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Louisiana State University

Course Title: College Algebra
Contact: Phoebe B. Rouse

Status: This project originated as part of NCAT's FIPSE-funded Roadmap to Redesign (R2R) program, 2003 – 2006, and was successfully completed.

Descriptive Materials: In addition to the project description below, links for this project include a final project report, which describes the impact of the redesign on student learning and student retention; final cost savings achieved; techniques that most contributed to improved learning and reduced costs; and, an assessment of future sustainability.

Project Plan:
Louisiana State University (LSU) plans to redesign College Algebra, a three-credit course currently taught in a traditional format with three lectures per week in sections of 40-44 students. Course enrollment averages 3500 students in the fall, 1200 in the spring, and 200 in the summer. The course has traditionally been taught by a combination of senior instructors (15% of the sections), Rank I and II instructors (35%), and graduate teaching assistants (50%).

Because of an emphasis on hiring more research professors as part of its Flagship Agenda, LSU will no longer employ Rank I and II instructors as of fall 2005. The redesign for College Algebra is, therefore, essential in order to serve the same number of students with significantly reduced personnel. The success rate (grades of C or better) for College Algebra over the last five years has averaged 64%, with the fall average being significantly higher than the spring average. The goal of the redesign is to maintain this rate and possibly raise it over time.

The course redesign will follow the Emporium Model beginning with a pilot in the spring of 2005. LSU will use MyMathLab supplemented by materials developed at LSU and at the University of Idaho. In the fall of 2005, LSU will begin the full transition by teaching one-third of the course population in the emporium, one-third by senior instructors in the traditional format in sections of 175 students each, and one-third by TAs in traditional classes of 40-44. In the fall of 2006, the emporium will be fully implemented with the entire course population.

The planned redesign will enhance the quality of the College Algebra experience by motivating students to take an active role in learning and to spend time working rather than watching mathematics. Faculty members are constantly frustrated that students in the traditional course are so passive in the classroom and want a cookbook approach to mathematics. Furthermore, with such a large population each semester, grading homework by hand is just not feasible. Therefore, very few students do the work required to master the skills and concepts of the course. Online assessment software will provide a tool to allow for continual assessment and immediate feedback. The Emporium Model will also allow students with varied backgrounds to receive individualized assistance at their own pace in a learning center staffed with instructors and tutors. All students will be required to attend the learning center at least two hours per week; thus, many students are likely to spend more time doing mathematics than they are spending in the current model.

Student learning will be assessed by comparing final exam medians and course grade distribution in redesigned sections with data collected from traditional sections in five previous years and between formats running parallel during the pilot semester and transition year. Both versions of the course will follow the same syllabus, test guidelines, number of questions per topic, point-value distribution per topic and grading scale as in previous semesters.

The redesign plan will produce cost savings because the same number of students will be served using one-half of the current personnel. Section size will stay at 40-44 students, but the number of class meetings per week will be reduced from three to one. The cost of adding tutors in the learning center as well as increasing the amount of time for coordination and systems administration reduces the net savings, but the redesign project will reduce the cost-per-student from $121 to $95. The long-term plan at LSU is to phase in the Emporium Model for all pre-calculus courses, an annual enrollment of approximately 7500 students. The lab infrastructure created as a part of the redesign of College Algebra will scale, thus enabling LSU to achieve further savings.

 

 

Quick Links:

Roadmap to Redesign Main Page...