Course Readiness Criteria - Example 1

Will changes in this course have a high impact on the curriculum?

Is the course a large introductory, high enrollment course? Is this course taught regularly? Is there a significant academic problem in this course such as substantial failure rates? Does the course face a serious resource problem such as how to manage increased enrollment demand with no commensurate increase in resources?

Here are some of the courses chosen by various institutions and the reasons for those choices.

Cal Poly Pomona (Biology)
IUPUI (Sociology and Composition)
Miami-Dade Community College (College Algebra)
Pennsylvania State University (Statistics)
University at Buffalo (SUNY) (Computer Literacy)
University of Colorado-Boulder (Astronomy)
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (Statistics)
University of Southern Maine (Psychology)
University of Tennessee, Knoxville (Public Speaking)
University of Wisconsin-Madison (Chemistry)
Virginia Tech (Math)

Cal Poly Pomona

The course chosen for redesign in this proposal carries implications for virtually all lab-based, introductory science courses where space constraints are an issue. The course enrolls a significant percentage of the total freshman population on almost every campus; accordingly, it can be expected to increase future student readiness for and acceptance of IT delivery while promoting faculty understanding of learner-centered education. Success in a course of this size and significance can create pressures for change in other disciplines.

Bio 110 (111L) is an essential, introductory general education course required on most campuses nationwide. This course and lab is taken by virtually every non-biology major at Cal Poly Pomona. In AY 1998-99 20 sections of the lecture were offered to 1,995 students, and 40 sections of the lab to 806 students, for a total of 2,801 students in 60 sections. Nationwide, the biology course for non-biologists is among the largest publishing market of any academic area.

Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI)

R100, Introduction to Sociology, and W131, Elementary Composition, are large enrollment introductory courses. Each course is offered every semester, and in the summer, in multiple sections. In the Fall of 1998, there were 875 students enrolled in R100 and 1764 students enrolled in W 131.

There are significant failure rates in both courses. In the Fall of 1998, the DWF rate (students who receive a "D", "F", or withdraw) for W131 was 34.6 percent and the rate for R100 was 38 percent. Students who enroll in these courses concurrently have especially high DWF rates. In the Fall of 1998, 114 students took R100 and W131 concurrently. Forty-nine (43%) of these students received grades of DWF in W131 and 54 (47%) received grades of DWF in R100.

Redesigning R100 to take advantage of computer technology already in place in W131 and additional technology available on campus will have a high impact on our campus. One of our goals is to significantly reduce the DWF rate in R100 in general, and especially for students concurrently enrolled in R100 and W131.

Miami-Dade Community College

College Algebra (MAC 1102) is our first level math college credit course. This is a large introductory, high enrollment course, enrolling 4,022 students in 109 sections averaging 37 students per section during the last fall term. Most of these are first year students. A similar number take this course during the other major term. More than half of these students failed to receive a grade of C or better which is necessary to move on to the next math course.

College Algebra is a requirement for most majors and is currently a stumbling block for many of our students. The course has a very high non-completion rate and this is a major obstacle for a significant number of our students. This course has serious problems due to the high numbers of non-completers. The course is usually taught in the traditional lecture format starting with from 30-45 students per class. In most instances, at this time, no support from technology is received by the student although there is availability. For example, in the computer courtyards and math labs there are software programs and tutorials available for students for instruction and practice.

A substantial decrease in the cost per successful student ratio, cost per completer, would be a measure of important savings for MDCC. "Successful" here is defined as a student who meets a defined-content achievement measure at the A, B, or C level. In this instance "successful" is equated with the same meaning as "completer."

Pennsylvania State University

Statistics 200 is an introductory course required for undergraduate students in about 60 different majors. At the University Park campus, the course is taught in the fall, spring, and summer semesters with an annual enrollment of about 2,200. An additional 400 students take Statistics 200 at the university’s branch campuses each year. By changing Stat 200, we will dramatically affect thousands of students in many different majors.

Improvements to Statistics 200 will have a substantial impact beyond the course:

  • Students will be better prepared for subsequent courses in research methods and statistics.
  • Students will have a better understanding of the role of statistics in their everyday life and in their future professional careers.
  • Improvements to the course at University Park can be shared with the faculty who teach the course at more than a dozen other campuses.
  • Changes to Stat 200 can be extended to four other similar introductory statistics courses offered at Penn State: Stat 240, Stat 250, Stat 301, and Stat 401.

This makes Stat 200 an important element of the academic majors that require it. Within several majors, Stat 200 is a prerequisite for upper-level courses in research methods.

University at Buffalo (SUNY)

CSE 101 is an introductory course with an annual enrollment of over 1000, and is taught every semester. As a computer literacy course, CSE 101 is a required course in several degree programs. In addition, many students take the course as an elective and enrollment has been steadily rising. A university-wide computer literacy general education requirement is being discussed as a component of Access99, and a decision will be made before the end of June 1999. The current resolution recommends that students use CSE 101 to satisfy the requirement. If the resolution passes, we estimate there will be a 40% increase in demand for the course. We would like to manage the enrollment increases with no commensurate increase in resources.

In addition, because CSE 101 provides students with the concepts, skills and capabilities that they need to be effective users of IT in their subsequent academic work, it thus has a high impact across the curriculum.

University of Colorado-Boulder

The Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences (APS) Department teaches introductory astronomy to approximately 1,100 students per semester (in several lecture sections with enrollment ranging from about 30 to 220). There are two parts to Introductory Astronomy: Solar System Science and Stars & Galaxies. As a sequence or as separate courses, they fulfill parts of the science distribution requirements for the bachelor's degree in the School of Arts and Sciences. The courses are primarily intended to provide basic science literacy for non-science majors but many students majoring in natural sciences and engineering take them as well.

