UT adds five courses to Course Transformation Program

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In a YouTube video, biology professor Jennifer Moon talks about the Course Transformation Program, an initiative to redesign large, entry-level classes. Photo courtesy of University of Texas. 

UT is expanding its efforts to transform the student experience in large classes and will pump thousand of dollars into such courses, including government and calculus, this fall.

The University is adding five courses to its Course Transformation Program, a $3 million initiative to redesign the structure in large, lecture-style classes. Officials say students in these classes do not typically engage in active learning and usually just go to class, listen to the professor and take the test.

Courses that will be redesigned include history, classics, government, statistics and calculus.

Gretchen Ritter, UT’s executive vice president and provost, oversees the program and said its goal is to create an active learning environment where students work to apply the skills and concepts they’ve learned in class.

Active learning can include peer-to-peer work, teamwork and using technology in the classroom, such as i-clickers, to monitor student progress, Ritter said.

“Students are better at explaining concepts to each other in part because they know that set of first steps you have to take in order to get to the bigger idea,” Ritter said. “Sometimes, someone who is more of an expert in an area forgets those first steps because they know it so well.”

UT will also give departments $50,000 grants to buy materials for the new courses, many which are technology-based, and cover costs to support the new active learning-based structure.

The school has redesigned 14 large entry-level courses since 2010. Officials estimate more than 20,000 students, most in their first or second year, take these courses every year.