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The Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning: Mississippi Course Redesign Initiative

Jackson State University

Course Title: Intermediate Algebra and College Algebra
Contact: Tor A. Kwembe

Project Abstract
Final Report (as of 3/15/10)

Project Abstract

Jackson State University plans to redesign Intermediate Algebra and College Algebra. The two courses enroll ~2559 students annually in 29 sections of Intermediate Algebra and 59 sections of College Algebra. Intermediate Algebra, a course for students with deficiencies in high school algebra, is a pre-requisite for College Algebra, a required core course for all students. Both courses have undergone some instructional modifications, including the use of MyMathLab and MathXL, with promising success.

The traditional courses face several academic problems. Students come to the courses with different levels of academic preparedness, but the traditional approach cannot individualize instruction. These gatekeeper courses have relatively high failure rates, which create obstacles to students’ educational goals. In addition, enrollments have been increasing without additional resources to support them.

Jackson State’s redesign will use the Replacement Model in the pilot phase and plans to gradually upgrade to the Emporium Model. The number of lecture hours in Intermediate Algebra will be reduced from three to two each week and from four to two per week in College Algebra. Intermediate Algebra students will be required to spend three hours per week in computer labs and College Algebra students will be required to spend two hours each week in the labs. Students will work individually and collaboratively on computer-based activities using MyMathLab and MathXL. The labs will be staffed with graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) and undergraduate teaching assistants (UGAs) who will provide individualized assistance as students work through their assignments.

The redesigned courses will enhance the students’ learning experience, making them active and engaged learners. Online testing will give students immediate feedback throughout the semester. The number of GTAs and UGAs will be increased to provide more tutorial interaction in the lab to meet each student’s specific, immediate needs. The textbooks are integrated with MyMathLab and MathXL. During the past two years, these software packages were required for homework and quizzes. The drop-failure-withdrawal (DFW) rate for those students who used the software package declined. Students spent more time working on problems, performed better on exams and demonstrated a greater persistence in the courses.

Jackson State’s assessment plan will compare baseline data from the previous four years with student performance in the redesigned courses. Common final exam performance and grade distributions will be compared with close attention to DFW rates. Each semester a student survey will be conducted to study attitudes toward the computer-based approach to learning and toward math in general. Student performance in subsequent courses will be tracked, particularly in those courses for which Intermediate or College Algebra are pre-requisites.

Jackson State will reduce the cost-per-student for College Algebra from $173 to $135, a 22% savings. The savings will be achieved by decreasing the number of sections from 59 to 29 and increasing section size from ~30 to ~60 students each. Full-time faculty overload will be eliminated, and the number of adjuncts will be reduced from 14 to three. Ten UGAs will be added, and GTAs will increase from two to 10. The cost-per-student for Intermediate Algebra will be reduced from $153 to $125, an 18% savings. Costs will be reduced by decreasing the number of sections from 29 to 15 and increasing section size from ~30 to ~60 students each. As in College Algebra, faculty overload will be eliminated and adjuncts will decline from three to zero. Nine UGAs will be added, and GTAs will increase from three to nine. These changes will also allow Jackson State to increase enrollment in Intermediate Algebra from 813 to 900 students.

Final Report (as of 3/15/10)

The Jackson State redesign failed to improve student learning. College Algebra was fully redesigned, but only a pilot of Intermediate Algebra was conducted.

Jackson State planned to compare student performance on common final examinations in both College Algebra and Intermediate Algebra but did not do so.

In College Algebra, there was no difference in the percentage of students receiving a grade of C or better; student success rates in both formats were about 40%. In Intermediate Algebra, the student success rate declined from 54% to 37%.

NCAT believes that this lack of success is directly attributable to Jackson State’s use of the Replacement Model rather than the Emporium Model in its redesign. At Jackson State, students in both courses spent two hours in lecture and two hours in the lab. There is no plan to alter the method of delivery in the foreseeable future.

While Jackson State produced significant cost savings in College Algebra (the number of sections was reduced from 59 to 26 for the fall 2009 and spring 2010 semesters combined), the 40% student success rate is so low that NCAT does not recommend this project as one to be emulated by others.



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