15 projects was $765,267. All of the redesigns will definitely be sustained after the grant period is over.

NCAT’s recommendations to the IHL for future action included: 1) IHL should find ways to publicize the results of the IHL CRI among its colleges and universities; 2) IHL should conduct a second round of the IHL CRI; 3) IHL should engage in a transition process from NCAT’s managing a course redesign initiative to doing so itself; 4) provosts’ offices on each campus should be more purposeful and more actively involved in generating course redesign project possibilities and should think about incorporating redesign as a factor in campus resource allocations; and, 5) IHL should consider requiring that each campus integrate course redesign into its campus allocation strategies.

Project Outcomes

What follows is a summary of the IHL course redesign projects’ final reports. There were 18 course redesigns as part of 15 projects.

1) Did student learning improve (as measured by direct comparisons of content mastery)?

7

Yes
8 No difference
2 No
1 Unclear

2) Did course completion rates improve (as measured by comparisons of final grades)?       

1

Yes
1 No difference (but completion rates are high, averaging ~ 90%)
8 No difference
8 No

3) Were instructional costs reduced?

17

Yes
1 No

4) Will the redesign be sustained after the grant period is over?

14

Yes
4 Unclear

1) Did student learning improve (as measured by direct comparisons of content mastery)?

Yes

1. Alcorn State College Algebra (compared common mid-terms and commons exams)

  • The average of mid-term exam scores and final exam scores from fall 2008 traditional sections were compared to those of fall 2009 redesigned sections.
  • Students in the redesigned course performed significantly better. The average score of the fall 2008 traditional sections was 55.89, while that of the fall 2009 redesigned sections was 66.16. The Z-test score was 3.181, which indicates that the difference is significant at 95% level of confidence interval.
  • The mean score on the final exam alone was 31 for the traditional students and 38 for the redesign students.

2. MVSU Intermediate Algebra (compared common final exams)

  • Students (N = 220) in the fall 2008 traditional course scored a mean of 54% on a common final examination compared with students (N = 196) in the fall 2009 redesigned course who scored a mean of 59%.

3. Mississippi State Statics (compared common assignments and common final exams)

  • In four parallel sections of the course, students in the redesign group performed significantly better on assignments (average score of 90 versus 73) and in-class tests (average score of 79 versus 66) than their peers in the traditional group at 95% confidence level.
  • A similar statistical analysis of the average final exam scores between the two student groups indicated that the scores were the same (64.7 and 64.1).
  • In each assessment category, the variance in scores among the students in the redesign group was less than that in the traditional group.

4. USM Computing (compared common final exams)

  • Performance on common final exams from 270 redesign students taught during fall 2009 was compared to performance on the same final exam for 395 traditional students taught during fall 2007.
  • The percentage of redesign students scoring a C or better on the exam was 69% compared with 61% of traditional students.

5. USM Intermediate Algebra (compared common final exams)

  • There was a statistically significant difference in performance between the two groups of students.
  • In fall 2008, 231 traditional students had an average final exam score of 65.2 with a standard deviation 16.6. In fall 2009, the average score of 213 redesign students was 73.8 with a standard deviation 10.9. The overall final exam score average of redesign students was 8.6 points higher than traditional students. The final exam data from the redesigned course have a much smaller standard deviation which reflects the overall quality of their performance.  
  • The percentage of students passing the exam with a grade of C or better increased by 27 points (from 44% to 71%). The percentages for Ds and Fs earned on the final exam are 18% and 11% compared to the 24% and 32% in traditional course.

6. USM Nutrition (compared common final exams)

  • Prior to the course redesign the nutrition course was offered in two formats: traditional face-to-face lectures and fully online. The redesigned course offered both formats with a number of common elements that included repeated quizzes, common exam questions, a common final exam, and a common application project.
  • In the face-to-face formats, the mean score on common final exams was 79 for the traditional sections and 83 for the redesigned sections.
  • In the online formats, the mean score on common final exams was 67 for the traditional sections and 78 for the redesigned sections.
  • These improvements were statistically significant.

7. USM Technical Writing

  • Students in the redesigned course performed significantly better on a benchmark writing assignment compared with students in the traditional course: 78% of redesign students scored "OK" or better compared with 67% of traditional students.
  • Improvement was especially impressive at the top end of the scale where 38% of redesign students scored "Excellent" compared with just 13% of traditional students.
  • Student performance on the lower end of the scale improved as well, if less dramatically: only 22% of redesign students scored "Poor" or "Very Poor" on the assignment compared with 33% of traditional students.

