To advance UWM’s vision to “be a top-tier research university that is a best place to learn and work for students, faculty, and staff,” the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) leads professional development related to teaching and learning, and promotes innovation and research on teaching and learning among teaching assistants, teaching academic staff, and faculty through Scholarship of Teaching and Learning consultations, the Wisconsin Teaching Fellows and Scholars Program, and its programs, certificates, credentialing system, and grant opportunities. Moreover, the CETL team investigates the effects of cutting-edge pedagogical practices and instructional technologies that have the potential to impact higher education, and disseminates the findings through seminars/webinars, white papers, journal publications, conferences, workshops, newsletters, its website—which includes CETL’s Virtual Teaching Commons—and meetings of the Online Program Council, which are open to the campus community.
Optimizing Success in Undergraduate Courses
Success in undergraduate courses figures prominently in student retention and graduation rates throughout higher education. The CETL team is implementing evidence-based strategies on the campus-level to increase student success and reduce non-retention in collaboration with academic departments and instructors and investigating their impact. If the CETL team can identify strategies that raise student success, the payoff would be considerable for the students, UWM, Wisconsin, and higher education. More students would not only complete courses, but importantly would also master the skills and knowledge that encompass these courses and, in doing so, have the capacity to build on this learning and succeed in advanced coursework. More students would attain a college degree and have the skills and knowledge needed to be successful as citizens and employees. A pilot project specifically examining the impact of implementation of evidence-based strategies in online courses is part of this large-scale research endeavor.
Assessing the Impact of New Active Learning Classrooms
The introduction of active learning classrooms on college campuses has been associated with a positive impact on faculty participation in professional development related to teaching and learning, the quality of instruction, and in turn, student engagement, learning, academic success, retention, and graduation rates. To understand the impact of UWM’s active learning classrooms and course redesign, CETL staff and the UWM Active Learning Classroom Assessment team surveyed, interviewed, and observed students and instructors for two semesters, and analyzed syllabi, rubrics, and assignments for critical thinking. High levels of student attendance, engagement, satisfaction, and excitement were reported by instructors. The students indicated the active learning classrooms increased their learning, participation in class, and comfort in working with students from other cultures. Moreover, the students felt connected with their classmates, and with their instructor. To the extent that students engage in their learning and feel a sense of connection with their instructors and fellow students, college retention increases.
Removing Barriers to Student Success through Use of Open Access Textbooks
Due to the high cost of textbooks, many students choose not to purchase required textbooks in courses and are, therefore, at a significant disadvantage in their studies. These students often disengage, perform poorly on course exams, and drop or withdraw from the course, increasing time to degree and contributing to student loan debt. They are far more likely to leave college before graduation. A tightly-controlled study was conducted by CETL staff to determine the impact of student use of a free, open textbook in the context of a gateway course. The findings strongly supported open textbook usage. Compared to students required to purchase a commercial textbook, students using the free, open textbook in the same course with the same structure, content, online mode of delivery, and instructors: 1) started the course significantly earlier, 2) evidenced significantly greater progress throughout the semester, and 3) performed significantly better.
Understanding Barriers to Success among First-Generation Online Students and Adult Learners
To increase understanding of barriers to success among first-generation college students and adult learners taking online courses, structured interviews of students, advisors, and instructors were performed. The findings revealed rich information, including strategies that could be implemented at the individual, course, and institutional levels to increase retention, progress to degree, and course success for these online students.
Determining the Efficacy of U-Pace Instruction
U-Pace is an instructional approach developed at UWM that integrates concept mastery and proactive instructor support in an online learning environment. Three randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in disciplinary introductory courses involving 1,798 undergraduates were carried out. The findings clearly demonstrate that U-Pace instruction produces greater learning and greater academic success. These student outcomes were found across courses in three disciplines for both students at-risk for college non-completion and students not at-risk. The consistent demonstration that U-Pace instruction produces student success in introductory courses has important implications as mastery of skills and knowledge in introductory courses potentiates students’ ability to complete their college degree.
Improving Students’ Self-Regulated Learning Skills
A new study is underway to determine whether students’ use of a tool (Study Pattern) to record every study session they put in each week for their course, aids their development of stronger study and time management skills, ability to adjust study strategies to efficiently achieve mastery, and ultimately, improves performance in the course relative to students who did not have the tool.
Innovating to Facilitate Media Captioning
Captioned media provide accessibility, and increase student engagement and comprehension. CETL staff innovated to streamline the process of captioning media. The result is QuickCap, a media-captioning feature available through Desire2Learn (D2L) that facilitates professional captioning for uploaded media. While there is a cost associated with the captioning service, 3PlayMedia and Automatic Sync Technologies offers special pricing through a UW System contract. Once captioning is complete, the uploaded media is displayed with synchronized closed captions from within the D2L course site.