Montana State University-Billings

Billings, MT | state university | 4,400+ students

Product: MyLab Math
Course: Introductory and Intermediate Algebra
Method: Face to face

Around 2008, mathematics faculty at Montana State University–Billings (MSUB) noticed an increase in the number of developmental math students entering Intermediate Algebra with noticeable knowledge gaps, and many students were forced to repeat the entire course despite having passed a part of it. They explored a variety of modularized programs and, ultimately, created their own: a combined Introductory and Intermediate Algebra course.

The new course was piloted in 2009 and 2010 and was formally implemented in 2011 with the hypothesis that students would complete the two courses more quickly — and with fewer gaps in knowledge — in a mastery-based, modularized format. The mastery-based course is built utilizing the prerequisites function in MyLab™ Math.

“I liked that it forced me to work on problems that I didn’t fully understand.”

—Student, Montana State University–Billings

How did they use prerequisites?

At the beginning of each semester, students take a series of MyLab pre-tests that mimic the learning outcomes of that module. If they score below 80 percent, prerequisite settings require them to complete Personalized Homework and other remediation offerings before attempting the pre-test a second time.

Students who score 80 percent or higher on the pre-test earn credit for that module and are allowed to start the next module’s pre-test. At the end of the five days, students are placed into the appropriate module as indicated by their demonstrated knowledge.

Once in their assigned module, students complete homework, quizzes, and tests in MyLab. If students earn less than 80 percent mastery on a quiz, prerequisite settings require that they complete a Personalized Homework to help target their remediation before attempting the quiz again.

The results

Pass rate data were analyzed for both the stand-alone Introductory Algebra and Intermediate Algebra courses (traditional) and the modular course based on where students would have traditionally placed. Modular students who would have placed into the traditional Introductory Algebra course had pass rates 13 percentage points higher than students in the traditional course. On the other hand, there was a slight decrease of six percentage points for modular students who would have placed into Intermediate Algebra.

Pass rates before and after Mylab Math implementation

Figure 1. Pass Rates Before and After Modular Redesign with MyLab Math, Fall 2011–Spring 2014 (n=2,200)

Figure 1. Pass Rates Before and After Modular Redesign with MyLab Math, Fall 2011–Spring 2014 (n=2,200)

“We’re trying to prepare students for success in their next courses — and we’re getting there.”

—Chairsty Stewart, Developmental Math Chair, Montana State University–Billings