|Program in Course Redesign
University of Idaho
The Traditional Course
Intermediate Algebra, Algebra, and Pre-Calculus comprise a group of developmental-level courses that review information offered in high school math. Students in the colleges of engineering and business as well as in the various sciences are required to understand pre-calculus in order to take a number of courses in their majors. With a total of 2,428 students enrolled, all three courses are taught in a traditional lecture format. Students receive support from a Mathematics Assistance Center, a drop-in facility staffed mainly by undergraduate assistants. However, students must seek help on their own; the active learning, immediate feedback, and personalized instruction available from the assistance center are not embedded in the traditional lecture format.
There are five academic problems to be solved:
To address these problems, faculty initially planned to redesign Intermediate Algebra, the first course in the developmental sequence, as a studio course taught in groups with computer support. However, faculty then decided on a more global redesign of the three courses—and of the way in which math skills are taught at the University—based on the model of Virginia Tech's Math Emporium.
The Redesigned Course
The prime objective in course redesign is to use technology in a math learning center in order to move students from a passive learning environment to an active one in which the student controls and individualizes learning based on personal needs. The three developmental-level courses and the Mathematics Assistance Center will merge into a new learning center called Polya, which will house material and personnel to support student learning.
The goals for the redesigned environment include the following:
In order to achieve these goals, faculty will redesign the pre-calculus learning environment using technology. Polya, housed in an easily-accessible building, will contain 72 computers in pods of four that are designed for as many as three students to work together at a single monitor. Students will not required to be in Polya in order to learn since most of the technology will be Web-accessible. Polya will use commercially-available math tutorial software that generates problems and offers immediate feedback. Lectures of about 25 minutes, covering topics in the math textbooks, will be available on streaming video or video-on-demand. Weekly quizzes and tests will be available so that students can repeat them up to three times, with consultation and additional study between attempts. Professors, instructors, graduate teaching assistants (GTAs), and undergraduate teaching assistants (UTAs) will be available in Polya to work with students in groups and individually. Online bulletin boards and e-mail will provide a continuous means of communication between students and instructors.
In line with the new learning environment, faculty will replace the more rigidly-structured traditional courses with a fluid, personalized learning experience for students. Pre-calculus students will be divided into focus groups of 40 to 50 each, with an attempt to group students according to their majors so that the group can emphasize particular applications of pre-calculus. Each focus group will meet once a week to coordinate activities and discuss experiences and expectations. The written portions (20%) of tests will be done in the focus group as well.
Aside from the weekly focus group meeting, students will have the freedom to manage their learning time, types of learning activities, and rate of progress in learning pre-calculus concepts and skills. They may work with textbook exercises and math tutorial software, view taped lectures, attend live lectures in Polya, get individual help from instructors and TAs, and/or work in small or larger seminar groups.
Traditional Course Structure
Redesigned Course Structure
In summary, the redesign will implement the following changes:
Program in Course Redesign Quick Links: