Thirteen Missouri universities receive $250,000 grant for course redesign

Monday, April 11, 2011 | 5:58 p.m. CDT; updated 6:21 p.m. CDT, Monday, April 11, 2011

COLUMBIA — The state's 13 public four-year universities received a shared $250,000 grant to develop courses where students can learn efficiently at reduced costs.

The Next Generation Learning Challenges grant is funded by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation.

The grant will be supplemented by $240,000 from the state's public universities, $100,000 from the state and $15,000 from the Missouri Department of Higher Education, bringing the project total $605,000.

It will allow faculty, administration and structural design staff at Missouri's  universities to redesign high-enrollment courses with accelerated use of technology.

Each university will select one course to redesign from multiple proposals by faculty. These courses will then be administered in select sections to test their effectiveness.

The project is still in the planning stage. One proposal from each campus will be chosen in July. The redesign of courses will take place in Fall 2011. The pilot courses will begin in Spring 2012 in select sections and will be offered in all sections starting in Fall 2012.

“It's sharing what these individual faculty are doing, and other faculty can adopt that and teach it how they want,” said Chris Weisbrook, faculty fellow for the University of Missouri System. “When one faculty member talks to another about how they're doing things, it becomes contagious,” she said.

The Next Generation Learning Challenges grant provides investment capital to programs across the country meant to “address the barriers to educational innovation and tap the potential of technology,” according to a press release from Gov. Jay Nixon.

The first wave of funding went to 29 institutions out of more than 600 that applied.

Classes proposed for redesign across the state include beginning Spanish, college algebra and introductory biology. The course redesign will include the application of existing resources, Weisbrook said. This includes resources from textbooks as well as online chats with teaching assistants and tutors.

“There's a lot of stuff available,” Weisbrook said. “Instead of reinventing the wheel, it helps use existing materials.”

The 13 Missouri universities benefiting from the grant are: Harris-Stowe University, Lincoln University, Missouri Southern State University, Missouri State University, the four UM System campuses, Missouri Western State University, Northwest Missouri State University, Southeast Missouri State University, Truman State University, and University of Central Missouri.

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