South Georgia State College will provide faculty members in at least one course in each core curriculum area with the technology and training to design their own course materials that will be available electronically (via iPads and other technological tools). The aim is to phase out the need for students to purchase costly textbooks each semester.
Purchase of textbooks is becoming cost-prohibitive throughout the higher education community and particularly in South Georgia, resulting in the fact that many of our students choose not to purchase textbooks. That choice often leads to inability to grasp course content, which in turn leads to withdrawal or failure. Our project will make course materials available electronically at a much-reduced cost to students in a very attractive format, and “flipping” the classroom will foster synthesis and deep learning which should increase retention and completion. The project will also facilitate collaboration and the establishment of common learning outcomes among our consolidated faculty.
Faculty will gain a better understanding of how to communicate effectively with and motivate millennial-generation students. Faculty will also learn how to use technology as a tool to enhance effective teaching, not as a replacement for ineffective teaching. Students will learn that they must take some responsibility for learning and that they must prepare for and participate in class in order to be successful. Students will master critical inquiry skills. Faculty and students alike will learn that degree completion can be accelerated without compromising academic integrity.
Budgetary concerns for institutions and students alike underlie the need for more cost effective solutions to the acquisition of course materials. Every student must complete a minimum of thirty-eight credit hours of course work in Areas A, C, D, and E of the core curriculum to fulfill degree requirements; textbook costs for those thirty-eight credit hours currently run upwards of $2000. In one semester alone, a student can expect to pay as much as
$700 for textbooks, and that assumes only a twelve- to thirteen-credit-hour load with courses distributed over four areas of the core. Instructors often hear that 1) students cannot afford the texts; 2) students do not want to buy a text with forty chapters when only twelve of them will be covered in the course; or 3) students bought the text two years ago but had to withdraw from the course and now the text has changed so the old text is useless, requiring them to buy a new text which, once again, leads to comment 1 or 2! When students do not buy books, they fall behind within the first two weeks of class and almost never catch up, resulting in a high rate of withdrawals or failures.
Our project plan will provide training and iPads to core curriculum instructors as well as access to iMac computers with iBooks Author software for them to use collaboratively to create common student learning outcomes and their own course materials that can then be uploaded to the iBooks app. The hope is that within a year, students will no longer need to buy textbooks for the selected core courses; instead, they will buy iPads preloaded with all the course materials they will need for their core curriculum courses at a fraction of the cost traditionally required. Making the course materials available electronically in a variety of formats (now interactive and much more dynamic than they have traditionally been) will also force a shift in pedagogy; classes will be "flipped," redefining the role of the instructor to that of a facilitator of knowledge as opposed to a provider of knowledge. "Flipping" incorporates the use of technology to deliver outside of class what traditionally has been delivered inside the classroom and then using class time to actively engage students in demonstrating higher level thought and application of concepts to other contexts. Use of educational apps on the iPad, combined with the mobile technology's productivity and multimedia capabilities, allows faculty the freedom to design their own "flipping" framework while also allowing students the opportunity to create their own customized learning plan. The iPad offers the most intuitive, adaptive mobile technology currently available in higher education, and its application in "flipping" has not been fully utilized in any systematic manner, which is what we propose to do.
Use of technology already permeates South Georgia State College and provides a platform for this initiative. Faculty are already quite adept at the use of technology to enhance instruction. Many make use of the Desire2Learn learning management system, and PowerPoint has become ubiquitous. Online courses have been developed and offered for several years, and many instructors use electronic supplements to existing texts. An upcoming topic for the College’s Faculty Academy and Mentoring Experience (FAME) session is “Flipping Your Classroom: The Ins and Outs at SGSC.” Clearly, our faculty are interested and our administration is supportive of the innovative application of current developments in technology and pedagogy.
The Pierce County school system, a feeder to our institution, has recently received a $1.69 million Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Planning Grant from the Georgia Department of Education as part of a federal program. Local news outlets have indicated that those grant funds will be used in part “…to teach students…to access, use, and produce multiple forms of media, information, and knowledge in all subject areas” (Jason Deal, The Blackshear Times, 21 March 2013). When those students matriculate to South Georgia State College, they will expect to have the same access to technology to which they will have become accustomed.
Reduced costs to students and widespread use of cutting-edge mobile technology and pedagogical tools should increase retention and graduation rates and serve as a powerful recruiting tool. Current articles in Campus Technology, Inside Higher Ed, and the Chronicle of Higher Education support the efficacy of “flipping” the classroom to increase student success. "Flipping" fosters higher-level analysis, application of knowledge, and performance-based learning and assessment. It also maximizes opportunities for individualized instruction and collaborative learning and transforms students from passive to active learners. We expect to see a significant decrease in withdrawals from and failures in core curriculum courses as well as an increase in enrollment. Institutions that have already incorporated the use of iPads have seen positive results. At Seton Hill University, iPads have been in use since 2010, initially strictly for textbook delivery but later incorporating online resource access, notetaking, and social networking for collaborative learning; Phil Komarny, Vice President for Computer and Information Technology, has noted enrollment growth and "'a total culture change in 18 months'" (iPhone Life, Sept-Oct 2012, p. 39). Instructors often complain about students using cell phones when they should be paying attention in class. Instead of complaining, we propose to embrace those tendencies and divert them into a dynamic learning experience.
Connection to campus completion plan: South Georgia State College's completion plan outlines four goals, all of which are addressed by this proposal. Our project is particularly relevant to Goal 1, to "advance teaching and learning experiences through the increased use of pedagogical approaches fostering deep learning, student engagement, and application of knowledge to solve real world problems." We believe that restructuring instructional delivery in the method we have described will shorten time to degree by decreasing withdrawals and failures. Goal 2, to “foster an environment that supports education through the integration and interdependence of living and learning provided by college-wide support services,” has as its primary focus an emphasis on effective advisement and early intervention, concerns that will remain quite significant in the plan. At the same time, though, Goal 2’s attention to the significance of a supportive educational environment will be enhanced by the ability of the iPad to enable students to “engage with content in interactive ways, find information in an instant, and access an entire library wherever they go” (www.apple.com/education/), which is the intention of the Goal 2 strategy to “redesign the delivery of higher education to fit more seamlessly into students’ lives.” Goal 3, to “enhance the quality and enrich the composition of the student body through recruitment and selection methods as well as dedicated commitment to increase persistence and retention,” will also be met because our new approach to learning can be used as an attractive recruitment tool that will provide a window to the world for rural Southeast Georgia students. And, finally, our proposal will affect every degree program by focusing on the core curriculum as we attain Goal 4, to “promote academic excellence by providing high-quality educational programs.”
Our theory of change model depicted on the following page encompasses our entire plan for this project, but the portion of the model pertinent to this grant proposal ends with course materials being uploaded into the iBooks app.
We seek this incubator grant solely for the purchase of equipment and training of faculty in the creation of course materials. We believe that this proposal, while at first glance perhaps construed as being a start-up proposal, could actually become a proof-of-concept project once it is fully implemented.