Innovative course-scheduling project being tested at MSU-Meridian

MERIDIAN, Miss.—A pilot program at Mississippi State University-Meridian is trying a new course-scheduling system to better meet needs of the Lauderdale County campus’ largely non-traditional student population.

James B. Kelley, associate professor of English, is using an Ottilie Schillig Special Teaching Project grant for the pilot project launched this semester. Provided through the university’s Center for Teaching and Learning, the grant program supports and encourages new ideas for improving undergraduate instruction.

Kelley and colleague Angela Savage have collaborated to offer separate Wednesday evening courses in the same time slot. Savage, a social work instructor, is also director of field social work.

Meeting on alternate weeks in the same classroom, their respective Division of Arts and Sciences courses are titled “African American Literature” and “Vulnerable Populations in Social Society.” In addition to substantial online activities, both involve assigned work to cover periods when face-to-face settings with the teachers are not taking place.

Kelley said reducing the number of times students must travel to campus over a semester for an individual course is the ultimate goal of this alternating-course project.

“Many of our students often drive 45 minutes or more each way to attend evening courses at our university,” the University of Tulsa doctoral graduate explained. “If we deliver some of our coursework online, even as we continue to have quality face-to-face interaction throughout the semester, we are essentially meeting these students halfway.”

Kelley said the grant money enabled purchase of recording equipment and video editing services to create instructional materials for the courses. Additionally, he anticipates using the equipment for student video projects in future courses, among them “Writing for the Workplace” and “Literature and Film.”

Michelle McDonald of Union is a student in Kelley’s literature course. A senior interdisciplinary studies major, she enjoys the alternating scheduling system because it enables her to devote herself to class preparation time that normally would be required for travel.

“As a single mom going back to school, it’s a very important time and money saver for me,” McDonald emphasized.

Ottilie Schillig was a concert singer based primarily in New York who died in 1982 in Jackson. The grant program is among memorials to the Claiborne County native whose father, Stephen Schillig, founded the Port Gibson Oil Works in the 1880s.

More than 300 special teaching grants have been awarded since the project’s inception in 1997. The last Schillig award for an MSU-Meridian faculty member came in 2008.

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MSU PHOTO ID: James Kelley (left), MSU-Meridian associate professor of English, is receiving a grant for a pilot teaching project launched this semester. Michelle McDonald (front, right), a resident of Union and MSU-Meridian student, said the experimental scheduling system saves her money and allows more time to devote to class preparation.



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