Sandra Carriker

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Home > Course Redesign > Narrative > Strategies

Strategies

Preliminary Investigation
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 further information.

Course Selection
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.