Published on October 8, 2012
In 2011, six large enrollment courses were selected to participate in Mizzou’s course redesign initiative. The courses are Biology 1010, Human Development and Family Studies 2400, Journalism 2150, Math 1300, Nursing 2000, and Statistics 1200.
A major difference between HDFS 2400 and the other five courses tapped for course redesign is its writing intensive (WI) designation. In WI courses, assignments are designed both to promote the learning of course content and to enhance students’ critical thinking skills through writing. Although more educational technology tools are now available, effective automation of the grading and critiquing of written assignments remains elusive. The primary question confronting the redesign of HDFS 2400 was how to use technology effectively in a course that requires significant human interface.
Critiquing students’ written output is an essential component of helping them learn. In an example of the scaffolding technique, the novice does the work while the more proficient individual lends encouragement and constructive advice. Without this critical piece, skills plateau at a lower level than what might have been possible otherwise.
To support this technique, the course redesign considered educational technology that would increase lecture enrollment without creating big, ineffective labs. Before the project, 320 students enrolled in the Monday/Wednesday lecture (Section 1) and one of 29 weekly lab sessions. Capped at 11 students, these labs were taught by HDFS Graduate Teaching Assistants who combined content and writing instruction. Only one lab time was available to the 45 students enrolled in the Tuesday/Thursday lecture (Section 2). So while the lecture was smaller, the lab was excessively large. An advanced doctoral student taught Section 2 with the aid of a more junior graduate student for the lab session.
Aside from the use of PowerPoint for presentations and Blackboard for grade management, minimal educational technology was used in both sections. The CPS student response system that was used only in Section 1 lectures was both a help and a hindrance due to reliability and record keeping issues.
After redesign, things look appreciably different. As of Fall 2012, the smaller lecture section will be eliminated in favor of two large hybrid sections capped at 218 and the existing 29 weekly labs. Starting this semester, students registered for either the Monday or Wednesday face-to-face lecture with online delivery of the second lecture through Tegrity. Face-to-face lectures are supplemented with critical thinking questions using the newly adopted i>clicker student response system. Lectures presented through Tegrity are also supplemented with online quizzes covering the material just viewed. These quizzes as well as in-class videos are part of the textbook publisher’s online courseware. All four tools have been well received by students.
To preserve a quality human interface, maximum enrollment was determined by how many students we could effectively teach in labs and not by how many students we could serve through technology. This semester, enrollment was increased to 15 students per lab in Section 1 with TAs teaching a maximum of 2 labs, i.e., a 30:1 student-to-teacher ratio. A variety of techniques were tried to preserve quality and consistency across labs while keeping TA time commitment in mind. Thanks to feedback from students and a TA focus group, course redesign is taking its final shape.