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Governor commits $100K to state colleges

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While speaking with university presidents and board members at a Council on Public Higher Education-sponsored workshop Oct. 26, Gov. Jay Nixon committed $100,000 for a statewide study of course redesign.

The state-funded grant will cover partial costs of a multi-institutional collaboration to redesign large undergraduate courses at public two- and four-year colleges in the state, including Missouri State University and Ozarks Technical Community College, said Nixon spokesman Scott Holste.

"We expect that that money will be a start for other funding that will come both from private sources as well as the institutions themselves," he said. "It's a way to get the ball rolling."

The $100,000 commitment was made as a catalyst for implementation of undergraduate course change designs, which have already been discussed by many universities, Holste said.

As to the actual courses to be redesigned, Holste said that is up to the individual schools.

John Catau, MSU associate provost for undergraduate education, said the governor's grant will help pay the expected $300,000 cost of bringing in the National Center for Academic Transformation, an organization based in New York that helps universities revamp courses.
 
The $300,000 cost will pay for 10 course redesigns, which Catau said will be spread across the state. There are 13 public four-year institutions, and depending on how many of those institutions decide to participate, it is likely that they will work with NCAT to redesign one of their courses.
 
What that boils down to is that colleges would have to mutually pitch in to cover the rest of the NCAT costs, Catau said.
 
"The bottom line is there's lots of evidence that they can help us use technology to improve student learning at a reduced cost," Catau said of NCAT. "They have a lot of experience going into states and helping them redesign their classes."
 
Catau said MSU is looking into redesigning multiple courses, but it is likely that only one will be aided by NCAT and partly paid for by the governor’s grant.
 
He said MSU will need to work with the other participating schools in the state to decide which of its courses it would ask NCAT to help redesign. This decision will likely be made soon, but Catau said he couldn't pinpoint an exact date.

He added that a mathematics course could be a possible contender for redesign.
 
"Down the road, we would like to redesign several of our math classes," Catau said. "Math is one of our biggest bottleneck classes." Of MSU's courses, the greatest number of students have difficulty with math courses, and NCAT has a track record of redesigning math courses successfully, he said.

Catau said he has only been involved in conversations with four-year universities and wasn't sure how the two-year institutions would factor in to the grant.

Joel Doepker, OTC director of communications and marketing, said the college hasn't made any definitive moves yet, as the grant is still new.

Before the announcement of the six-figure grant at the Oct. 26 conference, Nixon praised schools for higher enrollment across the state.

"More than half of Missouri’s universities reported record enrollment this fall, and all reported an increase in applications," he said in a news release. "Enrollment at our two-year schools is up by 7 percent, and up 2.5 percent at our four-year schools.

"That’s remarkable growth, and bodes well for boosting attainment from its current level of 37 percent to the national goal of 60 percent by 2020."

Just increasing enrollment, however, is not enough, Nixon said.

“It is a good step, but it is not a sufficient one,” he said in the release. “Our institutions must continue to focus on making student success and degree completion their first priority."
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