Henshaw said CFE 100 involves creating small group learning opportunities, breaking lectures into smaller segments and using interactive technology such as clickers.
“We are giving students the ability to take more responsibility in their learning,” Henshaw said.
Instructors who want to make their classes more innovative submit proposals, and those chosen receive $6,000 grants to spend on educational technology and for the time they use to rework their material.
This money can also be used to support additional TA office hours for students unable to get help during class, said Eric Muller, director of the center.
Muller said large classes have historically been a problem, but are more of an issue with recent budget cuts and increased enrollment.
“More and more students are having their ‘gateway’ classes in an increasingly large setting,” said Muller.
Muller added that large class sizes might turn students away from a subject they would otherwise enjoy.
He said research shows that uninterrupted lecture-style teaching is not an ideal way to facilitate learning, due to the human attention span and learning style.
Henshaw and Muller added that they have seen significant improvements in classes that have been redesigned. Student exam scores, interaction and participation increased in the reformed classrooms.
But some students said they prefer the traditional lecture style of large classes.
Freshman Elizabeth Applegate said she chose UNC because she prefers the anonymity of the larger classes.
“Office hours are a smaller place to talk to professors if I need extra help,” she said.
Junior transfer student Valerie Diaz said large classes are a new experience for her.
“It feels more impersonal,” she said. “It is more intimidating to ask questions.”
Henshaw said in addition to funding from Lenovo, the initiative has also received support from the Office of the Provost.
“The provost has committed to supporting the redesigns on an ongoing basis,” Muller said.
Henshaw said this support will allow the program to continue well into the future.
“During difficult budget times there are not a lot of new allotments,” he said.
“This shows their recognition of the importance of what we are doing.”
While the University recognizes that large classes aren’t ideal, Muller said it isn’t economical to cut class sizes.
“It is just a reality to this budget situation that we are facing,” he said.
“This is one very constructive way to manage it.”
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