Redesigned UMBC courses are part of a statewide effort

The Sun's high praise for the course design innovations at the University of Maryland Baltimore County is well deserved ("A Model Institution," Dec. 27). UMBC's success in transforming courses in fundamental chemistry, mathematics and physics has led to better student performance in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines that are so important to moving Maryland forward.

The transformation at UMBC reflects an effort throughout the University System of Maryland to increase student performance in a range of gateway introductory courses. In 2006, USM became the nation's first university system to adopt the course redesign model developed by the National Center for Academic Transformation.

As a result, students at UMBC and several other USM universities are performing better and course delivery costs are decreasing. For example, thanks to the redesigned introductory chemistry course at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, a much higher percentage of students are advancing to the second-semester course. Moreover, the average cost per student in the redesigned sections was 44 percent less than in the traditional sections.

At Frostburg State University, grades of D, F and W in developmental mathematics have decreased by 50 percent in the past three semesters through use of course redesign methodology. There are similar stories throughout USM as we continue with a second phase of this system-wide initiative to redesign large-enrollment, multi-section courses.

To date, nearly 40 courses have been redesigned, with the ultimate goal of redesigning all of the system's so-called lower division gatekeeper courses that are too often roadblocks to college completion for many students.

Continued success in this area will advance USM's critical role in helping the state achieve its goal of increasing the number of young adults in Maryland with college degrees.

Nancy Shapiro and Donald Z. Spicer, Adelphi

The writers are, respectively, associate vice chancellor of academic affairs and associate vice chancellor and chief information officer at the University System of Maryland.

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