M: Case Studies – General


TITLE: Transforming the Teaching of College Math across an Entire University System

PRESENTERS: Charles Kutal, University of Georgia; Kris Biesinger, University of Georgia; and Myk Garn, University System of Georgia

A common stumbling block for students considering a STEM major has been introductory math courses. The University System of Georgia (USG) is addressing this problem by supporting the development of an online multi-institutional pre-calculus course. This course combines lessons learned from the Math Emporium model with elements of massive open online course (MOOC) delivery to create a highly interactive and support-rich online learning experience.

The online Pre-calculus Emporium course is a prototype that extends the proven Emporium model of active student learning to a virtual environment in which content delivery, individualized and group support provided by an instructional team, and formative and summative assessments are delivered entirely online. Students have access to and interaction with a wide variety of materials and activities, including text and video instruction, intensive practice, online discussion and expert support, quizzes and proctored exams. The course was built within the Coursera learning management system utilizing content from Cengage Learning and assessment support from WebAssign. High-stakes exams utilized an online proctoring model.

The goals of the online Pre-calculus Emporium project are to (1) increase access to a high-quality pre-calculus course by providing an option that is broadly available and highly scalable, (2) reduce the percentage of students receiving grades of D, F, or W (withdrawal), (3) increase student success in subsequent math and science courses, and (4) inform affordability options and models for online courses. When fully implemented, the course will be available to students at all 31 institutions within the USG.

TITLE: A Research-Based Transformation of Purdue’s Calculus-Based Introductory Physics Sequence

PRESENTERS: Rebecca Lindell, Purdue University and Andrew Hirsch, Purdue University

Purdue’s introductory calculus-based physics sequence utilizes the two volumes of the Matter and Interaction curriculum developed by Chabay and Sherwood (Chabay and Sherwood, http://matterandinteractions.org/ ). Incorporating the results of 20th century physics, this text presents an alternative approach to presenting the introductory physics content, specifically utilizing a few fundamental principles to explain physics phenomena. In addition, students learn how to visualize physics using computational modeling. The first semester focuses on modern mechanics through the study of the fundamental principles of momentum, energy and angular momentum, as well as the properties of statistical mechanics. The second semester builds on the first volume in the study of the field mechanism, Maxwell’s equation and role of electrons in conductors and insulators.

Purdue has utilized this approach for over 10 years for most of its calculus-based physics courses servicing nearly 3500 students each year. With funding from Purdue’s Instruction Matters: Purdue Academic Transformation, we have spent the last 3 years transforming how we teach this course by utilizing many of the approaches developed by Physics Education Research (PER). A specific focus of this redesign is making this course more interactive and integrated. In this talk, we will present the learning theory behind our research-based model for this transformed course, the materials we have developed/adapted for use with this course redesign, as well as the results of our evaluations. In addition, we will present our solutions to the four key issues that must be addressed by any transformed course: Development, Implementation, Evaluation and Sustainability.


TITLE: FIRE: The First-Year Innovation & Research Experience

PRESENTERS: Patrick Killion, University of Maryland

Adapting the proven Freshman Research Initiative (FRI) developed at the University of Texas at Austin (UT), the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) is extending the UT FRI model to integrate a broad spectrum of STEM disciplines including the natural, animal and computer sciences and engineering with the arts and humanities, business, social sciences and public health. The UMD First-Year Innovation and Research Experience (FIRE) will facilitate multidisciplinary inquiry-based experiences for first-year students through participation in STEMfocused innovation and research streams that integrate and leverage non-STEM expertise and perspectives. Students will earn degree credit while engaged with faculty and a peer cohort in the yearlong development of skill sets in authentic inquiry, critical thinking, innovation and experimental design, problem solving, leadership and scholarly communication. The program is designed to better unite the twin research and educational missions of the institution while driving gains in student persistence, retention, degree completion, academic accomplishment and acceptance into professional education programs. The FIRE mission will include focused
attention on undeclared, non-honors and transfer student populations in order to reduce academic achievement gaps, expose students to less traditionally considered academic units and accelerate student integration into departments. The program seeks to contribute to national STEM recruitment and retention goals through increased student satisfaction, confidence and capacity while simultaneously expanding the scientific literacy and productivity of non-STEM student populations.


TITLE: The Gemstone Program: Maximizing STEM Education through Team-based Interdisciplinary Research

PRESENTERS: Kristan C. Skendall, University of Maryland - College Park; Frank J. Coale, University of Maryland - College Park; and Leah K. Tobin, University of Maryland - College Park

Founded in 1996, the University of Maryland Honors College’s Gemstone Program is an interdisciplinary undergraduate research program in which teams of 8 to 14 students work with a faculty mentor and professional staff over four years to create, develop, conduct and publish original research. Teams work on research projects exploring a wide array of technological and social issues employing a variety of methodological approaches. On average, there are 12 teams per cohort, equating to a total of 36 teams and approximately 550 total students. For information on current teams, visit  www.gemstone.umd.edu.

Over the course of four years, each Gemstone student takes a sequentially developed curriculum to maximize his or her learning experience. In addition to the formal curriculum, students also serve as undergraduate teaching assistants, participate in shared governance, and serve in leadership positions within the program. Further, most Gemstone freshmen live together in one residence hall in which the program’s central offices are housed, this facilitates strong faculty-student interaction from the start of the program. The Gemstone Program is a highly successful, unique approach to STEM education at a large, land-grant university.

Our program assessments show that our approach to STEM education through teamwork and research results in valuable knowledge application and provides Gemstone graduates with the ability to apply what they are learning in the classroom to a real world setting and prepares them well for graduate/professional school and their careers.