Courses to undergo syllabus changes to accommodate knowledge gaps from the pandemic


The Daily Illini File Photo

Students in a statistics class listen attentively in a lecture at the Lincoln Hall Theater. Some introductory courses may require meetings with Teacher’s Assistain’s instead of office hours next year.

By Payal Rathore, Staff Writer

Introductory courses may change their content to focus more on basic concepts which may have not been covered or understood well in high school due to the nature of online classes during the pandemic.
The First Year Academic Experience Task Group is charged with looking at potential learning loss and knowledge gaps because of the pandemic. Gretchen Adams, assistant dean for Undergraduate Student Affairs, serves as the current chair of the task force.
“Some departments will have smaller and more frequent discussion sections.,” Adams said. “Some others are thinking of administering an assessment to gauge where students might be struggling and may hold extra workshops.”
Adams added that certain courses may also have required meetings with the Teacher’s Assistant instead of optional office hours.
For this change, more TA’s are being hired and changes in TA training are being introduced so as to transition from online to in-person instruction. Peer tutoring opportunities may also be on the rise because of this change.
One such course that plans on introducing changes is IB 150: Organismal and Evolutionary Biology.
“We’re going to use the results of an optional placement test to identify students who are likely to fail IB 150 so we can put them in a new section of the course,” said Stephen R. Downie, associate director of Academic Affairs in the School of Integrative Biology.
This section will emphasize active learning and the use of highly trained teaching assistants and instructors. Downie added that it is the same section used for merit and Access and Achievement Program scholars which focuses on skill development, problem solving and the use of case studies. This will be IB150 Lecture CL2.
Another course that will undergo changes is CMN 101: Public Speaking.
“First, our plan is to have smaller cap sizes for CMN 101 and CMN 111-112 sections so that the instructor can provide more individual attention to students,” Mardia J. Bishop, Director of Public Speaking Instruction, said in an email.
The cap size will be held down for both fall 2021 and spring 2022.
CMN 101 plans to increase the amount of time and exercises that was originally spent on communication anxiety. More opportunities for small group work will be provided so that students can get used to peer interaction.
“We don’t know the effects that online learning has had on interpersonal communication, but we are prepared to address any deficiencies by adjusting the curriculum to allow more time for students to interact with each other,” Bishop said.

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