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grant to develop a CD-ROM as a tutorial for the psychology
course, to redo some of the videos, and to shift the course
ontoWebCT software. Blackman felt the CDwas needed
because “in any course there are several lessons that are very
hard for students to grasp.” In general psychology, these
include experimental design, classical conditioning, operant
conditioning, and depression.
The CD, developed with instructional technology designer
Karen Brzoska, begins when a student on a field trip finds
a glass jar. He peers into it and a Tinker Bell-like character
named Sigmundia beckons him along to help free inhabitants
of a “dark world” held captive against their will. While in
essence playing an educational video game, students drill on
concepts they have been learning through the video lectures
and textbook. Some faculty felt that students would not warm
up to instruction online or through CDs, but “this generation
has demonstrated how addictive computers are,” Blackman
Carol Twigg agreed. “The problem generally is not the
students but some of the faculty,” she said. “Luckily, we’ve
found some pioneering faculty who are willing to show the
Cal Poly Pomona had hoped to implement the redesigned
course fully last fall but illness forced Blackman to retire. The
department patched together the instruction for that term.
The person who filled inmade some changes as she went
along, and now, the college dean said, those changes have been
Felicia FriendlyThomas, professor of behavioral sciences,
took over the class during the winter term. She had to learn
how to useWebCT, she said, and spent more time on the class
than a traditional approach would have required. NowThomas
spends about the same amount of time as before. She doesn’t
have to lecture because that material is on the video, but the
balance of her time is spent monitoring the electronic bulletin
boards and answering e-mail about the course content.
Course work is carefully mapped out. The website shows
the syllabus, schedule, instructions, assignments, the textbook
publisher’s related resources that are online, an area in which
students can check their own progress, and the class bulletin
board. Students have regular assignments that they can do
at their own pace—up to a point—but once the deadline has
passed, they can’t go back into that material.
“Computers crash,”Thomas acknowledged, “so there is one
written assignment each that a student canmiss.”
Exams are also taken online withThomas monitoring the
test periods. The computer randomly generates questions, and
students see one question at a time. If they skip a question,
the computer will not let them go back to it. “I tell them I put
the most difficult questions at the end, usually those based on
the video lessons. They’re not in the book. They don’t know
what’s coming” so they can’t spend time in the early part of
the test looking up answers. This isThomas’s way of trying to
“minimize academic dishonesty.”
Thomas had 186 students in her spring quarter online
class. This fall, she and another professor will handle online
sections of the class to accommodate a total of 400 students.
Traditional sections will also be offered. But in the winter
quarter, the class will be offered only online.
While administrators and faculty
involved basically are supportive of
the online approach, there is still some
ambivalence. “If we could check these
students ten years fromnow,”Thomas
said, “I’d like to ask howmuch of [the
course content] did they keep? Do
they view it as a canned class that they
took and got a good grade andmoved
on?Was there something about a
face-to-face class that increased the
probability that a student would take
life lessons from it? I don’t know the
answer to that question.
“If it is less personal, do you personalize less?”
Even though Cal Poly Pomona wants to put more
Psychology 201 students online, DeanWay thinks that her
college will have to continue offering some traditional sections.
“Digitally delivered classes don’t work for everybody, so we
have to identify the largest populations where it is good,”Way
said. Those groups might include working people, young
mothers with children at home, more mature students, she
Using the CD-ROM tutorials and computer-based
testing should allow the university to reduce faculty hours
significantly and replace themwith less expensive teaching
assistant hours. As a result, the university had said in the early
days of the project, the cost-per-student would drop from $152
to $21, a reduction of 86 percent.
But Way says the school probably hasn’t saved any money
yet. There are “incredible amounts of time invested up front.
An administrator like
myself has to recognize
that faculty can’t do
this andmaintain
their workload, at
least initially. You just
burn them out.” In the
development phase,
she said she “tried to be
generous to give faculty
time to work on this.
You can’t anticipate
what will go wrong
technologically. Once
we’ve got that under
control, one professor
can take up to 200-250
students,” with teaching
assistants to help
Twenty-five miles
east of Pomona, on
the Moreno Valley
campus of Riverside
Community College,
the highest-enrollment
math class on campus
is being redesigned.
Dean Barbara J. Way of Cal Poly Pomona supports the
restructured psychology class, saying, “it came up the
ideal way—it emerged from the faculty.”
At the Moreno Valley
campus of Riverside
Community College, the
highest-enrollment math
class on campus is being