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Impact on Students

The University of Alabama

In the redesign, did students learn more, less or the same compared to the traditional format?

Improved Learning

Tests in the redesigned course were derived from those used in the traditional course and similar criteria were used for the assignment of grades, therefore, changes in grade distribution in the course reflect changes in student learning. The table below lists the distribution of grades for those students who were successful in the course (earned a grade of C- or better) over the past six semesters.

The sum of A and B grades was significantly higher for the redesigned course than for the traditional course in the fall semesters. Grades for the spring 2002 semester showed no significant difference. Grades in the spring 2001 semester were appreciably lower. Mandatory attendance was not required in the MTLC during the spring 2001 semester and there was a measurable decrease in the amount of time students spent on the course. This decrease was accompanied by a decrease in both student success and student performance.

Semester A B C Course Type
Fall 1998 13.1% 32.6% 54.2% Traditional
Spring 1999 12.7% 34.0% 53.3% Traditional
Fall 1999 18.5% 33.8% 47.6% Traditional
Spring 2000 10.2% 37.8% 52.0% Traditional
Fall 2000 18.0% 41.6% 40.4% Redesigned
Spring 2001 11.0% 24.8% 64.2% Redesigned
Fall 2001 17.5% 41.8% 40.7% Redesigned
Spring 2002 11.0% 36.7% 52.2% Redesigned

Students completing Intermediate Algebra in the redesign and traditional course formats were also tracked into subsequent courses in mathematics to determine any differences in grade performance. In Pre-Calculus Algebra, which is the first course in a two-course pre-calculus sequence, students who previously took Intermediate Algebra in the redesigned format significantly out-performed students who took it in the traditional format. In Finite Math, which is a terminal course for students enrolled in non-quantitative majors, students who previously experienced redesign and traditional formats in Intermediate Algebra performed at about the same levels.

Improved Retention

The average success rate (grade of C- or better) for the redesigned format is 49.1% compared to an average of 46.4% for the traditional format. In general, success rates are higher for fall semester cohorts that are comprised primarily of first-semester freshman than for spring semester cohorts that include students that have been previously unsuccessful in the course or are moving to the course from a lower-level, remedial course. With the exception of the spring 2001 semester, when mandatory attendance was not required, the success rate was generally higher for the redesigned cohorts than for the traditional cohorts. There has also been a steady increase in success rates in the redesigned course through time.

Some groups of students did appreciably better in the redesigned course than others:

  • In fall 2000, 55.8% of freshmen were successful compared to 29.6% of those who had taken the course previously or had moved up from a lower level course. In fall 2001 the freshmen success rate was 65.8% compared to 45.8% for returning students.
  • Females were consistently more successful than their male counterparts. In fall 2000, the success rate for freshmen females was 60.3% versus 51.3% for freshmen males; in fall 2001, it was 71.5% versus 60.8%.
  • The success rate was also substantially higher for African-American freshmen than for Caucasian freshmen. In fall 2000, 71.4% of African-American freshmen were successful versus 51.8% of Caucasian freshmen; in fall 2001, it was 70.0% versus 65.3%.

Other Impacts on Students

  • The student satisfaction rating for the 2001-2002 academic year was the highest of the past four years
  • Sixty-five percent of the students liked using computers to learn mathematics
  • Sixty percent of the students were more likely to ask for help in the redesigned format than in a traditional course setting
  • Fifty-five percent of the students were more likely to complete assignments in the redesigned format.

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