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Wayne State University

Course Title: Beginning Algebra
Contact: Shereen Schultz

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:
Wayne State University (WSU) plans to redesign its Beginning Algebra course. At WSU, all undergraduate students must demonstrate core competence in mathematics by passing a placement exam or by completing Beginning Algebra. Annually, 1700 students enroll in multiple sections of 30 students each. Beginning Algebra is a three-credit course that meets for four hours per week for 15 weeks. The course is taught by a combination of adjunct faculty and graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) and is used as a mentoring/training assignment for new GTAs. Students spend two hours in lecture with their primary instructor and two hours in lab with a GTA.

Many students arrive at the university unprepared and therefore require greater attention. From fall 2000 to winter 2004, of the students who took Beginning Algebra, 28% withdrew and only 39% of the total passed. Of those who took the final, only 53% passed. Like other universities, WSU is facing decreased funding with increased enrollments. WSU anticipates that the freshmen class will be 12% larger in fall 2004 than fall 2003 and that further growth in the student body will be expected in fall 2005. The redesign will allow for growth in enrollment and increased student success while helping to maintain current course costs.

The redesign of Beginning Algebra will use the Emporium Model. One large (100 stations) computer lab will be established, and students will proceed through the course using MyMathLab, an interactive mathematics instructional software package. This proven software includes an online textbook, video lectures, online exercises and practice tests. The software also makes it easy to do minor customizations. On-site assistance will be provided by a faculty coordinator with a mathematics background, graduate teaching assistants and undergraduate assistants. Home access to MyMathLab will be available through a web browser.

In order to assure sufficient time on task, students will be required to spend a minimum of five hours per week in the lab but may do so at their convenience during the 65 hours per week that the lab is open. Students will be able to work ahead and complete the course faster than the regular semester schedule, but they will not be allowed to fall behind. The benefits of the redesign include individualized approaches to teaching and learning; ongoing, individualized assessment; and accommodation of different learning styles.

WSU will assess the impact of the redesign on student learning by comparing common comprehensive finals administered to students in both the traditional and redesigned formats. During the pilot phase, a comprehensive, multiple-choice final exam will be given to two traditional sections and two redesigned sections. During the full implementation phase, four years of exam performance in traditional sections will be compared with exam performance in all redesigned sections. From fall 2000 to winter 2004, a comprehensive uniform final exam was given; all exams were group graded (each instructor graded the same few problems on all exams) for uniformity.

WSU expects to reduce the cost-per-student from $185 to $106, a savings of approximately 43%. The number of students served will increase from 1337 to 1700. Adjunct faculty members will be reduced from 20 to three per year, and GTA numbers will be reduced as well. In addition, classroom space will become available for scheduling other university classes. The savings of approximately $134,000 from adjunct salaries will be returned to the central pool for part-time faculty in the university and allow WSU to move funds into departments that must increase sections in order to accommodate increased enrollments.



Quick Links:

Roadmap to Redesign Main Page...