UMass Amherst Receives Foundation Grant of $460,000 for Course Redesign

AMHERST, Mass. - The University of Massachusetts has received a grant for $460,000 from the Davis Educational Foundation to redesign five large lecture courses.

Norman Aitken, vice provost for instructional technology and professor of economics, will oversee the course redesign project. Aitken will redesign a large lecture section of “Introduction to Microeconomics;” four other courses will be selected from proposals to be submitted by other academic departments. The redesigned courses are scheduled to be taught during the 2002-03 academic year.

Aitken says the goal of the redesign project is to utilize a combination of instructional technology and modern teaching methods to improve the learning experience and academic performance of students enrolled in large lecture courses.

“In a time of declining state resources, I am pleased that we have been able to bring in funding from the Davis Educational Foundation to support faculty in undertaking major course redesign projects,” he says.

Provost Charlena Seymour describes the Davis grant as a “major achievement” for the campus. “The grant creates an exceptional opportunity for the campus to improve undergraduate education and it brings significant recognition to the University for the work that it has done in recent years to improve the learning experience of undergraduates.” Seymour notes the trustees of the foundation visited the campus in late October, and learned about the University’s prior success in redesigning courses in such departments as physics, resource economics, chemistry, and biology.

Aitken will continue to serve as vice provost for instructional technology through the current academic year and says he will use the 18-month period of the grant as a time of transition from his administrative position back to the economics faculty. He says he looks forward to collaborating with faculty from other disciplines and to providing opportunities for the campus as a whole to observe and learn from the overall redesign project.

The Davis Educational Foundation was established by Stanton and Elisabeth Davis after Stanton Davis’s retirement as chairman of Shaw’s Supermarkets Inc. The foundation seeks to strengthen regionally accredited baccalaureate degree-granting institutions, both public and private, in New England.