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Ohio University

Course Title: Fundamentals of Human Communication
Scott Titsworth

Status: This project originated as part of a collaborative program between NCAT and the Ohio Learning Network, 2004 – 2006. NCAT’s role was to introduce the course redesign methodology to Ohio institutions and assist them in developing a project plan. NCAT was not involved in project implementation; consequently, the project’s status is unknown. For more information, contact George Steele at or the project contact listed above. The project plan serves as a good example of how to think about redesigning a large-enrollment course.

Project Plan:
Ohio University (OU) will redesign an introductory course, Fundamentals of Human Communication, to meet a projected increase in student demand. The course currently enrolls 800 students annually. A redesigned general education curriculum at OU will take effect in fall, 2006, and, as a result, students will be able to fulfill two of the requirements by taking this course. OU anticipates much greater demand once the new curriculum is in place.

In its current form, the course is focused exclusively on knowledge dissemination with no formalized opportunity provided for application or praxis of course concepts. The mass lecture format, taught by one faculty member and two teaching assistants, is ineffective at adapting to learners with diverse learning styles. The course is dominated by a passive learning approach and provides few opportunities for application and dialogue. Although the course content emphasizes human interaction, there is little interaction in the current course format.

Using a replacement model, OU plans to reduce the number of weekly contact hours from four in the current lecture model to two in the redesigned course, requiring students to attend one two-hour lecture weekly. Information dissemination will be primarily accomplished through textbook readings, streamed mini-lectures, and other individually accessible online learning materials. Automated quizzes will be used to ensure adequate pacing. In-class time will be refocused on application, illustration and active learning, using a personal response system. Course meetings will be used to motivate students, provide illustrations of the skills necessary to complete out-of-class activities and orient students to course procedures, building on out-of-class activities. Group-based active learning exercises will take place outside the classroom. Students will access multimedia activities, problem-solving activities and case studies online; each exercise will require group discussion and submission of a group response. Undergraduate Teaching Assistants will be used to assist groups with activities. In sum, OU expects to convert the course from a mass lecture experience to an active and engaged learning community.

Data on student learning will be collected through embedded questions in classroom exams. During the pilot, questions will be identical in the traditional and redesigned course formats and will measure students’ learning of course objectives. OU will also assess students’ affective learning, students’ evaluation of the course, and students’ perceptions of classroom democracy.

The cost-per-student is projected to decline from $79 to $30, a 62% decrease. The number of students is anticipated to double from 800 to 1600 without increasing the resources devoted to the course. Classroom space will accommodate twice as many students because the face-to-face time will be reduced by half. These changes will allow OU to meet increasing demand generated by the new general education curriculum without increasing course resources.


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