Corporate partnerships are the lynchpin for many college programs
Campus Issues / Technology
Using partnerships to curb cost of facilities, services
More in: Workforce Development / Opinions
Auto consortium takes on the manufacturing challenge
More in: Government / Workforce Development
What was once a developmental mathematics maze for students has been transformed into a strategic sprint to college-level courses at Columbus State Community College in Ohio.
The concept was simple: Let students work at their own pace, but with the guidance of a trained instructor, and they can finish as many as four courses in one semester. It was the innovation of Kelly Hogan, a developmental education professor at the college.
“Students get exactly what they need, proficiency is ensured and there’s increased student confidence. They have a sense of control,” Hogan says. “Taken together, it’s all bound to lead to improved student success in the long term.”
Student Brian Yoder, who took the class last fall, said he like the course because it can be taken at one’s pace.
A different approach to math
The goal is to help students through development education classes quickly so that they don’t waste time or money on credits that won’t apply toward graduation requirements. Studies have shown that students get discouraged by long remedial sequences and are more likely to drop out of college.
Mathways aims to improve college success rates in Texas
One potential solution was a 2010 pilot called the Bridge to College Math program. Offered during a six-week summer term, the class met five days a week, three hours each day. Math Bridge covered three distinct courses: pre-algebra, beginning algebra I and beginning algebra II. Once students mastered the final module in the series, they would be just one course away from taking college-level math.
The setting was not a traditional math classroom. In fact, some students were barely at the pre-algebra level while others had almost mastered beginning algebra. They were in the same room but working at their own pace using online lessons. The instructor helped each student individually as issues and questions arose.
Students liked working at their own pace with one-on-one interaction because it created a less stressful learning environment. Instructors said it allowed students to ask more questions, which led to better proficiency.
The final results from the small pilot program were promising. Of the 12 students who successfully finished the program, six finished pre-algebra, four finished the first part of beginning algebra I and two completed part II. In other words, half of the students were able to complete more than one developmental math class in a single term.
Testing and tweaking
Columbus State then worked to turn the successful pilot into a permanent course. In summer 2011, the college tried a hybrid class that met just two days per week, four hours per day. The rest of the work was done online. In addition, a fourth developmental education class was added to the mix: intermediate algebra (similar to algebra II in high school). Students completing all four distinct courses would go from middle school math to college-ready math.
While the five-and-a-half week hybrid class still worked, faculty realized the course did not have enough class time to help students make significant progress. Over the course of the term, it became clear that the hybrid arrangement wasn’t as conducive to learning.
The third time was the charm when the Math Bridge arrived for the summer 2012. The previous two summers allowed instructors to tweak what wasn’t working and improve on what was effective. The hybrid was set aside and replaced with a full 10-week class.
The same four distinct math courses were still wrapped into the term. This time, students met twice each week for nearly five hours. The results were encouraging for the 81 students. Twenty-five of them completed two distinct courses, 10 completed three courses and one student managed to complete all four—going from middle school math to college-ready in just one term.
In fall 2012, the program was offered as a regular three-credit course for the first time. More than 407 students enrolled in 21 sections.
Proof in the percentages
The completion numbers speak for themselves, according to Columbus State. Remedial math classes offered individually in a traditional classroom setting for the semester had success rates ranging between 48 percent and 54 percent. However, of the students enrolled in what was now called MATH 1099, the success rate was 69 percent. In other words, in MATH 1099, about 7 of 10 students passed one or more distinct developmental classes, while only 5 of 10 passed a single equivalent remedial class in the traditional classroom style.
Students were saving time and money. Of the students who started at the lowest level of MATH 1099, about one-third completed one course, while 22 percent completed the first two courses, which would have taken them two terms in the traditional system. They also saved $369 in tuition costs. Almost 11 percent—or 14 students—completed the first three courses, saving them $738 in tuition. Finally, 10 students made it through all four courses in one semester. That saved them more than $1,300 in tuition.
That was a big selling point for student Brian Yoder, who took the class last fall.
“Instead of paying for 14 credit hours, I paid for just three,” he said.
“The new course is not only helping get students up to speed for college math more quickly. It’s keeping them motivated,” Hogan says.
“I’ve had more individual contact with my students (during those two days each week) than I usually have over the course of weeks in a traditional course,” says Kathy Struve.
Students also see the benefits.
“It’s helping me to build my confidence to master the materials,” said student Arlene Wilson. “Higher math has never been easy for me, so the design of this class allows me to grasp the concepts and understand the processes. Plus, having three ways to learn—book, videos and PowerPoint—all reinforce the lessons.”
Copyright ©2012 American Association of Community Colleges