|The Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning: Mississippi Course Redesign Initiative
Delta State University
Course Title: College Algebra
Delta State University plans to redesign College Algebra, which enrolls ~460 students annually in 14 sections of ~35 students each. The course is currently taught by a variety of instructors very traditionally with classroom lectures and assigned homework problems from the textbook.
College Algebra faces a consistency problem with variation in course content and level of difficulty across sections. Historically, all faculty have used a common list of course objectives, but faculty members have sole responsibility for their sections and teach them independently. Each has developed his or her own course materials, activities, assignments and tests. The final exam, developed each semester by committee, is the only common element in the course.
Delta State will redesign College Algebra using the Replacement Model. Students will be required to attend three hours in a math lab and two hours of structured lecture time each week. The lecture period will introduce the material for the week. Students will complete homework assignments and online quizzes during the lab sessions and will receive individualized assistance from tutors who are instructors or math education majors.
The redesigned course will enhance the students’ educational experience, making them more active and engaged learners, and will provide a consistent learning experience for all students. Course content will be standardized with every section using the Hawkes Learning System’s algebra software. Topics covered, assignments, quizzes and tests will be consistent across sections. Students will receive immediate feedback as they work through assignments and take automated quizzes.
The impact of the course redesign on student learning outcomes will be assessed by comparing performance on a common final exam in both the traditional and redesigned sections. Parallel sections taught during spring 2009 will be compared, and the redesigned sections during spring and fall 2009 will also be compared to 37 traditional sections taught from 2004 to 2007. Student success in subsequent courses will be monitored to compare the differences between those who completed the traditional course and those who completed the redesigned course.
The cost of instruction will be reduced by replacing 14 small sections annually with two large sections, one per semester. Each large section will be taught and coordinated by one instructor, thereby reducing the number of full-time faculty from eight to two and eliminating one adjunct faculty member. These actions will decrease the cost-per-student from $152 to $35, a 77% reduction. The savings will be used by the math department to increase the options for math majors by offering required upper-division courses on an annual basis rather than on the current four-semester rotation.
The Delta State redesign failed to improve student learning. There was no significant difference between the traditional and redesigned sections on scores on a common final exam. There was no change in final grade distribution: about 36% of students earned a grade of C or better in both formats. The percentage of students who withdrew from the course increased dramatically in the redesign.
NCAT believes that this lack of success is directly attributable to Delta State’s use of the Replacement Model rather than the Emporium Model in its redesign. At Delta State, students attended two large lectures (180 students) per week and spent three hours in the lab. There is no plan to alter the method of delivery in the foreseeable future.
While Delta State produced some cost savings, the 36% student success rate is so low that NCAT does not recommend this project as one to be emulated by others.