Colleagues Committed to Redesign (C2R)

The University of West Florida

Course Title: Elements of Statistics
Redesign Coordinator: Pam Northrup

Status: This project was part of Round I of NCAT's FIPSE-funded Colleagues Committed to Redesign (C2R) program, 2007 – 2008. Participants conducted a pilot of their redesign plans in fall 2007. In the C2R program, NCAT’s role was to introduce the course redesign methodology to participating institutions, assist them in developing project plans and work with them through the pilot period. NCAT was not involved in full implementation; consequently, the project’s status beyond the pilot period is unknown. For more information, contact the project contact listed above.

Project Abstract
Progress Report (as of 3/1/08)

Project Abstract

The University of West Florida (UWF) plans to redesign its Elements of Statistics course that is required for students in Business, Humanities, Sciences and Social Sciences as well as several other majors. The three-credit course enrolls ~500 students each semester. It currently has 1 large section with 110 students and 9 sections with 45 students each. This allows one senior faculty member to teach more students and the teaching assistants lead follow-up discussion meetings with students. The course is taught in the traditional lecture format and requires the same homework and exams for all sections. This supports better assessment of student learning. The course options are two 75 minute lectures or three 50 minute lectures each week.

The present format suffers from several shortcomings. It does not address the broad range of differences in student learning styles and quantitative skills. It also does not encourage active learning or offer the opportunity for hands-on experience with computer aided data analysis. The present structure heavily depends on help from the Math Lab's teaching assistants who often have undergraduate degrees in general math or science fields, limiting the effectiveness of statistics instruction they can provide. Students do not receive sufficient individual attention due to a lack of adequate tutoring assistance. Most importantly, students are not motivated to work continuously throughout the semester. They study when they feel they must. During the past three academic years, about 28% of the students performed very poorly, earning a D (5%), F (8%), or W (late drops, 15%).

UWF's redesign, using the Replacement Model, centers on student learning. It will be interactive, providing one-to-one assistance for students and enabling greater hands on experience. The number of sections will be reduced from 10 to 4; one for the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) group, one for the non STEM group, one for all students, and an online section for all students. This course redesign reduces the weekly lectures to one per week, changing all but one face-to-face lecture to computer-aided lab work by adding HAWKES, an intelligent tutoring system. In fall 2007, HAWKES will be tested in the redesigned large section while the remaining sections will use MyMathLab. This will provide another level of assessment of the tutoring systems. The HAWKES system teaches statistical concepts interactively. It also provides students with much needed practice and feedback when solving problems. Students can choose their own learning pace by adjusting the level setting, challenging them according to their own skill level. This significantly increases active learning which is one of UWF's institutional goals. Following the fall 2007 pilot, a full implementation is scheduled for spring 2008. Student success rates and the quality of student learning should improve with this redesign.

A variety of assessment techniques will be used to compare student-learning outcomes. Student performance will be measured using assignments, quizzes and exam grades, comparing the outcomes of the redesigned and the parallel traditional sections. Success rates in different levels will be measured and compared. Failure rates will be monitored and compared using before and after designs. A follow-up survey will be done to determine students' perceptions of how well prepared they are for subsequent courses that have statistics as a prerequisite.

The redesigned course will reduce instructional costs by decreasing the number of sections from 10 to 4 per semester and increasing section size. Regular faculty involved in teaching the course will be reduced, adjuncts will be eliminated, and course management will be shifted to D2L and HAWKES. An enrollment increase of 4% is also projected. The redesign will reduce the cost-per-student from $209 to $126, a 40% decrease. The savings may be used to redesign other general education courses, enhance upper-level undergraduate and graduate offerings, and provide additional resources for research and service in the department.

Progress Report (as of 3/1/08)

In the fall 2007 pilot, students in the redesigned section performed slightly better than students in traditional sections on the comprehensive final examination. In addition, the DFW rate was 15% compared to 18% in the traditional course. The use of the Hawkes Learning System was instrumental in getting students more engaged in the course. Attendance was over 90% in the redesigned sections, higher than in the traditional sections. The classroom atmosphere was more positive and cheerful in the redesigned section; students were clearly “happier” to be enrolled and seemed to be more relaxed.

There are no doubts about sustaining the redesigned course. Other faculty members are willing and eager to teach the redesigned statistics course for the coming semesters. Faculty members who may have not initially supported the redesigned course will come on board as results on student success become more widely available.

Lessons Learned

Pedagogical Improvement Techniques

What techniques contributed most to improving the quality of student learning?

Using Hawkes Learning System. The redesigned course reduced weekly lectures to one per week and changed other class meetings to computer-aided lab work using Hawkes Learning System, an intelligent tutoring system, which teaches statistical concepts interactively. It also provides students with much needed practice and feedback when solving problems. Students can choose their own learning pace by adjusting the level setting, challenging them according to their own skill level.

Using technology for improved lecturing. Instructors in the redesigned course used SmartBoard in a high-tech classroom, in addition to a Tablet Laptop and the traditional use of projector. The lectures were saved in pdf and posted in e-learning, providing students additional study resources. E-learning also supported discussion forums in which students can post questions. These discussion forums created a positive atmosphere among the students by encouraging them to help one other. Students had 24/7 access to the course syllabus, lecture notes and practice tests through e-learning and Hawkes.

Using computer generated exercises. Students enrolled in the redesigned course were expected to visit the computer lab regularly. Several teaching assistants were on hand to assist students with using Hawkes to do their homework assignments. Students could access lectures and exercises, which allowed them to study better and practice problem-solving with assistance from graduate students and the Hawkes system.

Incorporating a virtual lab. Students had access to e-desktop, which allowed them to use university lab computers from anywhere in the country and to access Hawkes. An important factor in selecting Hawkes was the fact that students could use Hawkes offline most of the time. This greatly reduced the draw on the university computer network. Students in general appreciated how using technology made the course less dry. The different approaches in delivering learning resources to students helped in reducing the chances of network problems due to heavy load.

Cost Reduction Techniques

What techniques contributed most to reducing costs?

Consolidating sections. The redesign of Elements of Statistics involved consolidating ten small sections into three large lecture sections plus one smaller fully online section. The total number of faculty involved in the lecture portion of the course went from ten in the spring to four in the fall.

Using technology. Cost reduction depended on using the Hawkes Learning System, which did not add any additional costs to the university. Using Hawkes allowed a reduction in face-to-face instruction from two to one meeting a week. Advising costs were also reduced due to the availability of e-learning discussion forums and other online resources.

Implementation Issues

What implementation issues were most important?

Technology issues. Using a computer-based learning system required the team to plan a couple of months ahead before the semester started for a smooth implementation of the redesign course. It was crucial to work with the university’s ITS department to make sure that a sufficient number of PC’s had the Hawkes system installed. It was necessary to secure a computer lab with modern computers for 25 hours a week. It was also important to plan months ahead to secure large class rooms for up to 150 students per section. Instructors received one-on-one training on the use of Hawkes by professionals from the publisher. This training was repeated over several months to best prepare all of the instructors involved.

Departmental consensus. It was important to inform all faculty members in the department about the new approach in teaching. Since the number of sections was reduced in the redesign, some faculty were concerned that instructors would lose the possibility to teach during the summer. There was also concern about the extra work required for a successful implementation of the redesigned course. The plan for the redesigned course was on the agenda of all faculty meetings for several months before the pilot implementation so that discussions could be held and agreement could be reached.



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