No difference

1. Delta State College Algebra (compared common final exams)

  • There was no significant difference between the traditional and redesigned sections on scores on a common final exam.

2. Jackson State University College Algebra (compared common final exams)

  • There was no significant difference between the traditional and redesigned sections on scores on a common final exam.

3. Mississippi State Animal Biology (compared common pre-tests and post-tests)

  • Pre- and post-tests were used in the Animal Biology course to assess learning gains.  Students in the traditional course scored (out of 10 point totals) averages of 6.2 and 6.1 on pre- and post-tests for a loss of .1 points. In the redesigned course, students scored average of 5.9 and 6.7 on pre- and post-tests for a gain of .8 points. This difference was not significant.

4. Mississippi State Plants and Humans (compared common pre-tests and post-tests)

  • Pre- and post-tests were used in the Plants and Humans course to assess learning gains. Students in the traditional course scored (out of 10 point totals) averages of 4.8 and 7.5 on pre- and post-tests for a gain of 2.7 points. In the redesigned course, students scored average of 4.6 and 7.2 on pre- and post-tests for a gain of 2.6 points. This difference was not significant.

5. Mississippi State Chemistry (compared common final exams)

  • The team assessed student learning by comparing performance on common final exams from 219 redesigned students taught during fall 2009 with performance on the same final exams from 625 traditional students taught from spring 2007 through spring 2008.
  • Traditional students scored a mean of 59 and redesign students scored a mean of 56. This difference was not significant.

6. Mississippi State Statistics (compared common final exams)

  • Performance on common final exams from two redesigned sections (N=318 students) taught during fall 2009 was compared to performance of 2788 students taught from 2002 to 2007.
  • A slight improvement was seen on the comprehensive final exam in the redesigned sections. The mean score on the exam for students in the redesigned course was 75% compared to the five-year average of 72.7% in the traditional course. This difference was not statistically significant.

7. MUW College Algebra (compared common pre-tests and post-tests)

  • There was no significant difference between the traditional and redesigned sections on pre/post-test gains in College Algebra.

8. USM Spanish  (compared common final exams)

  • In Spanish 101, student learning outcomes were compared using common final examinations in the fall 2009 full implementation. The mean final exam score for the traditional students in spring 2009 was 74.82 and the mean score for the fall 2009 redesign full implementation was 73.5.
  • In Spanish 102, student learning outcomes were compared using common final examinations during the spring 2010 full implementation. The mean final exam score for the traditional students in fall 2009 was 77.12 and the mean score for the redesign full implementation was 72.53.

No

1. MUW Intermediate Algebra (compared common final exams)

  • Students in the traditional course performed better than students in the redesigned course on a common final exam (mean = 65 in the traditional vs. 59 in the redesign), and the difference was statistically significant at the 5% level.

2. USM Psychology (compared common midterms and common final exam items)

  • Student performance in the traditional and redesigned sections was compared using midterm and final exam scores.
  • The average midterm scores were 69.2% and 71.6% respectively. Average final exam scores were 82% and 70.6% respectively.

Unclear

1. Jackson State University Intermediate Algebra

  • Jackson State planned to compare student performance on common final exams but did not do so.

2) Did course completion rates improve (measured by comparing final grades)?

Yes

1. MVSU Intermediate Algebra

  • Student success rates increased by 36% in the redesign. In the traditional course in fall 2008, 36% of students received a grade of C or better. In the redesigned course in fall 2009, 49% of students received a grade of C or better.
  • The DFW rate dropped from 64% to 51%.

No difference (but completion rates were high)

1. Mississippi State Plants and Humans

  • Final grades (based on midterm and final exams, laboratory grades, module quizzes, and class participation) from the traditional and redesigned sections were compared.  The percentage of students receiving a grade of C or better was similar (89% and 88%).

No difference

1. Delta State College Algebra

  • There was no change in final grade distribution: about 36% of students earned a grade of C or better in both formats.
  • The percentage of students who withdrew from the course increased dramatically in the redesign from 5.8% to 14.5%.

2. Jackson State University College Algebra

  • There was no difference in the percentage of students receiving a grade of C or better; student success rates in both formats were about 40%.

