Skip Navigation

LITRE: Learning In A Technologically-Rich Environment Banner NC State University
Welcome to LITRE

Thoroughly Modern MILLIE
(Methods of Incorporating the Latest Learning Innovations in Education)

PI. Dr. Robert Beichner, Physics


This project seeks to update the traditional lecture/lab-based university course and take advantage of recent advances in instructional technology and pedagogies. This project will adapt an existing course that has already been the subject of considerable reform. (See SCALE-UP). This will allow us to add just a few more components and create a course that is thoroughly modern in content, pedagogy, and technology. We will combine parts of the SCALE-UP version of PY205, Introductory Physics for Scientists and Engineers 1 with aspects of the lecture version of this course. The course will have students performing the following:

  • Watching on-demand videos that will replicate, as much as possible, one-on-one tutoring and then expand upon that model.

  • Talking to each other and a faculty member in small discussion sections.

  • Doing hands-on activities in a SCALE-UP like setting, guided by graduate TAs.

  • Practicing complex problem solving skills in teams and individually.

  • Reading a textbook with the most modern physics content available.

  • Demonstrating their understanding through regular quizzes and exams.

The objectives of the course are those that were developed for the SCALE-UP physics project. They include understanding physics as well as developing skills in problem-solving, laboratory techniques, technology use, and communication.

For detailed student learning outcomes click here.


Although the SCALE-UP approach has been adopted at more than 50 colleges across the country and is now expanding into Europe, the Middle East, and China, there is still substantial resistance to the types of reform it incorporates. Many faculty do not feel comfortable in the noisy, collaborative environment that can feel chaotic. They also resist training to help them overcome these difficulties. This proposal shifts most of the guidance for collaborative activities to graduate students, a group who has already demonstrated an affinity for this type of instruction (after sufficient training). In other words, graduate students will run two or three hour SCALE-UP like meetings for labs and problem solving.

Faculty will be shifted from the lecture hall podium and placed into smaller settings where they can more directly interact with students. Videos and the textbook will supply the bulk of new material presentation. Faculty can then spend their class time helping students work through the more difficult aspects of the content and motivating students to learn more. Astin’s What Matters in College, the single most widely cited educational study, indicates that student-student and student-faculty relationships have the greatest impact on college success. By letting students meet in smaller, informal classes with faculty, we hope to enhance these connections.

Faculty will still work with the same number of students and for the same total number of hours, but instead of talking at 100 students three hours per week, they will talk with 33 students during three different hour-long sessions. This frees up two hours per week of student time, when they would have been sitting in the lecture hall. They can devote this time to viewing the videos and working in the SCALE-UP setting. Faculty would see a reduction in their class preparation time since they would only need to familiarize themselves with the content and prepare for the three discussion sessions rather than write three lectures every week.

In terms of LITRE’s learning goals, we will be using a wide variety of instructional technologies to improve student learning. We have already demonstrated superior problem solving by SCALE-UP students. We will continue using round tables and collaborative group work for this aspect of instruction. WebAssign will be used to deliver homework assignments as well as quizzes and parts of tests. It may be used for deployment of short video clips also, since it can incorporate questioning into the delivery. (It might be desirable to podCast some of the videos, because of the convenience of viewing on iPods.)

The SCALE-UP approach has dramatically expanded the opportunities for students’ empirical inquiry through “tangibles” and “ponderables.” This aspect will be a major component of MILLIE, only it will be led by graduate students. We have seen this work well in our current SCALE-UP classes as well as the “mini-SCALE-UP” labs used by the lecture-based sections of this course. Research from sources is a real strength of SCALE-UP and will be for the MILLIE approach, too. Not only will students constantly be referred to nature as the ultimate authority on physics (by conducting their own measurements and observations), they will also learn to justify the validity of any information they glean from the web. The ability to distinguish good information from bad is becoming more and more crucial to success as use of the Internet skyrockets. Students will still have to present and defend the information and data they gather to the rest of the class.

Finally, performance provides the opportunity for students to demonstrate to themselves and their instructors what they have learned. Both types of feedback are important. Our plan is to have students take weekly self-scheduled quizzes so they get regular formative assessment. We will also have individual tests given regularly so the instructor can certify that students completing the course have gained the requisite knowledge and experience.

The MILLIE project is an attempt to modernize the old lecture method of instruction. By starting with an existing, highly-reformed course, we minimize the work needed for the transformation. But if we can demonstrate the approach works by direct comparison to standard instruction (following the same methods as we did with SCALE-UP), it has the potential to radically alter the higher education landscape. From the students’ perspective, the instruction they pay for is a better fit to the way they live their lives. For the faculty, their work load decreases while their opportunity to really interact with students increases. If this can be done and we see even half the learning gains we had with SCALE-UP, this could be the way college courses will be taught in the future.


Research Questions