Course Redesign Initiative State University of New York Risa Palm Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs March 17, 2008
The context: SUNY is a large and complex system • 427,398 students at 64 campuses • 31,000 faculty • 30 Community colleges • 2 AAU universities (Buffalo and Stony Brook) • 5 “statutory” colleges within otherwise private universities (4 at Cornell, 1 at Alfred) • 2 stand-alone medical centers • 6 specialized colleges: Optometry, Environmental Science and Forestry, Fashion Institute of Technology, Levin Institute, Optometry and Maritime
My previous experience with course redesign • A faculty-initiated program at Louisiana State University. • Mathematics department’s goals: • improve college algebra course, • reduce the numbers of part-time instructors and adjunct faculty • increase the numbers of full-time faculty and graduate students
My experience with redesign • Faculty were very enthusiastic and took it upon themselves to sell this project to the students and to their peers in other departments. • Also, the redesign was adopted in the context of a strategic plan that provided additional investment in both English and Mathematics to increase the proportion of full-time faculty-to-adjuncts.
My experience with redesign • However, initial resistance by students – and particularly college newspaper both to • removing beloved instructors and • “de-personalizing” the course • use of lecture sections
My experience with redesign • This was eventually overcome once students adjusted to new format. • Excerpt from letter to editor: • Why the Course Redesign? To achieve recognized excellence, the Flagship Agenda forces us to reconsider the fact that a large volume of students in our care are taught by instructors without Ph.D.s. This does not occur in the leading universities of the country, and it diminishes the standing of LSU and its graduates. Covering the teaching done by these instructors poses an incredible challenge for the Mathematics Department. Of the several classes instructors taught, department leadership decided Math 1431 and Math 1022 should be taught in large sections by Ph.D.-holding faculty members.
My experience with redesign • At LSU, the administration was “following” the faculty in course redesign. This made it very easy. • I had become a “believer” in course redesign even before I met John Ryan (then-chancellor of SUNY) who wanted our system to experiment with it after hearing Carol Twigg speak. • We decided to try a pilot program within SUNY.
Selling this to the faculty • At SUNY, we expected faculty resistance based on previous Trustee interference with the curriculum. • The Board of Trustees decided in 1998 that all “state-operated campuses” (excluding community colleges) would have a standard general education requirement.
Selling this to the faculty • General Education at SUNY includes: • The knowledge and skills areas include Mathematics, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, American History, Western Civilization, Other World Civilizations, Humanities, the Arts, Foreign Language and Basic Communication. • The competencies include Critical Thinking (Reasoning) and Information Management.
Selling this to the faculty • While these requirements are not necessarily unreasonable, their imposition in this manner resulted in a faculty senate vote of “no confidence” in the Trustees.
Selling this to the faculty • In order to overcome suspicion that system was “pushing” this on an unwilling faculty, we decided on to let faculty decide whether or not to participate: we set aside a small pool of funds and invited faculty compete for the funding.
Selling this to the faculty • We also showed faculty data on how few courses account for our total student credit hours, and the failure rate in these courses. • We argued that we should focus on these key multi-section, lower division courses.
At SUNY About 25 courses (25!) account for about ½ of community college enrollment and 35% of four-year enrollment. So if we can improve just these 25 courses, we can have a huge impact.
American or world history Calculus College Algebra Art history Accounting What are the 25 most popular courses? They tend to be general education courses such as: • English composition • Biology • Spanish • Chemistry • Psychology • Economics
Selling this to the faculty • 10 grants of $40,000 each are available for the winners of a competition. • Further, in order to provide departments with further incentives to participate, provosts are required to promise that any cost savings revert to the department. This provides a financial incentive in addition to other beliefs in “good works” and general sainthood.
Process at SUNY • We threw out a wide net for participation – partly to ensure all sectors that they were welcome. • Informational meetings where all campuses were invited in two parts of state: Genesee Community College and SUNY system administration (Albany) in October, 2007
Where we are in the process: • Final proposal will be submitted April 18 • 10 grants will be made by May 15. Departments that are still competing include: 1. Buffalo State Economics2. Canton Biology3. Canton Writing4. Cobleskill Botany5. Fredonia Spanish6. Monroe CC Elementary Algebra7. Niagara CC Intro to Statistics8. Old Westbury College Algebra9. Onondaga CC Principles of Info Systems10. Oswego College Algebra11. Oswego Macro and Micro Economics12. Oswego Psychology13. Potsdam History14. Stony Brook Physics
Process at SUNY I am optimistic about continued diffusion of course redesign within SUNY. It is now faculty-driven, and the Senate is actually interested in getting more money for it!