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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Center for Academic Transformation Announces $2 Million in Grants

September 20, 2001

Center for Academic Transformation Announces $2 Million in Grants

Troy, N.Y. — Ten colleges and universities across the country will receive $2 million in grants from The Pew Grant Program in Course Redesign at the Center for Academic Transformation at Rensselaer. The grants were announced by Carol A. Twigg, executive director of the Center.

This is the third and final round of a three-year, $6 million grant cycle funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, bringing the total number of projects funded to 30. The purpose of the program is to encourage colleges and universities to redesign their approaches to instruction using technology to achieve cost savings as well as quality enhancements.

The 10 institutions will receive grants of $200,000 each for course redesign projects with the potential to have an impact on a significant student numbers and generate substantial cost savings. The focus in on large-enrollment, introductory courses.

“Information technology allows us to rethink all aspects of how we teach and how students learn,” says Twigg. “By using IT to support a reconfiguration of a full course rather than a single class, we can make radical improvements in both the quality and cost of how we teach. The key to these redesigns is the commitment to collaboration and coordination among all faculty teaching the course. Once that commitment is made, IT enables instructional resources to be collaboratively developed, captured, stored, shared, and continuously revised.”

Below are brief descriptions of the projects. For full descriptions go to:

Brigham Young University
Brigham Young University in Salt Lake City, Utah, will redesign its first-year writing course, which enrolls 3,280 students in more than 170 sections each year. The course is taught primarily by graduate instructors in the master’s English program. The redesign will reduce the amount of time students spend in class from three hours per week to one hour. A series of interactive multimedia lessons, more one-on-one time with faculty, and the addition of peer-to-peer sessions will replace class time. The lessons will standardize the curriculum across all sections, provide a more consistent experience, and reduce the time graduate instructors spend preparing and presenting in the classroom. It is estimated the redesigned course will save 45 percent.

Drexel University
Drexel University in Pittsburgh, PA, will redesign introductory Computer Programming by combining two courses. Taken together, the two courses are required for 33 percent of freshmen and anticipated enrollments could exceed 1,300. The redesigned, combined course will replace the large lecture format with interactive, Web-based modules that will enable students to self-schedule their learning each week. Each module will cover a particular topic at different knowledge levels, enabling students in different majors to acquire the appropriate skill level. Students will be able to enter the course in one of three groups and earn varying amounts of credit based on their knowledge and skills. The redesigned course will reduce per-student costs by 36 percent.

Florida Gulf Coast University
Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Fla. will redesign Understanding the Visual and Performing Arts, a required course in its general education program. The current course is taught primarily in face-to-face sections of 30 students each (plus two small sections at a distance) and uses a large number of adjunct faculty members. The redesigned course will create a single section and use a common syllabus, textbook, set of assignments and a course Web site.

Students will be placed groups of 48. Each group will be divided into Peer Learning Teams of six students each. Students will be directed to learning activities most closely suited to their learning styles as measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The goal is to create a custom, individualized learning environment. The university will use an alternative staffing model that makes the best use of the time of full-time faculty, and a course coordinator. The result will be a 39 percent reduction of the cost per student.

Iowa State University
Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa will redesign Discrete Mathematics, a gateway course for a large number of students and a required course for all business and social sciences majors. Enrolling about 1,800 students per year, the course currently consists of two large lectures and a recitation. In order to increase consistency, improve student morale and performance, and provide individualized feedback, Iowa State’s redesign will offer self-paced, Web-based modules. The Web-based environment will integrate WebCT for learning management, eGrade for online testing and materials by Barnett/Ziegler/Byleen (Prentice-Hall) for content. The traditional course uses 12 faculty members and 15 teaching assistants annually to deliver the course at a cost of $129 per student. The redesigned course will result in a cost savings of 42 percent per student.

Northern Arizona University
Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Ariz., will redesign College Algebra, one of its ten largest classes with an enrollment of more than 900 students. Inconsistent student outcomes and about 47 percent of students eventually withdraw from the University as a result. Most sections meet three hours per week and are taught in a standard lecture format by full-time faculty and graduate teaching assistants. Using ALEKS, a Web-based instructional software and course management system, the redesign will promote active and collaborative learning and address individual student learning styles.

In addition to offering 24/7 access to course materials, ALEKS can be customized. The course redesign will result in a 48 percent decrease in costs per student.

The Ohio State University
Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, plans a second-generation redesign of Introductory Statistical Concepts, a five-credit course enrolling 3,250 students each year. A 1990 redesign retained three lectures per week and replaced two recitations with an active learning laboratory environment. OSU will offer students a choice of interchangeable paths to learn each course objective, including lectures, discovery laboratories, live and remote reviews, small group study sessions, videos, training modules, oral and written presentations, active large group problem solving, homework assignments, and individual and group projects. Additionally, a “statistics help desk” will be created to improve responses to students. The redesign is expected to improve retention and reduce the cost per student by 31 percent.

Portland State University
Portland State University in Portland, Oregon, will redesign Introductory Spanish, a yearlong, multiple-section course. The redesigned course will address inconsistencies among sections through improved planning, coordination and training of teaching assistants. Class meetings will be reduced from three-to-two per week with increased class time spent in interactive speaking. Using multimedia, PSU will move testing, writing and grammar instruction, and partner/group activities outside the classroom, and shift responsibility for assignment development to the course director. Additionally, it will spend more time training teaching assistants, increase oral practice in study groups, reduce in-class time for students performing above standards, and direct low-achieving students to small group sessions for additional oral practice. The university intends to reinvest the cost savings to serve more students per year.

Tallahassee Community College
Tallahassee Community College in Tallahassee, Fla., plans to redesign College Composition, a required course for its 3,000 degree-seeking students. The current success rates are less than 60 percent annually. The redesign will use technology to provide diagnostic assessments for individualized learning; interactive tutorials in grammar, mechanics, reading comprehension, and basic research skills; online tutorials for feedback on written assignments; follow-up assessments; and discussion boards to facilitate the development of learning communities. The classroom environment will be restructured to include a range of writing activities that foster collaboration, proficiency, and higher levels of thinking. The redesign will save an estimated 43 percent per student.

The University of New Mexico
The University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico plans to redesign General Psychology, the largest and most popular undergraduate course enrolling 2,250 students. The redesign will improve the course’s retention, and graduation rates. It will reduce the number of lectures each week to one and incorporate a weekly 50-minute studio session led by undergraduate teaching assistants in computer labs. These activities will be supplemented by interactive Internet/CD-ROM activities, quizzes, and programmed self-instruction offered on a 24/7 schedule. Students will be quizzed each week and there will be an intervention strategy to ensure students are making progress. The redesign will reduce the cost per student by 47 percent.

University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi in Long Beach, Mississippi, will redesign World Literature, a required course enrolling 1,000 students. The course is offered in 16 lecture sections per term, half are taught by full-time faculty and the other half by adjunct faculty. The redesign will place all students in a single online section and will replace the passive lecture environment with media-enriched presentations that require active student engagement. A course coordinator will direct the team teaching of four faculty members and four graduate assistant graders. Each faculty member will teach his or her area of expertise for four weeks. The faculty team will offer course content through a combination of optional live lectures and required, Web-delivered presentations. Savings are estimated to be 56 percent per student.

Contact: Dr. Carol A. Twigg, executive director of The Center for Academic Transformation, 518-695-5320 or

Contact: Megan Galbraith
Phone: (518) 276-6531
E-mail: N/A