Declining state support is a trend likely to continue in higher education, both in Wisconsin and elsewhere. Traditionally, UW-Whitewater has responded to these declines by reducing operating expenses, collecting more revenue from tuition and fees, and becoming more entrepreneurial in its operation. Chancellor Richard Telfer has challenged the Division of Academic Affairs to expand this repertoire of responses by systematically exploring how institutional resources (e.g., faculty time) can be used more efficiently to demonstrably (measurably) improve student learning outcomes. In an environment of ever-escalating instructional costs, such efforts will not only assist the institution in using its resources more effectively, but they stand to improve institutional quality and increase institutional access.
The Academic Transformation Program
Since 2009, academic teams from each of the four colleges have worked through the UW-W Academic Transformation Program (ATP) to develop research-based solutions to the seemingly intractable trade-off between effectively reducing instructional cost and improving the quality of student learning. These teams were charged with designing projects that provided comparative measures of differences in: 1) cost of instructional delivery (most frequently through the use of technology); and 2) student performance on learning outcomes, in response to the use of an instructional or delivery innovation.
Similar initiatives at other institutions have led to increases in student learning, improved student retention (as much as 10%), reductions in operational costs (37%, on average), improvements in student attitudes toward the subject matter, and improved levels of faculty satisfaction. At UW-W, the Math & Computer Science Department’s effort to academically transform Math 141 (as a gateway course) provides preliminary evidence of decreased student failure rates, improved student satisfaction, and student performance in subsequent math courses equivalent to that of the traditional course design.
The Academic Transformation Program for 2013-14
The 2013-14 program will run from June 2013 to December 2014 and will focus on one (potentially more) major initiative(s) forwarded by individual colleges that specifically address challenges in:
Academic departments are encouraged to think creatively and consider courses with multiple sections that require considerable use of faculty and staff time. Faculty and staff should deliberate with the department chair and the dean, considering such issues as:
Projects that are likely to have the most significant impact on improving student learning, stand to make the most efficient use of institutional resources (i.e., faculty time, budget), will have the impact on the largest number of students, and have the broadest departmental support (i.e., will be used in all course sections when fully implemented) will receive the greatest consideration.
Program Schedule and Funding for 2013-14
Mid-spring term 2013, the project team leader schedules a meeting involving the academic dean, the department chair, and the ATP Advisors to launch the project. The team initiates its work revising and developing curricula, developing assessments, working out logistics and course schedules—work that continues through summer 2013. Individual members may be eligible for summer stipends up to $4K (paid on 1 August and 1 September). A late summer update meeting should be scheduled by the project team, involving the academic dean, the department chair, and the ATP Advisors.
During fall term 2013 project team members engage in Launch #1, implementing the change(s) in a course section (or multiple sections) and engaging in the collection of implementation data. The project team should plan on convening throughout the semester to discuss the implementation, problems, necessary changes, successes, etc. During Winterim 2014, the project team schedules another meeting with the dean, department chair, and ATP Advisors, discussing preliminary lessons learned from Launch #1 and planned revisions before Launch #2. Individual members may be eligible for Winterim stipends up to $2K
During spring term 2014, project team members engage in Launch #2, piloting additional/new change(s) in multiple course sections and collecting final implementation data.
In summer 2014, a final report of the project is prepared and a final project meeting involving team members, the academic dean, the department chair, ATP Advisors, the Provost, and the Chancellor is held before 15 August 2014. (Requirements for the final report are forthcoming.) Participants can earn a summer stipend of up to $3K paid on 1 September 2014 for completion of the project.
Faculty/staff teams, with a written endorsement of the academic dean and the department chair, submit a 5-7 page application that includes the following information:
Applications are to be submitted digitally to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than 4:30p on Friday, 1 February 2013 and transformation teams will be notified no later than Friday, 8 February of their selection and funding.
Academic Transformation Program Advisors
John Stone, Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Continuing Education, email@example.com; the soon-to-be appointed Director of Academic Assessment; and Renee Pfeifer-Luckett, Director, Learning Technology Center.
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