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rethink what’s going
on.” Ewell thinks that is
revolutionary.
Writing the grant
proposals was part of
the rethinking process.
Universities interested in
the program responded to
eight “readiness criteria”—
for example, did support
for redesigning a course
extend to the schools’
top levels? Did they have
the infrastructure and
experience to undertake
such a project?
About 150 universities
participated in this
process for each round;
the number was then
reduced to 40. Those
that made that cut, and
another down to 20,
attended workshops at
which Twigg went over
the redesign process.
“We started with the
premise that institutions
don’t know how to do this. We have to teach them to think
differently,” she said. The center provided applicants with
what Twigg called “aggressive help” in preparing proposals.
Rather than having potential grantees guess what the center
wanted, the staff told them. That means the schools should be
measuring their results with the same yardsticks.
People don’t always recognize the innovative potential
of technology. For example, when the Pony Express faced
the invention of the telegraph, it responded by buying faster
horses, then trying to hire better riders, Twigg has written.
Or when banks first used automated teller machines, they
located them inside their branches, where they were available
only during banking hours. Only when the ATMs were placed
outside and in grocery stores or airports, available at all hours,
did real innovation occur.
It is clear that Twigg also hopes schools will move beyond
the idea that there is no significant difference in traditional
and online courses and no significant learning difference.
She believes that students learnmore when they participate
actively instead of passively listening to lectures or following
online courses without significant interaction. Good
instructional software “engages the full range of the human
senses throughmultimedia technology,” she has written. “In
short, good learningware encourages active learning.”
In assessing savings, the center does not include the cost
of wiring campuses for computers. “You cannot be a college
or university in the 21st century without being a networked
campus,” Twigg said. That is going on all over, so schools
involved do not include that in the calculation of redesign
expense. If a school needs to buy some special software for the
course, however, that does count in the cost.
“You reach the savings in terms of people’s time,” Twigg
said. “Youmight have a situation in which seven people
taught the introductory course and now it is handled by four.
Those three people can be doing something else. Or if you use
adjunct faculty or teaching assistants, you don’t need to hire as
many.”
JaneWellman, senior associate at the Institute for Higher
Education Policy inWashington, D.C., cautions that “tracking
the savings is key. If the savings aren’t documented—if they’re
hypothetical or swallowed up by other programs—then
they won’t ‘count’ in the way we account for costs in higher
education. So documenting where real cashmoney is saved
and how it’s being redirected or reprogrammed is important.”
The redesign grants started three years ago, and each grant
lasts two years. Each school has faced its own challenges—
convincing faculty to get involved, getting them accustomed
to the technology, building enough structure into the courses
so that students don’t easily fall behind, and dealing with staff
departures or illnesses.
At Cal Poly Pomona, 1,800 students each year take
Psychology 201 toward their general education requirement.
Another 750 would like to take the course but cannot because
of classroom space limitations. With California facing a $23.6
billion budget deficit, there obviously will be less money rather
thanmore. The school has been working to redesign this
psychology course to accommodate more students.
Changing the course, takenmostly by non-psychology
majors, was an evolutionary process. It started in 1995 when
Sonia Blackman of the behavioral sciences department had
a hip replacement and thus limitedmobility. She taught this
psychology course to 22 students in the on-campus television
studio, broadcasting to two more rooms in which there were
70 to 100 students each.
An artist as well as a professor, Blackman found creative
ways to present her
topics using illustrations
or demonstrations.
She decided that if
she could do that, the
department might use
its professors to put
together a videotaped
course. She convinced
some of her colleagues
to tape lectures on
their specialties, using
whatever props they
wanted.
“This course came up the ideal way—it emerged from the
faculty,” said Barbara J. Way, dean of the College of Letters,
Arts and Social Sciences. “Sonia convinced some of the faculty
it would be a good thing to do.”
Originally, students checked the video lessons out of the
library. That had built-in restrictions, such as library hours
and the number of copies of the videos available. Even though
there were multiple copies, some students would keep them
too long or everyone would want them the night before an
exam. Now the videos are available online.
Blackman and Cal Poly Pomona applied for a redesign
The goal of “academic transformation” is to “change
the way every introductory course in the country is
taught,” says Carol Twigg, the moving force behind the
national project.
While administrators
and faculty involved
basically are
supportive of the
online approach,
there is still some
ambivalence.