MyMathLab® in MyLabsPlus™ educator study analyzes student outcomes in Developmental Math sequence at Oakton Community College

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MyMathLab in MyLabsPlus educator study analyzes student outcomes in Developmental Math sequence at Oakton Community College

Key Findings

  • For the study period, 86.6 percent of the 1,525 students initially enrolled received final grades. For students completing the developmental courses, the overall pass rate was 98 percent. Nearly two-thirds of those students earned final grades of at least 90 percent.
  • Students passing the courses spent an average of 3.4 hours working in MyMathLab each week, as compared to an average of just 0.9 hours per week for students who did not successfully complete the courses.
  • The data indicate a strong correlation between homework grades and test grades in MyMathLab.
  • A moderately strong correlation exists between the time spent on homework assignments in MyMathLab and a student’s average test grade.

School name
Oakton Community College, Des Plaines, IL

Course names
Prealgebra, Elementary Algebra, and Intermediate Algebra

Course format
Emporium: Scheduled lab, flexible pacing

Course materials
MyMathLab in MyLabsPlus; Prealgebra and Introductory Algebra by Martin-Gay; Intermediate Algebra by Bittinger

Fall 2015

Bob Sompolski, Dean of Math and Technologies

Results reported by
Julianne Labbiento, Pearson Customer Outcomes Analytics Manager


Oakton Community College’s 147-acre main campus sits in a forest preserve in Des Plaines, Illinois, with a second campus in Skokie. A public two-year community college in the heart of Chicago’s northern suburbs, Oakton Community College serves approximately 46,000 students from 55 nations. More than half come from a minority background, bringing a wealth of diversity to campus. Oakton offers associate degrees in 80 areas of study, preparing students to transfer to four-year institutions or to enter the workforce.

About the Course

Oakton Community College offers three levels of developmental algebra: Prealgebra, Elementary Algebra, and Intermediate Algebra. These sequential courses utilize an instructor and tutor and are based in a computer lab classroom with MyMathLab. Each course is divided into five modules containing homework assignments, quizzes, and module post-tests. Students spend four hours per week working in the lab. Faculty do not lecture, but are encouraged to find students working on the same module and give mini-lectures as needed.

The Prealgebra course includes fundamental concepts, operations, and applications of arithmetic in basic algebraic contexts including linear equations, statistics, square roots, graphing, and polynomials. Elementary Algebra explores linear equations and inequalities, polynomial operations, graphing equations and inequalities in two variables, and systems of equations. Finally, the Intermediate Algebra modules include real and complex numbers, exponents, polynomials, radicals, first- and second-degree equations, systems of equations, inequalities, and rational expressions.

Students may complete a course at any time during the semester. Upon completion of a course, the student can immediately start the next sequential course. A new MyMathLab access code must be purchased at that time. If all modules of a course are not successfully completed within a semester, the student can re-enroll in the same course the following semester and begin with their first uncompleted module. Grades for any of the five modules that a student passes for any of the courses are honored for up to two years, so students can easily pick up where they left off.

Challenges and Goals

Oakton’s policy prior to redesign in 2012 was to have MyMathLab shells available for the classes but not to require faculty to use them. Some faculty would engage completely, while other faculty would ignore the shells entirely, even though all students had access to their course shells. According to Bob Sompolski, Dean of Math and Technologies, students also exhibited many gaps either coming into or leaving the Intermediate Algebra course due to inconsistencies in classes at that level. Part of the strategy of the redesign was to close those gaps, while increasing success rates at the developmental level and ensuring consistency across all courses.


The courses utilize MyLabsPlus as the primary means for material dissemination in a flipped, computer-based classroom with a self-accelerated format. Labs are scheduled and are flexibly paced, with students receiving a pacing guide at the beginning of the semester. Due dates exist, but students are not penalized for late work; if they fall behind, the instructor reiterates that if they stay behind, they will not finish. Students may always work ahead and are encouraged to finish early and move on to the next course, if possible.

Each module contains homework, a quiz, and a post-test. Students have unlimited attempts on all assessments. They are encouraged to achieve the recommended 100 percent mastery level on homework assignments and quizzes, with all learning aids turned on for the homeworks. Multiple attempts are also allowed on post-tests;  students unable to achieve the 75 percent mastery level are required to complete a personalized homework before re-testing.