3. Mississippi State Chemistry

  • The percentage of students earning a grade of C or better was not significantly different (traditional = 42% versus redesign = 44%.)

4. Mississippi State Statics

  • There was no statistically significant difference between success rates (grades C or better) in the fully redesigned (73%) and traditional courses (77%).

5. Mississippi State Statistics

  • In the redesigned course, 65.4% completed the course with a C or better. The five-year average for the traditional course was 67.12%.

6. USM Nutrition

  • Overall 78% of students in the redesigned formats achieved a C or better in the course compared with 77% of students who completed the course over five semesters for which grade data were available (fall 2005 – spring 2007).

7. USM Psychology

  • In the fall 2009 redesigned sections, 62% of students achieved a C or better in the course compared with 60.9% of students in the fall 2008 traditional course.
  • Non-psychology majors can earn a final grade of a D and satisfy a general education core requirement. 78% of students earned a D or better (retention) in the course compared with 69% of students in the fall 2008 traditional course.

8. USM Spanish

  • In Spanish 101, the percentage of students earning a C or better in the spring 2009 redesign pilot implementation was 74% compared with 76% in the spring 2009 traditional sections. The percentage of students earning a C or better in the fall 2009 redesign full implementation was 69%.
  • In Spanish 102, the percentage of students earning a C or better in the fall 2009 pilot redesign implementation was 86% compared with 74% in the fall 2009 traditional sections. The percentage of students earning a C or better in the spring 2010 redesign implementation was 59%.

No

1. Alcorn State College Algebra

  • Even though redesign students received better scores on the common exams, the completion rate (grades of C or better) of the fall 2009 redesigned sections was 28% compared with 42% for the fall 2008 traditional sections.
  • The reason for the conflict between improved test scores and lower completion rates was most likely due to two factors. First, the redesigned course used uniform grading methods across sections, whereas instructors in the past had more grading flexibility, possibly leading to grade inflation. Second, a comparative study conducted by the faculty during the spring 2009 pilot showed that student performance on online tests and quizzes used in the redesign was not as good as on the paper-and-pencil versions used in the traditional format.

2. Jackson State University Intermediate Algebra

  • In the pilot implementation, the student success rate (grades of C or better) declined from 54% to 37%.

3. Mississippi State Animal Biology

  • Final grades from the traditional and redesigned sections of the course were compared. The percentage of students receiving a grade of C or better decreased from 87% for the traditional and 81% for redesigned.

4. MUW College Algebra

  • The percentage of students who earned a final grade of C of better declined from 56% in the fall 2008 traditional format to 44% in the fall 2009 redesign.

5. MUW Intermediate Algebra

  • The percentage of students who earned a final grade of C of better declined from 46% in the fall 2008 traditional format to 37% in the fall 2009 redesign.

6. USM Computing

  • Student success rates (C or better in the course) were 72.8% in the traditional course and 68.1% in the full redesign. These results occurred even though the projects assignments in the redesigned course were more complex than the ones previously assigned in the traditional course.
  • The retention rate (enrolled in course to end including F and NA grades) during both timeframes was in the 98% to 98.5% range.

7. USM Intermediate Algebra

  • The percentage of redesign students earning a final grade of C or better was 26% compared with an historical rate of 34% in the traditional format.

8. USM Technical Writing

  • The percentage of students earning a “C” or better was significantly lower in the redesigned course than in the traditional course (70% vs. 86%.)
  • The team attributes disparity between student performance as gauged through assessment and student performance as registered in the grading process to the lack of oversight and quality control across sections in the traditional course. In particular, many of the traditional sections of the course appeared to suffer from rampant grade inflation (e.g., 53% of the students earned As in while only 5% earned Fs.)
  • The redesigned course has alleviated this problem and now ensures students a more rigorous, more consistent and more equitable educational experience.

3) Were instructional costs reduced?

Yes

1. Alcorn State College Algebra

  • The redesign produced cost savings as planned. While the number of students taking college algebra in fall 2008 (255 students) was the same as in fall 2009 (250 students), the number of day sections was reduced from eight sections to four, saving one full faculty FTE. 

