Texas A&M Faculty Delivers Digital Innovation to Improve Student Success

This summer, Texas A&M University professors from the English, History, Physics, and Astronomy departments began working with professors from Rice University and the University of Texas at Austin to develop , deploy and scale high-quality introductory course materials that incorporate innovative instructional design. , current knowledge of the science of learning and development, open educational resources, and a commitment to continuous research and improvement.

The collaborative effort is part of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s (THECB) Digital Design for Student Success (D2S2) project. Together, faculty from all disciplines in the College of Arts and Sciences are leading the way in improving student success in classrooms across the state and beyond.

The Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) coordinates the efforts of the D2S2 group on behalf of Texas A&M. CTE Executive Director Debra Fowler and CTE Education Consultant Samantha Shields shared that THECB launched Project D2S2 in response to the pandemic, prompting the shift of education worldwide to digital learning platforms – a monumental change highlighting the need to invest in accelerating the pace of innovation in digital learning, particularly in terms of improving student success by incorporating advanced curriculum design.

To help educators bridge this gap, faculty at the College of Arts and Sciences are working among themselves and in collaboration with their Rice and UT colleagues to develop and share open educational resources for a variety of graduate-level higher education courses. introduction to arts and sciences.

“As a public land-grant institution, it is our responsibility to offer instruction to members of the state,” Fowler said. “This initiative allows us to further expand our contribution to shared courses and materials to meet the state’s higher education needs.”

Shields explained that the charge under the D2S2 collaboration is to create course-specific open-access educational content and associated training materials. Texas A&M chose introductory English, history, and physics courses because they serve a significant number of students statewide and beyond. All resulting materials will be housed in THECB’s OERTX, an open educational resource library for use by any interested instructor.

“Materials are developed by subject matter experts with a proven track record of educational innovation and a focus on student success,” Shields said. “The OERTX repository allows these quality educational resources and training materials to be easily accessed and adopted by instructors who may not have the educational background and/or disciplinary expertise, or who are simply looking for ways innovative to teach their course.”

Terri Pantuso, Assistant Professor of English Education, leads Texas A&M’s English materials development charge for the D2S2 project.

“It’s something that has always been near and dear to my heart,” Pantuso explained. “As a former dual credit teacher, I know how difficult it can be for instructors to find quality, rigorous, free, open-licensed material. So on a personal level, I think that’s how I give back to the profession. As Aggie [1990 Texas A&M political science graduate] and faculty member, I believe this is important because it aligns with our mission and core values ​​of service to the community.

Jessica Ray Herzogenrath, teaching assistant professor of history who is leading the D2S2 project’s efforts in history with the help of history professor and acting director of the Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research, Troy Bickham, pointed out that Texas A&M is the only institution in the development collaboration story materials.

“Instructors have a lot to do, and there’s often no time to develop high-quality course resources,” Herzogenrath added. “I see my team’s contributions to D2S2 as providing a space where they can find high-quality course materials designed with active learning in mind to promote greater engagement – and, ideally, interest – from students. .”

Physics professor Tatiana Erukhimova is overseeing Texas A&M’s efforts to develop Project D2S2’s introductory physics course, an offering she describes as key to laying the foundation for STEM majors. Research shows that student success in this course is often the determining factor for acceptance into their chosen major, in addition to their decision to pursue a STEM career and graduate on time.

“Challenges students face when taking calculus-based introductory physics courses often include their inadequate level of math readiness and study habits, lack of sense of belonging to the major chosen and a fixed mindset or the belief that their intelligence is fixed and they will fail a difficult course,” said Erukhimova, 2017 Texas A&M Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence and 2021-2024 Eppright Professor for Teaching Excellence. undergraduate education.” Additionally, students who face these challenges are often those who must work to support themselves while in college and may not be able to take advantage of the in-person support provided by instructors due to limited time and schedule conflicts.”

Erukhimova notes that students aren’t the only ones facing challenges in the introductory courses included in the D2S2 initiative.

“From the instructor’s side, an obvious challenge is to maintain high standards in these core courses for all groups of students,” she explained. “Our work within the D2S2 initiative is paving the way to improving the outcomes of these courses through the creation of open-access resources to enhance student self-learning outside of the classroom.”

The D2S2 project is supported by the Governor’s Education Emergency Relief Fund through a funding formula allocated to THECB to improve the quality of digital learning statewide. The initiative aims to improve teaching and learning for all by improving the course materials available to instructors teaching core courses for majors in high demand in the job market.

“One of the biggest improvements this project gives us is the ability to make courses more accessible,” Herzogenrath said. “I now have the funds to have recorded lectures captioned in accordance with best practices in accessibility, for example. Additionally, with support from THECB infrastructure, we are able to expand access to these materials for instructors and students across the state.

The cross-departmental D2S2 faculty collaboration at the College of Arts and Sciences is an early example of the educational influence that the new college’s faculty are empowered to exert on the world.

“Working collaboratively on this project excites me for the future possibilities of our new college,” Pantuso said. “I think this shows that the College of Arts and Sciences is a leader in developing open content and educational materials to create an equitable learning experience for everyone, regardless of where they might be. registered.”

Learn more about the D2S2 project or the world-class academic programs at Texas A&M College of Arts and Sciences.

Comments are closed.