The objectives contained in the five required modules for each course are summarized below:


Module 1

  • Perform operations with whole numbers and integers
  • Solve applications with whole numbers and integers

Module 2

  • Solve linear equations with integers
  • Perform operations on algebraic expressions
  • Solve problems with linear equations
  • Simplify fractions
  • Multiply and divide fractions

Module 3

  • Add/subtract fractions
  • Solve linear equations with fractions
  • Solve applications with fractions

Module 4

  • Solve operations with decimals
  • Solve linear equations with decimals
  • Solve problems using ratios, rates, and proportions
  • Calculate square roots and apply them to formulas

Module 5

  • Perform operations with percents
  • Solve applications with percentages
  • Calculate measurements of geometric figures

Elementary Algebra

Module 6

  • Solve and graph first degree equations in one variable
  • Solve formulas for specific variables
  • Solve applications involving first degree equations in one variable
  • Solve and graph first- degree inequalities in one variable

Module 7

  • Simplify expressions using the laws of exponents
  • Calculate using Scientific Notation
  • Perform addition/subtraction of polynomials
  • Perform multiplication of polynomials
  • Perform division of a polynomial by a monomial

Module 8

  • Factor out greatest common factor
  • Factor trinomials
  • Factor polynomials using difference of squares
  • Solve quadratic equations by factoring

Module 9

  • Solve and graph first degree equations in two variables
  • Calculate slope and intercepts of linear equations in two variables
  • Solve applied problems involving slope
  • Solve and graph first degree inequalities in two variables

Module 10

  • Recognize and apply concepts involving functions
  • Solve problems involving direct and indirect variation
  • Solve systems of two equations using graphing, substitution, and addition methods.
  • Recognize and apply concepts regarding applications involving systems of two equations

Intermediate Algebra

Module 11

  • Use interval notation
  • Find intersections, unions, and compound inequalities
  • Calculate the absolute value of equations and inequalities
  • Solve systems of equations with three variables
  • Solve applied problems using systems of equations

Module 12

  • Factor polynomials, including sums and differences of cubes
  • Solve second degree equations by factoring
  • Calculate, simplify, and perform operations on rational expressions
  • Find the LCMs of rational expressions
  • Demonstrate the ability to divide polynomials

Module 13

  • Simplify complex fractions
  • Solve rational equations
  • Recognize and apply applications of rational equations, including proportions
  • Compute with rational formulas and applications
  • Calculate variation and applications

Module 14

  • Simplify and perform operations on radical expressions
  • Compute with rational numbers as exponents
  • Solve radical equations
  • Perform the basic operations of complex numbers

Module 15

  • Solve quadratic equations using the principle of square roots, completing the square and the quadratic formula
  • Apply concepts learned to solving word problems

While a few instructors were not interested in teaching the courses under the redesign, others are very happy with the format and have seen a reallocation of the distribution of their time. The use of MyMathLab has increased, thereby decreasing time spent on grading. Now, more time goes into maintaining the MyMathLab gradebook and making regular use of the analytics it provides. There is also a greater expectation that faculty be available off-campus to answer student emails in a timely manner.

Before proceeding with the redesign, Oakton’s developmental classrooms had an allocation of 20 students each. With the emporium model, faculty were asked to be cost effective, which required raising the allocation to 30 students in the Prealgebra and Elementary Algebra classes and 35 in the Intermediate Algebra classes. Math faculty asked for help with classrooms that large, so the Learning Center provides an embedded tutor for all sections that exceed an enrollment of 20 students. The Learning Center, housed in the Student Success Center, also provides free tutoring encompassing all subject areas.


To pass the Prealgebra course, students must earn 100 percent on every homework section, at least 70 percent on every quiz, and at least 70 percent on every post-test. Minimum scores in the Elementary Algebra and Intermediate Algebra courses are determined by the instructor. Each of the first four modules for any of the three courses must be completed with the minimal required post-test score to proceed to the final module for the course. Although the course is delivered on the computer, all work for exercises must be completed in a notebook.

Results and Data

Sompolski believes that results for Fall 2015 are impressive:

  • 86.6 percent of the 1,525 students initially enrolled were retained through the end of the semester.
  • 97.9 percent of the 1,320 students who completed their respective math courses (Prealgebra, Elementary Algebra, or Intermediate Algebra course) earned credit for the course.
  • Nearly two-thirds of all student final grades were at least 90 percent.

