The University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s physics department faced a combination of disappointing success rates and strained capacity in several of their introductory courses, providing the perfect context in which to ask whether an alternative instructional model might not only improve outcomes, but allow for more students without adding additional classrooms or faculty.
By replacing their traditional two-lectures-per-week model with a blended model including online content modules, pre- and post-class quizzes and exercises, and a teaching assistant-led problem solving session, faculty were able to reduce the drop/fail/withdraw rate by 12%, expand the enrollment cap by 45%, and achieve significant cost savings per student in the space of one semester.
This new model also reduced the anxiety and limited long-term retention problems associated with high-stakes midterm and final tests by focusing on periodic mini-examinations throughout.
Each year, the provost’s office provides $30,000 in redesign funding per course for three to five faculty teams, with preference given toward large enrollment introductory courses with high DFW rates. The winning teams then engage with UNC Charlotte’s Center for Teaching and Learning to create a full proposal for the provost’s review, build and carry out the new course format, and assess their results during and after the term.
For greater detail on UNC Charlotte’s "Large Course Redesign" process, see their Center for Teaching and Learning’s web portal, which features analyses of past projects, current RFP outlines, and a form for faculty to request a consultation.