Making Courseware Work for You and Your Students

Concurrent Session 6

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

This session offers an overview of how faculty in two departments (biology and business) a large, diverse, urban community college have implemented courseware in traditional and blended courses as part of a coherent strategy to promote student learning and success.


Kristin Polizzotto, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Kingsborough Community College, The City University of New York, where she teaches general biology and marine biology. Dr. Polizzotto teaches both traditional and hybrid courses and is the lead OER faculty for both majors and non-majors multi-section general biology courses. She is a faculty mentor for hybrid and online courses at Kingsborough's Center for e-Learning. Dr. Polizzotto also facilitates a faculty discussion group focusing on effective teaching and learning strategies for STEM students. Her scholarly pursuits include pedagogical research (Science of Teaching and Learning) as well as paleobiological research on extinct cephalopods.

Extended Abstract

Summary: Students in community college face diverse challenges, with each student bringing a unique and wide-ranging combination of skills and resources to the classroom. The variation in college readiness, academic preparation, English and math proficiency, and socioeconomic circumstances present a challenge for faculty as they strive to provide resources for student success. This session will explore how thoughtful, purposeful use of courseware may play a valuable role in effective teaching and learning in such a setting. Faculty at any institution of higher education must select learning resources and design a course that provides students with opportunities to engage with and master the course material. At a minimum, this includes designating a textbook, producing a syllabus, and coming up with a series of lessons that cover the desired topics. But as most faculty quickly realize, the minimum is not enough for many students, and faculty may struggle to find the time they sense is required to support effective student learning. Courseware can seem like a godsend, providing interactive supports to students while saving faculty time. However, demonstrations or even initial trials of courseware often have faculty second-guessing its value in terms of student success, even as they long for a solution that helps their students without exhausting their limited reservoir of time. What is the key to successful implementation of courseware? As with any pedagogical initiative, the success of courseware depends largely on student-centered planning for implementation. Faculty give careful consideration to course outcomes, evidence-based learning strategies, and student strengths and needs. What do you want students to learn and remember? What learning activities are most likely to help students achieve these outcomes? What specific challenges most often confront the students in your class? Faculty then evaluate to what extent specific courseware aligns with and enhances the overall course goals. In this session, we will 1) discuss how courseware best fulfills the aim of increasing student success; 2) review how four faculty at a community college have successfully implemented courseware; and 3) come away with a list of specific actions to try in your own course. Session format: We’ll begin with an audience discussion of the challenges to success that college student face, with an emphasis on the wide diversity of such challenges. The presenters will then review specific examples of how they have implemented courseware to help solve some of these issues across a broad range of courses from different disciplines and in different formats (including blended courses). Next, the presenters will elicit participants’ ideas and questions about using courseware intentionally, recording and displaying these contributions on the screen (including those from virtual participants). Participants will conclude the session by creating a list of specific initiatives they would like to implement. Session objectives: Participants in this session will 1) Identify student challenges that might be addressed by intentional implementation of courseware; and 2) Identify specific ways in which an instructor can integrate courseware as one part of a coherent strategy for learning success.