NSCC has had extensive experience using technology in teaching and learning,
including a recent expansion in Web-supported courses and fully online
courses. Moreover, the College has already invested in increasing the
number of computer classrooms (usually with twenty work stations) and
"smart" classrooms (outfitted with Internet connection, multimedia
teacher station, and high quality projection and sound systems).
However, analysis and assessment of how best to use
technology have been, at best, intermittent. While many faculty have been
drawn intuitively to adopting instructional technology in their courses,
they use technology in a tangential way, not significantly modifying the
curriculum but rather layering on technology to conventional methods.
The thrust, then, of the preliminary investigations
has been to seek examples of colleges and universities that have employed
instructional technology in inventive yet cost-efficient ways.
A major resource for these new educational models is
the Center for Academic Transformation at Renssalear Polytechnic Institute.
With underwriting from the Pew Foundation, a number of colleges have embarked
on "transformation" with technology. The Center's Web site (www.center.rpi.edu)
catalogs a variety of curricular modifications, details the budget implications
of these changes, and identifies contacts at the various colleges for
From the preliminary investigations, the criteria for the selection of
a course for redesign emerged:
- The course should have many sections.
- Instructional software should be readily available.
- Faculty should have experience with instructional technology.
- Learning outcomes should be defined before design.
With these criteria in mind, Fundamentals of Computer
Concepts (CPS100) was chosen. Typically there are approximately 50 sections
enrolling 800 - 900 students. Moreover, the course is required in numerous
programs, including liberal arts and business transfer majors. Faculty
teaching this course already use publisher-developed courseware and Web-enhanced
instruction. Because of the discipline itself - Computer Science, it made
sense to begin a pilot curriculum redesign effort here.
A Prototype for Redesign
Three members of the Computer Science Department received stipends to
participate in the redesign of Fundamentals of Computer Science. After
some preliminary discussion, the team decided on the following guidelines
for the redesign.
- Improving Quality: The redesign enables
faculty to redirect their time to working with students, often with
diverse skill levels, on complicated concepts in the course. The aspects
of practice, application, and review are shifted to Web-based materials
and CD-ROMs that are now standard with most texts as well as being available
commercially. The redesign includes online tutoring, provided by talented
undergraduates or computer lab assistants. Thus, CPS 100 students have
increased flexibility in completing practical application assignments
from any computer, any time with support from online tutoring seven
days a week.
- Thinking Out of the Box: One of the
central tenets of the redesign is to determine how integrated instructional
technology can effectively replace conventional practices yet be cost
effective. This prototype shrinks class meetings by half, from two to
one meetings per week. It frees faculty from in-person monitoring of
drill and practice, giving them more time for important activities such
as meeting individually with students, improving course materials, and
engaging in research. The redesign replaces the current computer-classroom
instruction segments with interactive, Web-based materials allowing
students to develop skills and apply course concepts at their own pace,
from home or in open campus computer labs. By eliminating teaching half
the class meetings in a computer classroom (which restricts enrollment
to 20 students - the number of computer work stations), class size can
be potentially doubled. This decreases the number of sections, making
more available computer classrooms for higher-level instruction, and
reducing reliance on hard-to-find adjunct faculty.
- Increasing Access: With the reduction
of class meetings and the increase in class size, the availability of
CPS 100 in "prime-time" slots, so important to NSCC students,
dramatically rises. For example, in the current format, one section
of 20 students is scheduled from 8:00 - 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursday.
In the redesign that single section of 20 students becomes 2 sections
of 30, one which meets on Tuesday and the other on Thursday. So for
that prime-time slot, and indeed for every other time slot, enrollment
can increase by approximately 200 percent.