2. Delta State College Algebra

  • Delta State planned to serve 460 students annually and reduce the cost-per-student from $152 to $35, a 77% reduction by replacing 14 small (~33 students) sections taught annually with two large sections, one per semester.
  • Delta State actually served ~353 students annually and reduced the cost-per-student from $152 to $120, a 21% reduction by replacing 14 small sections taught annually with seven larger sections (~48 students).

3. Jackson State University College Algebra

  • Jackson State produced significant cost savings by reducing the number of sections from 59 to 26 for the fall 2009 and spring 2010 semesters combined.

4. Mississippi State Animal Biology

  • The team was able to create additional sections of the course without adding faculty by using computer-based teaching modules, course management tools and automatically graded quizzes, all delivered through Blackboard Vista.
  • This resulted in a reduction in the cost-per-student from $164 to $100, a 39% savings.
  • MSU eliminated the enrollment bottleneck and can now meet the demand for these courses: twice the number of students can be enrolled in the course each semester.

5. Mississippi State Chemistry

  • MSU carried out their plan to reduce the cost of instruction by teaching an increased annual enrollment (from 500 to 1000 students) on the same resource base. Section size increased from 150 to 450, and the number of sections was reduced from four to three. These actions decreased the cost-per-student from $133 to $51, a 62% reduction.

6. Mississippi State Plants and Humans

  • The team was able to create additional sections of the course without adding faculty by using computer-based teaching modules, course management tools and automatically graded quizzes, all delivered through Blackboard Vista.
  • This resulted in a reduction in the cost-per-student from $127 to $99, a 22% savings.
  • MSU eliminated the enrollment bottleneck and can now meet the demand for these courses: twice the number of students can be enrolled in the course each semester.

7. Mississippi State Statics

  • MSU achieved greater cost savings than originally anticipated in their cost savings plan.
  • In fall 2009, seven fully redesigned sections of Statics were taught with one full-time instructor (course coordinator) assisted by 11 ULAs and one GTA. The traditional course was taught in six sections by six adjunct and tenure-track instructors assisted by undergraduate graders in fall 2008.
  • With enrollments of 210 students in fall 2008 and 228 in fall 2009, the cost-per-student was reduced from $299 to $252, a ~16% decrease versus the planned 8% decrease.
  • Since student enrollment in the course is gradually increasing, the cost savings is expected to be sustained at the current level or show an upward trend.

8. Mississippi State Statistics

  • MSU planned to reduce the cost of instruction by increasing the number of students served annually from 790 in 22 small sections to 980 in seven large sections.
  • The cost savings plan was implemented successfully, but enrollment was less than expected during the first implementation.
  • In future semesters, the team expects the projected savings to be realized. These actions will reduce the cost-per-student from $133 to $110, a 17% savings.

9. MUW College Algebra

  • MUW carried out its cost reduction plan. They reduced the number of sections scheduled for fall from seven to six, increased section size from 25-30 to 35 and eliminated the use of adjuncts.

10. MUW Intermediate Algebra

  • MUW carried out its cost reduction plan. They reduced the number of sections scheduled for fall from four to three and increased section size from 25-30 to 35.

11. MVSU Intermediate Algebra

  • MVSU carried out its cost savings plan, reducing the cost-per-student from $183 to $139, a 24% savings.
  • The savings were achieved by decreasing the number of sections from 17 to eight annually and increasing section size from 27 or 32 to 60.

12. USM Computing

  • The cost savings plan was successfully implemented. Significant cost savings were achieved by reducing the number of sections from 26 to 3 annually, the number of instructional staff assigned to the course, reducing instructional staff time required for materials development and lecture preparation and eliminating duplication of effort for tasks required of each member of the instructional staff.
  • The consolidation of efforts resulted in a cost-per-student reduction from $249 to $109, a savings of 56%.

13. USM Intermediate Algebra

  • The cost savings plan projected a reduction in the cost-per-student from $96 to $76, a 21% savings, and was successfully implemented.
  • The savings was achieved by reducing the number of sections from 18 to 9 in the fall 2009 full implementation. Section size was increased from 40 to 80, with each section split into groups of 40 for the class meeting.
  • However, the staffing plan was not implemented. Due to budget cuts, no graduate students were assigned to teach sections of Intermediate Algebra, forcing the full-time and adjunct faculty to teach multiple sections of 80, which proved to be extremely challenging.  

