|Colleagues Committed to Redesign (C2R)
Southeastern Louisiana University
Course Title: Intermediate Algebra
Status: This project was part of Round II of NCAT's FIPSE-funded Colleagues Committed to Redesign (C2R) program, 2008 – 2009. Participants conducted a pilot of their redesign plans in fall 2008. In the C2R program, NCAT’s role was to introduce the course redesign methodology to participating institutions, assist them in developing project plans and work with them through the pilot period. NCAT was not involved in full implementation; consequently, the project’s status beyond the pilot period is unknown. For more information, contact the project contact listed above.
Southeastern Louisiana University (SELU) plans to redesign Intermediate Algebra, its one developmental math course. The course is taught in a traditional lecture format and enrolls about 1200 students annually with 700 in the fall, 350 in the spring and 150 in the summer.
The Intermediate Algebra course faces two problems. The first is a low completion rate. In fall 2007, only 31.3% of the students enrolled completed the course successfully. This low rate is typical and presents a roadblock to students’ overall progress at the university. If students do not complete their developmental requirements in math and English within two semesters, they are not allowed to re-enroll at the university. Students are not prepared for the course, and the traditional course format does not rectify their deficiencies. Most students do not even attempt to complete homework on a regular basis. The second problem is a projected increase in student demand. The minimum ACT scores enabling a student to place out of developmental math will increase from 18 to 19 in fall 2009. This change will most likely increase enrollment in Intermediate Algebra by ~400 students.
SELU will redesign Intermediate Algebra using the Replacement Model. Rather than meeting three times per week, students will meet twice a week; the third session will be replaced by a requirement to spend three hours in a math learning lab. Students will complete homework, quizzes and tests using MyMathLab and receive one-on-one help from instructors and peer tutors in the lab.
The student-centered learning environment created by the redesigned course will enhance the quality of the course and improve learning outcomes. The online components will engage students with the material and give them immediate feedback on their performance. Students will have the flexibility to go to the lab at their own convenience. Their progress will be closely monitored: their successes will be praised and individualized assistance will be provided to address their deficiencies. One-on-one instruction in the lab will enhance their learning experience.
Student learning will be assessed by comparing baseline data with performance in the redesigned sections. The SELU math department has historically administered common final exams and will draw baseline data from the fall 2006 and 2007 semesters. The student population in these semesters most closely resembles the student population that will be in the redesigned course. In fall 2008, students in 20 redesigned sections will take the same common final exam.
The redesigned course will reduce the cost of instruction by decreasing the number of sections from 54 to 45 and increasing section size from 25 to 40 students. The number of faculty teaching the course will be reduced from 26 to 21 on average. The cost-per-student will decrease from $201 to $100, a 50% savings. The university plans to use the savings to invest in other courses that can be redesigned on the campus, outside of the mathematics department.
The redesign team did not conduct a pilot but rather moved directly to full implementation due to a directive from the university’s upper administration to include all students in the redesign.
Students in traditional and redesigned sections performed at virtually an identical level on final course grades. On final exam scores, the traditional mean was 60% and the redesign mean was 56%. The team notes that students could receive partial credit in the traditional system of hand-grading of exams whereas redesign students did receive that advantage. This alone could explain the lower exam score in the redesign sections. The fact that students achieved the same pass rate in the redesign with no partial credit as the students in the traditional model with partial credit indicates that there may well be an improvement in learning since students in the redesign had to perform at a higher level to achieve the same score.
In the traditional format, 61.7% of enrolled students completed the course. In the redesigned format, that value increased to 71.8%.
The redesign model is definitely in an expansion mode. Besides Intermediate Algebra, the mathematics department also offers the three-hour version of College Algebra using the redesign model. Within the year, the five-hour College Algebra will also use a modified version of the redesign model. Beyond math courses, the university is considering how to implement redesign in other disciplines.
Pedagogical Improvement Techniques
What techniques contributed most to improving the quality of student learning?
Tutorial instruction. Individualized instruction in the computer lab means that instructors and peer tutors can target concepts that students find problematic on a case-by-case basis. Students feel that their needs are being addressed, and instructors feel that their time in the lab is productive. However, instructors and tutors continue to need training on what best promotes learning in this new environment.
Sympodium classrooms. Recently the university invested in technologically-equipped classrooms with Sympodium lecturns (internet-capable projection systems). All of the redesign class meetings are now offered using these rooms. Students are more engaged in the classroom settings by coming up to the Sympodiums, accessing their assignments and using them for demonstrations. Instructors play off of the pre-selected problems to present concepts as needed to fully cover a topic.
Cost Reduction Techniques
What techniques contributed most to reducing costs?
Larger class sizes. Cost savings occurred due to an increase in class size, which was possible with the redesign format. Classroom instruction was reduced, and computer-graded homework replaced the hand-graded version. Consequently, fewer sections (and thus fewer instructors) were needed to accommodate the same number of students.
The university expects a 30% increase in the Intermediate Algebra population beginning in fall 2009 due to a change in prerequisites. Students will now need a Math ACT score one point higher to enter directly into College Algebra. This means that more students will be required to take the transitional Intermediate Algebra course, and class size will increase even further to accommodate these extra students.
What implementation issues were most important?
Laboratory space. Finding adequate laboratory space has been the main implementation issue faced by the team. The administration is presently remodeling a large room in the campus library which will become a Math Technology Learning Center accommodating 200 workstations. The new facilities will provide more computers and will require less staffing infrastructure. The lab should be available for use in the summer of 2009.
Student work ethic. Data gathered regarding scores on homework, quizzes and participation showed a direct correlation between course grades and these measures. Students could gain 100% credit on all three measures if they worked hard enough, so these data gave the team insight into the work habits of students in this course. Many of the students who were unsuccessful in Intermediate Algebra were the same students who failed the Freshmen Orientation course on campus, which can only be failed if the student does not complete assignments. When administrators noted the connection, they realized that the failure of some students to pass Intermediate Algebra was in many cases because they simply didn’t do any work.