Improving Retention in STEM Courses at SAC
Course Redesign Summary – BIOL 1308 & 1309, Biology I & II for non-science majors
Instructor: Karl Hagenbuch
Fall of 2012 brought a change in the Texas core course requirements. Students wanting to satisfy their natural science hours are no longer required to register for courses that include a laboratory component. There is a problem inherent with this decision: regression into a traditional lecture-based course where students are led through the material, but never engaged.
This course redesign builds on the success of a previous redesign of BIOL 1408, which incorporated probeware into the course. Both new courses, 1308 and 1309, will maintain the successful format of the inquiry-based, student-centered learning. In addition, the focus will be less on content and more on scientific discovery through doing.
Rather than relying on the traditional “take notes” format, students can purchase the notes for both courses. Less time spent writing leaves more time for learning. Because the notes for both courses are included in the single purchase, students will be more likely to take 1309 upon completion of 1308.
Course Redesign Summary – Math 1332 - Contemporary Mathematics I
Instructor: Lorraine Lopez
One of the biggest challenges for online courses is reduced interaction with students. Traditional students have the option of meeting instructors during posted office hours, but online learners are often unable to take advantage of this resource due to work or family obligations. Additionally, the symbolic nature of many math problems can be difficult to explain by phone or e-mail.
The redesign for Math 1332 (online) introduces group collaborations, real-time problem explanations and flexible virtual office hours using a Wacom Bamboo tablet, a webcam and a microphone headset within a Canvas class. Scheduled weekly group sessions include question and answer periods while appointment based 'one-on-one' sessions provide individual attention to specific problem areas as needed.
Early feedback regarding this real time and visual approach to Math 1332 has been positive. Several students have arranged virtual office sessions with the instructor, with such sessions increasing in frequency as exam dates approach.
Course Redesign Summary – Math 1414 - College Algebra
Instructor: Dr. Said Fariabi
There are three college algebra courses currently being taught at San Antonio College. Math 1414 is the required course for all students seeking a degree in one of the STEM majors. It is important to create a strong foundation in college algebra because it is the prerequisite for such courses as PreCalculus, General Physics, General Chemistry, and Statics.
Since college algebra ultimately prepares the student for other STEM courses, comprehension of material is of the upmost importance. Two new methods of communication were incorporated in my online classes. One, virtual office hours were created in CANVAS using the web-conferencing tool, a head set, and a webcam. Two hours on the weekend were dedicated to answering student’s questions on homework assignments. Secondly, a review for each test was generated in MyMathLab. Once the students had time to practice the problems on the review, I created a detailed key for each review using the tablet. The reviews were then saved as a .pdf and linked in CANVAS so each student had access to them.
The virtual office hours allowed my online students an opportunity to ask questions without having to drive to campus. However, I found that the biggest benefit were the links created with the detailed explanations. Students found these to be extremely beneficial and began asking me to work other problems from their homework assignments. By the end of the course, over 100 links of problems were generated and approximately 75% of the students are expected to pass the course.
Students can be apprehensive of new technology. The biggest challenge was getting students to participate in the virtual office hours. Most of the students who did join the conferences were already familiar with the software and comfortable with the technology.