Professor Mincer had taught his course, Quarks to Cosmos, for several years and noticed that some aspects of it needed to be improved. One day, in the middle of lecture, he asked his students a series of questions to see if they understood certain concepts. As he began to unravel their responses he realized that they had lost him early on in the lecture. This posed a significant problem as most physics content builds upon itself. Therefore, if the students hadn’t grasped concepts in the beginning of the lecture they would not likely be able to decipher the more advanced concepts.
Additionally, Professor Mincer felt that there was not a single textbook, nor a combination of textbooks, that covered the material adequately. Furthermore, science textbooks are often extremely expensive for students to purchase and he didn’t want them to have to invest in resources that would be only sparsely used. These were just a few reasons why Professor Mincer decided to engage with the technology enhanced education community at NYU for help.
Challenges for Instructors Considering this Route
- There is no instant feedback on lectures from an audience, and students cannot get their questions answered during lecture. Lecture preparation may therefore require more thought than usual.
- Ancillary materials take on increased importance, and it may be difficult to predict the right approach the first time a course is taught.
- A minority of students prefer the lecture plus textbook approach they are used to.
Professor Mincer first contacted the FAS Office of Educational Technology, which provides local support and innovative pedagogical grounding for technology-enhanced teaching and learning initiatives for Arts & Science faculty. This team provided Allen with a large amount of pedagogical and content related support. Additionally, the FAS team brought in the expertise of the Digital Studio’s Instructional Video Module service team (NYU IT & NYU Libraries) to partner on the content creation process and the Interactive Development team (NYU IT) to oversee the creation of a simulation.
The plan was to leverage the services found at the local and central units to build a sustainable and collaborative course development model. The teams were able to be efficient with Allen’s time by leveraging their specific skillsets and resources.
Related to the university-wide mission of Affordability, Professor Mincer was able to eliminate the need for students to buy textbooks, which yielded a cost savings of approximately $23,000 for 60 students. He has created a vast library of video modules, 156 to be exact, and has implemented a flipped course model. Student reaction to the video modules was very positive. The metrics collected with the video modules have empowered Professor Mincer with new data, indicating where students were having problems. These were useful while the course was in progress, and are now also being used to implement improvements in the ancillary components of the course for the next time it is taught. Professor Mincer noted that benefits of this model were already seen the first time the course was taught. “One of the dramatic changes I saw was the level of questions that the students were asking. It was no longer questions about what is the meaning of a sentence I said or so on, it was, “…the thing you said here seems to contradict the thing you said there and why is that?” The level of conversation and the level of thought changed. You can see that students were digesting things and thinking about them in a way we didn’t achieve before.”