Improving Learning and Reducing Costs for Online Learning

Improving Learning and Reducing Costs for Online Learning

Carol A. Twigg
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 7
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch163
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Every college and university in the United States (US) is discovering exciting new ways of using information technology to enhance the process of teaching and learning, and to extend access to new populations of students. For most institutions, however, new technologies represent a black hole of additional expense. Most campuses have simply bolted new technologies onto a fixed plant, a fixed faculty and a fixed notion of classroom instruction. Under these circumstances, technology becomes part of the problem of rising costs rather than part of the solution. In addition, comparative research studies show that rather than improving quality, most technology-based courses produce learning outcomes that are simply “as good as” their traditional counterparts — what often is referred to as the “no significant difference” phenomenon. By and large, colleges and universities have not yet begun to realize the promise of technology to improve the quality of student learning and reduce the costs of instruction.
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Supported by an $8.8 million grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Program in Course Redesign ( developed by the Center. Preliminary results show that all 30 institutions reduced costs by about 37%, with a range of 20% to 77%. Other outcomes include increased course-completion rates, improved retention, better student attitudes toward the subject matter and increased student satisfaction with the mode of instruction. Collectively, the 30 redesigned courses affect more than 50,000 students nationwide and produce a savings of approximately $3 million each year.

The course-redesign projects focus on large-enrollment, introductory courses in multiple disciplines, including the humanities (6), quantitative subjects (13), social sciences (6) and natural sciences (5). What do these projects have in common? To one degree or another, all 30 projects share the following six characteristics:

Key Terms in this Chapter

Supplemental Model of Course Redesign: This model retains the basic structure of the traditional course, usually simply adding technology-based, out-of-class activities.

Mastery Learning: A learning philosophy that holds that any learner can learn anything, and that the only difference is the amount of time that it takes any particular learner to learn. Mastery learning was initially defined by John Carroll in 1963 and further refined by Benjamin Bloom in 1976, emphasizing a well-structured set of learning activities guided by learning objectives.

Buffet Model of Course Redesign: This model moves instruction away from a fixed menu of activities and resources to a “buffet” of choices for learners, offering a large variety of offerings that can be customized to fit the needs of the individual learner.

On-Demand Help: An expanded support system that enables students to receive assistance from a variety of support staff, such as graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) and/or peer tutors, often within a 24/7 structure. The structure often includes capabilities for students to help each other.

Whole Course Redesign: A process of analyzing courses to identify areas of potential efficiency in terms of learning and delivery, including goals of avoiding duplication of effort while achieving greater course consistency.

Emporium Model of Course Redesign: This model eliminates all regular class meetings, replacing classes with a learning resource center featuring online materials and on-demand personalized assistance. Additional features of the emporium model often include combining multiple sections of a course into one large section, and heavy reliance on computer-based learning resources and an instructional staff of varying levels of skills and expertise.

Fully Online Model of Course Redesign: This model shares many of the features of the other course redesign models. For example, it shares the feature of online interactive learning activities of the Replacement model, heavy reliance on computer-based learning resources and instructional staffing of the Emporium and Supplemental models. The most distinctive feature is that learners generally do not meet face to face on campus.

Alternative Staffing: Support systems for student learning that consist of various kinds of instructional personnel, often replacing expensive personnel with relatively inexpensive personnel as appropriate.

Active Learning: A learning philosophy derived from the theories of Piaget, Bruner, Vygotsky, etc., emphasizing that improved learning occurs with learner-centered activities requiring more mental processing on the part of the learner. In active learning, lectures often are replaced with a variety of learning resources that move students from a passive, note-taking role to an active, learning role.

Computer-Based Learning Resources: Instructional software and other computer, Internet and Web-based learning resources encompassing activities such as tutorials, exercises and low-stakes quizzes that provide frequent practice, feedback and reinforcement of course concepts. Often synonymous with general Internet resources, including simulations, animations, games and other resources supporting learning.

Replacement Model of Course Redesign: This model generally features a reduction in class-meeting time, replacing face-to-face time with online, interactive learning activities for students.

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