University of Southern Maine demonstrates that a course redesign can leverage technology to increase access, improve learning effectiveness and student satisfaction, lower costs and maximize faculty time and resources.
An Introductory Psychology course at the University of Southern Maine fulfills a core requirement and, as such, is offered year-round to some 850 students. The Psychology Department faced serious resource issues with large lecture sections and no graduate assistants (since they do not offer a graduate degree in this discipline). The department found that this old model did not serve students or faculty well. The faculty to student ratio prohibited a desirable learning environment in which students would receive frequent feedback. Faculty were primarily devoted to serving these large introductory course sections -- and spent less time on developing and revising upper-level course materials. The introduction of online resources provided a way the department could improve learning opportunities (through more interaction) and save or redeploy their key resources.
The reallocation of resources is an efficient and cost-effective means for achieving a more learning-centered environment. The features of this course redesign include: A reduction in lecture time by 50% (replaced with a variety of interactive computer activities in which students receive timely feedback) More interaction between students and between students and faculty/faculty assistants as well as more personalized attention (through online resources) The development of a standard curricula with common materials that are shared across the multiple course sections An increase in course section size from 75 to 125 Introduction of asynchronous learning materials
The department anticipates that several of the features of this redesign will result in cost savings. That is, savings will accrue, in particular, with the reduction in traditional lecture format classes (by 50%) and the increase in course section size from 75 to 125. The previous course model cost approximately $113 per student, and the planned course structure revision is anticipated to cost around $58 per student. At the same time the costs are decreasing, the interaction with students is increasing.