Anytime, anywhere learning: Education for the new generation of students

Two math teachers communicating through video conference on a tablet

We have all heard it said thousands of times by now, “This generation of students is different and require new methods of learning.” As authors of textbooks, we wanted to learn about students and their perspectives, no matter what age, generation, learning style. So during the past several years, we have made a concerted effort to work with faculty throughout the country visiting colleges, attending conferences, and holding focus groups. The valuable feedback was insightful.

What we discovered

One of the things we wanted to understand was how students used online tutorials, like those found in MyMathLab. We had experience from using these in our own courses, but we also talked with other faculty about how they used online tutorials in their classrooms to aggregate the information into our own. What we discovered was that students proceed directly to computer tutorials, ignoring print materials or e-books. Because of their eagerness to skip to the homework, they don’t fully understand the concepts and therefore become frustrated when trying to complete the homework. Notes from class or written work from their computer-based homework is either non-existent or unorganized. Because of this students lack materials needed to use as study aides.

Another thing we found was that students today desire active learning. They like interactive learning tools instead of solely using traditional books, e-books, or even listening to lectures. Yes, we found that there are still students who are accustomed to the traditional modality of learning, but those numbers appear to be shrinking. Today’s students engage in social media, build their own online presence, create music, build apps, write blogs, and a myriad of other activities on the internet. They want to engage online, and they want to engage with their learning too.

And lastly, they want to learn any time, place, and way they choose. They want the freedom to access their courses through their smart phones, tablets, laptops, or computers. Due to their busy schedules, they need to be able to access their homework and course materials any time they want.

What did we do as a result of what we found?

We developed an interactive digital course that engages students while they learn topics in small chunks to help increase their understanding and retention. In addition to the manageable chunks, we designed the modules to ensure that students interact as they proceed through the examples and concepts. Every step of the journey, we tried to ensure that students will be actively engaged.

MyMathLab eCourse Screen Shot

Then to satisfy the “anytime-anyway” requirement, we built the flexibility needed into the program so that they can access the course on both mobile devices and desktop computers. We built in workbooks for note-taking and extra practice, and options for students to make flash cards and other learning tools.

And since we are instructors, we knew MyMathLab eCourse needed to include every topic necessary to teach the full developmental math sequence.


We would love to hear from you during our International Conference on Technology in Collegiate Mathematics presentation, Mobile Interactive Courses: Education for the New Generation of Students, March 11, 2016. You can experience the modules first hand, and explore ways to implement active learning in your classrooms. Or feel free to leave a comment below.


About the Authors

Textbook authors Crawford Tobey Blair SlaterIn addition to the digital MyMathLab eCourse for developmental math, the authors have written a series of seven developmental books ranging from arithmetic through intermediate algebra.

John Tobey received his BA in mathematics from Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois in 1965, his MA in mathematics education from Harvard University in 1966, and his PhD in mathematics education from Boston University in 1980. He has taught in the mathematics department at the United States Military Academy at West Point and served as the Mathematics Department Chairman at North Shore Community College in Danvers, Massachusetts for five years. John has served as the president of the New England Mathematics Association of Two Year Colleges. He has received the NISOD award for outstanding teaching from the University of Texas at Austin. John has spoken to many mathematics departments and at many professional meetings throughout the country on the topic of developmental mathematics education and distance learning in mathematics. He lives in Massachusetts.

Jeffrey Slater has been a professor at North Shore Community College for thirty-eight years and received the Teacher of the Year award in 2002. Jeff travels around the country speaking on student retention and is also a consultant to the Federal Government. He lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts with his wife Shelley and his yellow lab Gracie.

Jamie Blair directed the Mathematics Learning Center at Orange Coast College for the over 20 years. She designed, developed, and implemented the Center, and as a result of this effort has provided technical expertise related to the particulars of the Math Center to numerous other two-year colleges and at many conferences. Jamie also developed and teaches 5 levels of developmental math in a self-paced learning lab. In 1998 she has received the NISOD award for her presentations titled: A Dynamic Learning Center.   In 2007 Jamie was appointed to the Team of Basic Skills Specialists by the California State Academic Senate. She specializes in teaching students who have never been successful in mathematics. She is an expert in the area of basic skills in relation to the learning needs of students. She lives in California.

Jennifer Crawford received her BS in mathematics from the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 1995 and her MS in mathematics from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 1998. She taught a wide range of courses at North Shore Community College in Danvers, Massachusetts for five years. She currently teaches at Normandale Community College in Bloomington, Minnesota where her focus is working with developmental math students. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband, two young children, and black lab.