Figure 1 displays the final course grade distribution by course.

Distribution of final course scores

Figure 1. Distribution of Final Course Scores, Fall 2015, Prealgebra (n=370); Elementary Algebra (n=440); Intermediate Algebra (n=510)

Figure 2 examines the average weekly time spent working in MyMathLab as it relates to course success. Students passing their Prealgebra, Elementary Algebra, or Intermediate Algebra courses spent nearly four times as much time working in MyMathLab each week as those who did not pass. A t-test, which measures whether the means of two groups are statistically different, was used to compare the average weekly time spent in MyMathLab of students who passed their course and the average weekly time spent in MyMathLab of students who failed their course. Results of the t-test show that students who passed their course (mean = 3.4 hours) spent more time in MyMathLab than students who failed their course (mean = 0.9 hours), where t(34) = 12.69 and p<0.001, indicating that this increase was statistically significant.

Time spent in MyMathLab, in hours per week

Figure 2. Time Spent in MyMathLab, in Hours per Week, Fall 2015; Students Passing the Course (n=1,292); Students Failing the Course (n=28)

Figures 3 and 4 are correlation graphs. A correlation measures the strength of a relationship between two variables, where r is the correlation coefficient. The closer the r value is to 1.0, the stronger the correlation. The corresponding p-value measures the statistical significance or strength of the correlation, where a p-value < 0.001 shows the existence of a positive correlation between these two variables. Note that correlation does not imply causation; it is simply a measure of the strength of the relationship.

Figure 3 examines the correlation between homework grades and test grades in MyMathLab. Note that only students posting both homework and test grades are included in the analysis. Data indicate a strong correlation between these two grades, regardless of the course, r(1,245)=0.75, p<0.001.

Correlation between homework and test scores

Figure 3. Correlation between Homework and Test Grades in MyMathLab, Fall 2015 (n=1,247)

When the time spent working on homework assignments in MyMathLab was compared with students’ test grades, regardless of which course they were in, a moderately strong correlation was found, r(1,245)=0.50, p<0.001. (figure 4.) Again, only students posting both homework and test grades are included in the analysis.

Correlation between time spent on homework and test score

Figure 4. Correlation between the Number of Hours Spent on Homework Assignments in MyMathLab and Students’ Test Scores , Fall 2015

The Student Experience

In a survey given at the beginning of the semester (27 percent response rate), students were asked about their feelings towards math prior to the start of their course. Results indicate that 61 percent strongly agreed or agreed with the statement, “I get very nervous doing math problems,” and 71 percent strongly agreed or agreed with the statement, “I feel helpless when doing math problems.” Approximately 50 percent of students who ultimately completed the course self-identified as first-generation college students, having parents who may or may not have completed high school, but did not attend college. At the end of the semester, 90 percent of those first-generation college students earned passing grades in the Prealgebra, Elementary Algebra, or Intermediate Algebra course in which they were enrolled.

While only six percent of students completed an end-of-semester survey, those who responded overwhelmingly found MyMathLab to be an important factor in their learning. Some comments included:

Question: How has MyMathLab impacted your learning in the course?

  • “It was helpful especially with the problems I had to do over and over again.”
  • “It helps me keep on track of what homework I needed to do and also prepare for what test or quizzes I need to study for.”
  • “Really amazing!!! I am really weak at math but now I feel confident in doing math or learning math.”

Question: What do you think are the benefits of using MyMathLab?

  • “I can go on my own pace and there are similar questions on sections I can redo.”
  • “Instant feedback when a problem is solved incorrectly. Love the *Help Me Solve This* feature as well as *Similar Problem* feature.”
  • “It tracks your improvement and it helps you understand the material you are learning.”


Prior to redesign, Sompolski says, “Success rates on the lowest levels of math were horrible, and we were desperate to do anything to improve.” Post-redesign, he reports that all faculty now use MyMathLab in a consistent manner, leading to improved success rates and strong correlations between homework and test grades in Oakton’s Prealgebra, Elementary Algebra, and Intermediate Algebra courses.

1 Comment

  1. It’s surprising to find on a resource so precious about equations.

    We will note your page as a benchmark for MyMathLab® in MyLabsPlus™
    educator study analyzes student outcomes in Developmental Math sequence at
    Oakton Community College.
    We also invite you to link and other web resources for equations
    like or
    Thank you ang good luck!

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