In 2008, I received a $50,000 grant from the National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT) and the Mississippi Institutes for Higher Learning (IHL) to redesign a large multi-section writing course at USM (“Technical Writing”). The goal of the NCAT redesign process is to improve student learning while significantly decreasing instructional costs through the innovative use of technology. In our case, we took ten independently taught sections of 333 and recombined them into a single hybrid course re-named “Writing in Academic, Professional and Public Contexts.”
(Read the initial grant proposal.)
The redesigned 333 was a blended-learning, flipped-classroom course consisting of four major components:
- weekly lectures that were delivered live and archived for students to view remotely
- interactive online materials developed in close collaboration with our textbook partner, Cengage Courseware, and keyed to our core learning outcomes
- shorter writing projects aimed at familiarizing students with a range of traditional and multimedia genres; and
- a substantial collaborative service-learning project, where students partnered with local and regional non-profit organizations to create print and multimedia documents these organizations badly needed to advance their work.
As part of this project, grant funds were also used to build a multimedia writing studio — a mixed lab/classroom space equipped with six digital design workstations, color printers and scanners, and a host of audio and video editing software. We also purchased 15 laptops, and several digital video and audio recorders that students and instructors could check-out from the studio to use on various projects.
(Read the complete syllabus and major assignments.)
Timeline and Implementation
The pilot phase of the redesign (including construction of the multimedia writing studio) took approximately seven months to develop, and required careful coordination and planning among several stakeholders, including representatives from Institutional Technology, the Learning Enhancement Center, the Provost’s and Dean’s offices, Physical Plant, and the University’s QEP and Office of Institutional Effectiveness.
The redesigned course was piloted in the fall of 2008 with 100 students, and included a comparative assessment of student learning outcomes with those in the original course. Student engagement and satisfaction were also measured. In the end, students in the pilot course outperformed those in the original model by an average of 9.4 percent on four different metrics.
(For results of the pilot phase, visit the NCAT presentation archived here.)
Based on these results, we proceeded to fully implement the redesign in the spring of 2009, enrolling over 350 students.
The project was enormously successful in achieving all of our major goals, including substantially reducing costs while improving student learning and overall satisfaction in the course. Further, the cost of delivering the course was reduced by 67%, resulting in a savings of $107,100 per year.
(You can read the final report on the design project here.)