14. USM Nutrition

  • The team’s original cost savings plan intended to reduce the total number of course sections to one online and one face-to-face each term and to increase the number of students per section for both formats. Three full-time faculty members were to team-teach one large face-to-face section each term, and one adjunct was to teach one online section each term.  A weighted average yields a reduction for the whole course from $81 for the traditional to $31 for the redesign, a 62% savings.
  • During the course of the redesign implementation, the team revised this plan. In the future, three face-to-face sections will be offered each term, each taught by a full-time faculty member. Also, the redesign will require only one graduate teaching assistant rather than the four planned. In addition, the fully online version of the course must be offered in both a full-semester and a shortened semester format, a need that was not addressed in the original proposal. In the future, two fully online sections will be offered each term taught by a full-time faculty member to accommodate the two different formats; no adjuncts will be involved.
  • The overall impact of these changes is to reduce the cost-per-student from $81 to $44, a 46% savings rather than the planned 62%.

15. USM Psychology

  • USM reduced the cost of instruction by decreasing the number of large fall and spring sections from six sections of 180 students each to four sections of ~300 students each.
  • The annual number of faculty teaching the course was reduced from 10 to six, thus releasing four full-time faculty to support upper division and graduate level courses.
  • These actions reduced the cost-per-student from $105 to $56, a 47% savings.

16. USM Spanish

  • USM carried out its proposed cost reduction plan. The number of sections was reduced, and section size doubled. The same number of students was taught with fewer faculty. GTAs, who used to cover two sections each, were assigned three sections each. These actions reduced the cost-per-student from $152 to $110, a 28% savings.
  • Unfortunately, the department did not receive any of these savings. Instead of shifting faculty responsibilities to higher-level courses, the department lost three Spanish instructor lines, and GTA stipends were not increased (the agreed use for savings at the outset of this project) when the economic crisis hit and emergency budget cuts were made.

17. USM Technical Writing

  • USM planned to reduce the cost-per-student from $188 to $50, a 73% savings. They actually reduced the cost-per-student from $188 to $62, a 67% savings.
  • Savings were slightly less than anticipated due to two factors: 1) the need to continue offering two sections of the traditional (fully online) version of the course in order to support fully online programs that require the course for the degree (thus the continued need for two adjunct instructors; and 2) an increase from 3 to 3.5 GTAs necessary to staff lab/studio meetings and drop-in hours.

No

1. Jackson State University Intermediate Algebra

  • Jackson State did not fully implement its redesign.

4) Will the redesign be sustained after the grant period is over?

Yes

1. Alcorn State College Algebra

  • Because both goals of improving student learning and reducing instructional costs were met, Alcorn will continue the redesign and continue to improve the redesign of this course.

2. Delta State College Algebra

  • There is no plan to alter the method of delivery in the foreseeable future.

3. Jackson State University College Algebra

  • The College Algebra redesign is fully implemented and institutionalized. The cost-effective nature of the redesign will ensure the sustainability of the program.

4. Mississippi State Animal Biology

  • The redesigned course will continue to be offered. Student success rates have remained stable while enrollments have increased at no additional cost.

5. Mississippi State Plants and Humans

  • The redesigned course will continue to be offered. Student success rates have remained stable while enrollments have increased at no additional cost.

6. Mississippi State Statics

  • There is sufficient evidence to warrant the continuation of the redesign effort. Given the tangible savings in instructional costs and the promise of growing improvements in student learning outcomes, the Statics redesign initiative will continue for the foreseeable future.
  • There is also interest in applying the redesign model to another multi-section mechanics course in the future.

7. Mississippi State Statistics

  • The department is committed to the redesigned course format, which offers significant financial and pedagogical benefits. Specifically, cost savings accrue through the ability to accommodate increased enrollment with limited faculty and staff and enhanced learning outcomes result from the increased accommodation of learning styles and the computer lab projects presenting realistic applications.

8. MVSU Intermediate Algebra

  • The redesign will be sustained given the big improvement in student learning outcomes and the tangible savings in instructional costs.

9. MUW College Algebra

  • The team fully intends to continue implementing the successful components of its course redesign: teaching the course in a more uniform manner, sharing planning efforts and instructional materials and managing a larger class size.

10. MUW Intermediate Algebra

  • The team fully intends to continue implementing the successful components of its course redesign: teaching the course in a more uniform manner, sharing planning efforts and instructional materials and managing a larger class size.

