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Collaborative Design and Delivery for Online Precalculus: Benefits and Challenges

Kris Biesinger (University of Georgia, USA)
Cole Causey (University of Georgia, USA)
Session Information
October 14, 2015 - 2:45pm
Institutional Strategies & Innovations
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Research Study
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Institutional Level: 
Universities and Four Year Institutions
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Oceanic 7
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Concurrent Session 3

Multi-institutional collaboration affords the benefit of expanded expertise and perspectives, but can be accompanied by unforeseen challenges.

Extended Abstract

A common stumbling block for students considering a STEM major has been introductory math courses. In 2013 a group of institutions within the University System of Georgia undertook a collaborative effort to reduce the percentage of students enrolled in precalculus who receive grades of D, F, or W (withdrawal). Leveraging the research-proven success of the on-campus Math Emporium model, the faculty-led team developed an online multi-institutional precalculus course that provides a highly interactive and support-rich learning experience. Using multiple online applications, the course fuses student information and learning management systems with e-textbook content, online homework, tutoring, collaboration and proctoring tools.

In addition to improving retention and success, course design elements included accessibility, and responsiveness to a wide range of student abilities and circumstances while reducing costs. If successful, this course will be offered by all institutions in the University System and its design will inform the development of additional courses.
The Precalculus Emporium course benefits from working with experts and reviewers from collaborating institutions. Tried and true techniques from multiple perspectives become distilled into a rich instructional approach and wealth of resources. Shared roles and responsibilities distribute workload and offer economies of scale. New ideas result from piggybacking one faculty solution on another. The benefits are many, yet collaboration across multiple institutions presents myriad obstacles, many unforeseen, and some that may compromise the perceived value attributed to collaboration. For purposes of discussing these encountered obstacles, they are grouped under three headings: Infrastructure Logistics, Marketing and Advisement, and Instruction, Support and Community.
Infrastructure Logistics. Administrative intricacies and procedures are often overlooked by instructors, designers, and support personnel. Collaborative design and delivery across multiple institutions proves to be a reliable method of unearthing many of these details. Academic calendars, registration and enrollment procedures, and policies regarding academic standing and honesty represent only a few of these idiosyncratic obstacles. Other departmental level policies such as approved calculators, testing arrangements and accommodations, and grading allowances provide opportunities for robust discussions.
Marketing and Advisement. Tangentially related to broader administrative nuances, the process of marketing and advising has received a good deal of attention from partners in the Precalculus Emporium course. Precalculus is not an easy course in any context or delivery, and challenges are amplified in a fully online environment. Success in this course depends heavily on students' motivation, but establishing and sustaining regular interaction with the activities and resources is not easy for many students. In an attempt to attract ideal candidates to enroll in the course, the design team has employed a variety of methods. Consultations with academic advisors, production and dispersal of bookmark-brochures, and the launch of an informational website have all been used as marketing tools for the course. Despite these measures, we continue in our struggle to fill our available seats with students who are well-suited for the course. In certain cases, aforementioned administrative policies likely confound this process.
Instruction, Support and Community. Once students have navigated the complexities of advisement and registration, they expect their chosen courses to be well designed and aptly delivered. With the support of multiple faculty members, students have access to an abundance of experts. This team teaching model also comes with collaborative difficulties. Delegation of responsibilities and routine management of course affairs must be well defined and regularly executed. After the completion of three semesters, it is clear that this is no simple feat.
In this session we will share experiences in collaborative development and delivery, identifying the obstacles that we have encountered and highlighting strategies that have proven successful as well as those that have been abandoned or revised. Participants will be invited to share their experiences and solutions to the greater edification of all present.

Lead Presenter

Kris Biesinger earned a B.S.Ed. from the University of Delaware and a M.Ed. and Ph.D. from the University of Georgia. After working in education related roles in both K-12 and higher education for over 30 years, she retired in 2010 from the USG where she was the Associate Vice Chancellor for Information Technology Services. She is currently working within UGAÕs Office of STEM Education and as the Project Manager for the Precalculus Emporium.