|Colleagues Committed to Redesign (C2R)
Hagerstown Community College
Course Title: College Algebra
Status: This project was part of Round I of NCAT's FIPSE-funded Colleagues Committed to Redesign (C2R) program, 2007 – 2008. Participants conducted a pilot of their redesign plans in fall 2007. In the C2R program, NCAT’s role was to introduce the course redesign methodology to participating institutions, assist them in developing project plans and work with them through the pilot period. NCAT was not involved in full implementation; consequently, the project’s status beyond the pilot period is unknown. For more information, contact the project contact listed above.
Hagerstown Community College (HCC) plans to redesign College Algebra, one of the three highest enrolled courses at the institution with a current annual enrollment of ~745 students. The traditional course consists of lecture only, taught by as many as 13 different faculty members. Teachers vary in delivery method and use a range of different grading techniques. There is a common syllabus and every instructor gives a common five-question assessment at the end of the course. The math department faculty grade the common assessment using an agreed-upon rubric.
HCC is one of the fastest growing community colleges in Maryland. The projected increased demand for College Algebra, already one of the college's most heavily enrolled courses, will place further strains on the college's available classroom space. A second challenge is improving the student performance rate above the current 65% of students earning a C or better.
The college's redesign plan will use the Replacement Model, replacing the current format with two hours of lecture and two hours of lab. This structure will give students four contact hours with their instructor each week. The computer lab will be open for students to come in for additional time as well as extra help from a trained lab assistant, a mathematics tutor or an instructor.
The redesign will enhance quality by ensuring course consistency across all sections. Students will become active learners in this new environment. The introduction of a computer-based lab experience using MyMathLab will provide the students with individualized assistance, ongoing assessment and sufficient time on task. Providing multiple opportunities for assistance as well as immediate feedback throughout the course should improve student performance and completion rates.
The evaluation of student learning will focus on the common five-question assessment given at the end of the course since spring 2005. This assessment will provide baseline data to compare student performance in the redesigned course, which will use the same assessment questions. Common tests and final exams are also part of the assessment plan. Following the redesign, the college plans to expand its use of the Collegiate Assessment of Academic Proficiency (CAAP) test to compare HCC students with students nationally.
The redesigned course will reduce the number of sections from 33 to 19 with an increase in section size from ~25 to 40. The annual enrollment will increase slightly from 745 to 760. These actions will reduce the cost-per-student by 54%, from $211 to $97. The savings resulting from the redesign will remain in the mathematics department to support the expanded use of the CAAP test and to link students back to their Computer-adaptive Placement Assessment and Support Services (COMPASS) placement tests. Further institutional savings are projected because the redesign will use less classroom space, which will become available for other courses.
During the fall 2007 pilot, students in both modes (traditional and redesign) learned the same amount. There has been substantial improvement in course completion among students in the redesigned format. There have been fewer withdrawals in the redesigned sections. In fall 2006 and fall 2007, 9.9% and 8% students taking the course in the traditional mode respectively withdrew. In the redesigned fall 2007 sections, 5.6% withdrew. In addition, the redesigned sections experienced fewer “walk-aways” (students who did not appear for the final exam.): 28.4% of fall 2006 and 31.6% of fall 2007 traditional students did not take the final exam; in fall 2007, only16.7% of redesigned students failed to appear for the final examination.
Because the redesign has produced equal to better student performance while saving operating costs and making classrooms available for other departments, HCC intends to fully implement the redesign in spring 2008.
A key to sustainability is the continuing administrative support for the redesign. Also contributing to the team’s ability to sustain the initiative are new faculty members, who show an interest and willingness to participate. Positive student performance and their acceptance of the redesign provide additional rationale for sustainability.
Pedagogical Improvement Techniques
What techniques contributed most to improving the quality of student learning?
Computer exercises that engage students in learning. Using software tutorials, students received immediate feedback on their homework. Students in redesigned sections did homework at rates greater than those in traditional sections. A great majority of students liked both the software and the immediate feedback.
Low-stakes quizzes and attendance points. Completing quizzes and attendance were designed to be a small percentage of the overall course grade. Attendance noticeably improved. The ability of students to re-take quizzes led to students spending more time analyzing their work and re-taking quizzes to improve their grades.
Individualized instruction. Instruction was provided by a team of faculty, professional tutors and student tutors, which improved efficiency of the teaching and learning process. This process ensured that students received individual assistance when they needed it, as well as one-to-one diagnostic assistance.
Cost Reduction Techniques
What techniques contributed most to reducing costs?
Increased section size. The redesign plan was to reduce the number of sections from 33 to 19 with an increase in section size from ~25 to 40. All College Algebra students will use the redesign model in spring 2008 (7 sections with 40 students) and fall 2008 (10 sections with 40 students).
What implementation issues were most important?
Support from Division of Academic Affairs. Support from this division and its Vice President has been a strong feature of the redesign project. The redesign team has received substantial encouragement and freedom to try new things from this unit.
Technology requirements. The department adopted commercial software as part of its redesign project, which required additional support from the college’s Information Technology department. This support was not always forthcoming in a timely manner. Service from the software vendor was normally reliable.
Impact on college testing center. Currently, 259 College Algebra students are completing four course exams by fixed due dates in the testing center. The center has not been able to increase staffing to accommodate this schedule.
Hagerstown Community College piloted its redesign of college algebra in fall 2007. Today the course has been fully implemented. The percentage of students earning a grade of C or better in the traditional course was 53%; the percentage of students earning a grade of C or better was 67% after the redesign was fully implemented in fall 2008. According to faculty, the course is now more difficult, so the increase in student success is even more impressive.