Changing the Equation: Redesigning Developmental Math
Leeward Community College
Contact: Eric Matsuoka
In the traditional format, Leeward Community College (LCC) offered four three-credit remedial and developmental courses that had to be taken in sequence after initial placement: Basic Math through Problem Solving (100 students), Introductory Algebra with Geometry (650 students), Algebraic Foundations I (975 students) and Algebraic Foundations II (950 students). The overall DWF rates for these courses were approximately 47%.
The academic difficulties that these completion rates posed for students were serious. For many students, failure in these courses not only provided barriers in pursuit of their academic goals but also posed financial difficulties associated with repeated enrollments. These low success rates also posed serious resource challenges for the college. With surging enrollments due to the state of the economy, there were both classroom and lecturer shortages.
The goal of the redesign was to reduce the traditional four courses to three courses: Whole Number Operations (one credit), Essential Mathematics for Algebra (three credits) and Accelerated Algebraic Foundations (four credits) utilizing the Emporium Model and the ALEKS software program. As part of this redesign, the faculty worked with college-level math faculty to clearly identify what students needed to know to be successful in transfer-level math. Only those topics found to be essential for success in subsequent courses were included in the new courses. Reducing the number of courses not only reduced the costs to the students and the college but also helped to alleviate the compounded DWF attrition that accompanied long remedial/developmental sequences of courses.
In the redesigned model, each student spent a minimum of three hours per week doing math, one under guidance of the instructor in the classroom lab, one in the math lab with math faculty on hand for assistance, and a third either in the math lab or at another location of the student’s choosing. The ALEKS software provided students with immediate feedback on their progress to reinforce prior knowledge while introducing new content. In this way, students could be in charge of their own progress with clear goals. Faculty closely monitored student progress with weekly classroom interactions as well as reports generated by ALEKS. All of these factors enhanced the quality of the remedial and developmental math program and improved student learning.
Because LCC’s redesign restructured the content of four remedial and developmental courses into three courses, while preserving all the necessary components as determined by both the remedial and developmental as well as the college-level math faculty, data was collected “before” and “after” the redesign. The content of each of the new courses was mapped to the content of the traditional courses, and student learning was assessed using comparisons of common content items selected from exams. Finally, as the redesign included conversations with college-level math faculty, the team planned to measure performance in follow-on courses.
The redesign involved changes in faculty roles due to coordinated course development and delivery (including standardized tests), substitution of interactive tutorial software for face-to-face class meetings and the use of automated grading and course management software to handle course administration. As a result, each faculty member had more students enrolled in each section. The redesign produced direct cost savings in two ways. First, in the traditional format, 12 credits of remedial and developmental math were offered in the sequence whereas in the redesign only nine credits were required of students needing the entire sequence. The reduction in the number of courses and credits produced savings to the college since fewer faculty were needed to serve comparable numbers of students. Second, larger total class sizes were established so fewer faculty were needed to serve comparable numbers of students. Each section increased from 25 students in the traditional format to 30 students divided into two groups of 15 students in the redesign. The number of sections decreased from 107 traditional sections to 81 redesigned sections, with an accompanying decrease of 245 students. The overall cost of the developmental math program was reduced by 18% after full implementation of the redesign, and the cost-per-student was reduced from $319 to $287, a decrease of 10%.
In the redesign, did students learn more, less or the same compared to the traditional format?
Since the content of the four legacy courses was redistributed among the three redesigned courses, student learning comparisons could not be made by using entire exams. Instead, the comparisons were made by comparing student performance on problems graded using common rubrics. Student mastery of course learning outcomes improved in most areas with some showing equivalent performance and very few showing poorer learning.
The three topics in the Accelerated Algebraic Foundations course where redesigned students performed poorly compared to the traditional students were used in only one course (College Algebra) that followed it. In response, review material was added to the beginning of that course to help students to review those areas more carefully before proceeding with the new material. Additional review material was also integrated throughout the course to provide just-in-time brush-ups as new material was introduced.
Course-by-Course Completion Rates
Course completion rates were higher, although not significantly higher, in the redesigned Whole Numbers course compared to the traditional Basic College Math course. The majority of the students who would have placed into the traditional Basic College Math course now place into the next course in the sequence.
Completion rates for the redesigned Essential Mathematics for Algebra were significantly higher than those of the corresponding traditional course Pre-algebra in both the fall and spring semesters of full implementation.
Completion rates for the redesigned Accelerated Algebraic Foundations were significantly higher in the fall semester of full implementation compared to the traditional course rate (pooled from Algebraic Foundations I-II) but not significantly different from the traditional rate in the spring semester. It is important to note, however, that the redesigned algebra course replaced two sequential traditional courses.
Improved Course Completion: Making Progress Grades
There are other indications that redesigned students completed at an even higher rate. LCC analyzed fall 2011 and spring 2012 course grades by considering a what-if "Making Progress" (MP) grade. Students receiving an MP grade must have demonstrated mastery of 65% of the objectives in ALEKS. When taking into account MP grades, completion rates were even higher in the redesign.
Other Impacts on Students
Were costs reduced as planned?
The redesign involved changes in faculty roles due to coordinated course development and delivery (including standardized tests), substitution of interactive tutorial software for face-to-face class meetings and the use of automated grading and course management software to handle course administration. As a result, each faculty member had more students enrolled in each section. Larger total class sizes were established so fewer faculty were needed to serve comparable numbers of students. Each section increased from 25 students in the traditional format to 30 students divided into two groups of 15 students in the redesign. The number of sections decreased from 107 traditional sections to 81 redesigned sections, with an accompanying decrease of 245 students after the change in required credits.
Faculty participated in the lab as part of their instructional assignments. For each three-credit course, faculty were assigned to two weekly scheduled hours where they met with students and two open lab hours monitoring and assisting drop-in students. For each four-credit course, faculty were assigned to two weekly scheduled hours where they met with students and four open lab hours. Having faculty maintain open lab hours might appear cost ineffective compared to hiring para-professional tutors; however, since the open lab hours were included in the faculty member’s workload, there was no need for additional tutors.
The redesign also shifted the full-time/part-time ratio of the sections taught. In the traditional format, 60% of the sections were taught by full-time faculty; in the redesign, only 37% of the sections were taught by full-time faculty.
In addition, because of the decrease in the number of credits required by those who started at the beginning of the developmental math sequence from 12 credits in the traditional format to eight credits in the redesign, overall enrollment declined in developmental math by 9% (245 students).The reduction in the number of courses and credits produced savings to the college since fewer faculty were needed to serve comparable numbers of students. The overall cost of the developmental math program was reduced by18% after full implementation of the redesign, and the cost-per-student was reduced from $319 to $287, a decrease of 10%.
Will the redesign be sustained now that the grant period is over?
LCC’s administrators and a majority of the developmental math faculty see the value of the redesign and are committed to its sustained implementation and success. The cost savings analysis completed as a part of the program reporting shows that the adopted redesign is fiscally sustainable as well.
Based on the success of the redesigned developmental math courses established during the period of the grant, redesigned sections of transfer-level courses College Algebra and Accelerated Pre-Calculus were created. The redesign was fully implemented in College Algebra during fall 2012. Further evidence of the college’s and discipline’s commitment to redesign includes repurposing, renovating and furnishing an additional classroom to support the new redesign.