11. USM Computing

  • The sustainability of the project is not in question. The cost-effective nature of the redesign approach will ensure long-term sustainability.
  • All sections of Introduction to Computing follow the redesign format, and all students enrolled in the course share a common learning experience.
  • The shared resources facilitate adding new instructors to the course. For example, a new GTA who joined the instructional staff quickly learned to use the materials and became a valuable team member. This positive “first teaching experience” will no doubt foster his continued interest in teaching and also serve as a model for other GTAs who will be assigned to the course in the future.
  • Innovations in the project are being used in other courses and by other faculty in the School of Computing.
  • In addition, the course redesign has served as a template for redesigning other courses in the school and for other grant activities.

12. USM Nutrition

  • The course redesign as revised will continue. Student outcomes have improved with the redesigned course materials, and savings have been generated in response to the increasing budget constraints faced by the university as well as the staffing challenges within the nutrition department.
  • In addition, many of the features of the course redesign are being added to all nutrition courses such as supplements using Blackboard to convey syllabus information, report student grades and communicate with students.

13. USM Psychology

  • The psychology department is convinced that the redesign is absolutely sustainable and is committed to the continued offering of this redesign. The increased availability of faculty to teach other courses has led to an increase in student credit hours that generates additional university/department revenue.
  • The sustainability of the redesign is dependent on the availability of a lecture hall big enough to hold a section of nearly 300 students. Thus far, the team has been able to reserve Joseph Greene Hall, the only facility on campus that will accommodate the redesign.

14. USM Spanish

  • The first-year basic language Spanish sequence at USM will continue using the redesign format since this format yields comparable results for a much lower cost. In fact, reductions in regular faculty lines have made the redesigned format the only viable way to continue to offer these courses.

Unclear

1. Jackson State University Intermediate Algebra

  • Jackson State did not fully implement its redesign. The team says that when all learning lab facilities are completed, the redesign will be institutionalized, thereby assuring sustainability.

2. Mississippi State Chemistry

  • The department has decided to redesign this course, the second course in the sequence, Survey of Chemistry II and the accompanying laboratory course for both courses, Experimental Chemistry using the Fully Online Model rather than the Replacement Model for all three courses.
  • The main motivation for this decision is to reduce costs. This will allow the department to offer more upper-level courses for its majors.

NCAT Note: Given a success rate of 44% using the Replacement Model, we are skeptical that MSU students will do well in a fully online model.

3. USM Intermediate Algebra

  • The university has invested in a new, larger math learning center which includes a classroom to be used exclusively for math classes in the redesigned format. This eliminates the need for other classrooms on campus for these classes. This larger space also makes it possible for all Intermediate Algebra and all College Algebra to be taught using the redesigned format.
  • Because of the changes in leadership at both the department and university level, however, it is questionable whether the redesign will be continued.

4. USM Technical Writing

  • The redesign has had several benefits to the department and the university including, notably, a remarkable cost savings, a striking increase in the quality and consistency of the course content, and a corrective impact on grade inflation that had been pervasive in some sections of the course. Yet, while its benefits are apparent, and while the redesigned course will continue in a modified format in 2010-11, there are several critical challenges to its sustainability over the longer term.
  • Two issues must be addressed. First, the departure of the one tenure-stream faculty member (the project leader) with content-area expertise is a significant setback to the continuing development of the course. Several graduate students have been trained to teach the course and should be able to manage effectively in the short term; but without committed leadership, guidance and expertise the redesigned Professional Writing course is likely to succumb to the same course drift as the Technical Writing course that preceded it. Second, for years, the Technical Writing course suffered from faculty indifference. While there was some initial departmental buy-in for the Professional Writing redesign, indifference to the course on the part of faculty remains largely intact. Without a renewed commitment of support on the part of the department and the university—including some type of financial incentive enabling the department to reap the savings it has generated by the course—the future of this redesigned general education course looks cloudy at best.

Final reports from each completed redesign are available at http://www.thencat.org/States/MS/MS%20Project%20Descriptions.htm. Final reports include learning outcome data, course completion data, cost reduction data, a discussion of the most important pedagogical techniques that led to increased learning, a discussion of the most important cost reduction techniques that led to reduced costs, a discussion of implementation issues encountered during the redesign process, and a discussion of future sustainability of the redesign.

 

 

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