With such large lecture courses, it is always a challenge to engage students in active learning. The default, that occurs altogether too often, is that the students attend lectures, turn in a few homework assignments, take a midterm and a final, and do not become involved in the course in any other way. Students who are highly motivated to learn the subject will attend lectures regularly, sit in the front rows, and ask questions from time to time. But altogether too many students are turned off by such a format. As a result, many attend lectures sporadically and never do become engaged in the subject matter. Furthermore, the large lecture format leads to a tendency to teach science as a series of facts rather than an analysis of concepts and processes.

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Econ 173 is a statistics course that is required of all students in the College of Commerce and Business Administration. It is the second in a two-course sequence and, indeed, assuming this project goes well the first course in the sequence, Econ 172, is also likely to undergo a major overhaul with a big educational technology component. The combined enrollments in the two courses are around 1500 per semester. Econ 173 has about 500 students in the fall term and about 1000 students in the spring.

This course does not suffer from a substantial failure rate. However, there have been continuous concerns voiced on whether students retain course content one or two semesters after they have completed the course. The main source of these complaints is instructors of subsequent business courses with intensive statistics applications. These instructors feel their students aren’t adequately prepared. One contributing factor to the lack of retention is the mechanical way content is presented in the current curriculum. Students exert a tremendous amount of energy learning the recipes but devote little time to mastering fundamental statistical concepts. The strategy in the course re-design is to de-emphasize the mechanical aspects and relegate as much of the computational chore to Excel as possible so that more emphasis can be put on basic concepts and application of the concepts to real data.

Enrollment for the course has been relatively stable over the years. However, the Economics department has been downsizing its graduate program and has had trouble finding a sufficient number of qualified teaching assistants to staff the many high-enrollment undergraduate courses offered by the department.

University of Southern Maine

Psy 101J is taught every semester, at least twice during the summer and occasionally during the three-week winter session. Approximately 850 of the 10,000 students at this institution take this course each year. It is in high demand because it meets one of the distributed (core) education requirements and is required of nursing students, psychology, sociology and other social science majors.

The eight sections of this course that are taught during the academic year are a significant drain on the resources of the Psychology Department, in part because this represents 1.67 full time faculty positions out of a total of 9 within the department. One anticipated result of the use of technology is a reduction in the number of sections of the course offered, by at least one per semester.

Because we do not offer a graduate degree in psychology, there are no graduate assistants available to assist in the teaching of this course. We have traditionally attempted to deal with this problem by encouraging fourth year students to get course credit by acting as tutors. Nevertheless, the large lecture sections and absence of recitation sections do not support individualized instruction. Not surprisingly, about 30% of the students fail the course. We anticipate that the learner-centered approach that we are in the process of developing will reduce the failure rate and the number of students having to repeat the course while increasing the excitement of learning the material. Furthermore, we believe that our proposal will serve as a model for other large-enrollment courses at USM and elsewhere.

University of Tennessee, Knoxville

The traditional nature of the subject matter involved, the significance of the competency and skill entailed in its study, the demand for the course across our 10 undergraduate colleges, and the financial restrictions of offering sufficient numbers of sections each term make Speech Communication 210 (Public Speaking) the ideal choice for our redesign project. Redesign of this course will serve as an information-communication literacy model that can be replicated across our campus. We intend to document and assess the course redesign process and to apply it in other disciplines.

The need for instruction in oral communication has long been recognized at the University, and that need has been underscored by accreditation agencies such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The competency has been delivered exclusively through enrollment in a course designed for public speaking (Speech Communication 210), and demand for the course far exceeds capacity. Even though we offer multiple sections of the course each term, we have not found it possible to meet student demand. The course is required in nine of the 10 undergraduate colleges including at least 70 majors. Consistently, a backlog of students cannot get the course during the semester that they request it. For example, during the Fall 1998 semester, a total of 417 students were enrolled in 16 sections of the course. However, total enrollment demand for the public speaking course exceeded 850 students. Anticipated increases in undergraduate admissions for the upcoming academic year will only exacerbate difficult resource problem.

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Chemistry 103-104 is the one-year chemistry course that is required for large numbers of students in most biological science and many engineering curricula. At UW-Madison, about half of the freshman class enrolls in Chemistry 103, and more than a third enroll in Chemistry 104. Enrollments are about 2400 students in the fall semester and about 1900 in the spring. The courses are taught every semester, including summer.

Introductory chemistry courses have the reputation of being difficult and requiring lots of work from students. In 1990 the total of failures, D grades, and dropouts for Chemistry 103 and 104 at UW-Madison was about 15-20% of enrollment. That number has decreased somewhat during the last ten years, but is still high. In addition, surveys of our client departments (biochemistry, biological sciences, engineering, etc.) reveal that there is great concern that students are not retaining what they should have learned in Chemistry 103 and 104, and that they are unable to apply chemical principles to situations they encounter in these other disciplines.

During the past decade, enrollments in Chemistry 103 and 104 at UW-Madison have increased by about 35%. We have increased the number of lecture sections and the number of discussion-lab sections. In each of the past three years we have hired two or three temporary lecturers who were not regular chemistry faculty and 20 or 30 teaching assistants who are not chemistry graduate students to teach these courses. We are now hiring additional faculty, which will alleviate the former situation somewhat, but the number of graduate students available as teaching assistants is not expected to grow. Therefore managing these large courses with the resources available is a problem.

Virginia Tech

Math 1114 is required course for engineering, physical science, and mathematics students that enrolls about 2000 first-year students annually and is taught every fall and spring semester. While students have done well in the course, we perceive a large resource (personnel) demand in a system of up to 40 parallel sections. In addition, the one-to-many presentation mode is poorly suited to the wide range of student backgrounds.