MyMathLab® in MyLabsPlus™ educator study analyzes student outcomes in Elementary Plane Geometry

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MyMathLab® in MyLabsPlus™ educator study analyzes student outcomes in Elementary Plane Geometry

Key Findings

  • For the study period, 86 percent of the 121 students initially enrolled received final grades. For students completing the course, the overall pass rate was 98 percent. Nearly 22 percent of those students earned final grades of at least 90 percent.
  • Students passing with a 70 percent or greater spent nearly an hour longer per week working in MyMathLab than those who did not pass.
  • A moderately strong correlation exists between MyMathLab homework grades and students’ average test grades.

School name
Oakton Community College, Des Plaines, IL

Course name
Elementary Plane Geometry

Course format
Emporium: Scheduled lab, flexible pacing

Course materials
MyMathLab in MyLabsPlus; Geometry by Charles/Hall/Basia/Kennedy

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 and one developmental geometry course, Elementary Plane Geometry. This geometry course is designed to introduce students to points, lines, planes, angles, triangles, congruence, quadrilaterals, area, similarity, and circles. The course is lab based, utilizing a classroom instructor and MyMathLab. It is divided into five modules, containing homework assignments, quizzes, and module post-tests. Students are expected to 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.

Students may complete the course at any time during the semester. If all modules of a course are not successfully completed within a semester, students can re-enroll in the same course the following semester beginning with their first uncompleted module.

Challenges and Goals

The Illinois Articulation Initiative (IAI), established approximately 15 years ago to enhance transfer between 2-year and 4-year schools in Illinois, includes a guarantee of geometry proficiency before students can take a math general education class. While Illinois has a history of requiring high school geometry of all secondary students, not all pass. Originally, the geometry proficiency requirement was applied to every student who wanted to take a  general education math course under this initiative, which included the following offered at Oakton: Finite Mathematics, Discrete Mathematics, General Education Mathematics, Mathematics for Elementary Teaching I and II, General Education Statistics, Quantitative Literacy, Calculus for Business and Social Sciences, and College-level Calculus I, II, and III. The Illinois community colleges had the burden of either confirming that students had geometry in high school or finding a way for students to demonstrate that proficiency. Bob Sompolski, Dean of Math and Technologies, explains that Oakton decided to create a separate class for students who hadn’t passed the course in high school, primarily because incorporating the geometry content into an existing course would have limited the choice in textbooks.

Note: In May 2016, the requirements were changed slightly and now only affect a student’s eligibility to take Mathematics for Elementary Teaching I and II and the four Calculus courses offered at Oakton, essentially only affecting Calculus-bound students and K-8 education majors.


Elementary Plane Geometry utilizes MyMathLab in 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, if possible. Table 1 summarizes the five required modules for Elementary Plane Geometry:

Module A

  • Use Undefined terms, Postulates, and Theorems
  • Recognize parallel and perpendicular lines
  • Demonstrate when lines are parallel
Module B

  • Find angular measure
  • Recognize congruence between triangles
  • Show similarity between triangles
Module C

  • Identify quadrilaterals in a plane
  • Demonstrate properties of quadrilaterals
  • Demonstrate ability to identify polygons (regular and sum of interior and exterior angles)
Module D

  • Show the ability to specify polygonal regions
  • Calculate areas of triangles and quadrilaterals
  • Demonstrate the ability to calculate and apply the Pythagorean Theorem
  • Calculate the circumference of a circle
  • Calculate the area of a circle
  • Compute the length of arcs and area of sectors
Module E

  • Demonstrate the ability to calculate and recognize solids and their volumes and surface area, specifically prisms and pyramids, cylinders and cones, and spheres
  • Use geometric terminology
  • Show the understanding of mathematical reasoning
  • Demonstrate knowledge pertaining to the concepts of congruence and similarity to triangles
  • Apply the concepts of parallel and perpendicular to lines and polygons
  • Calculate and apply the concepts of perimeter and area to polygons
  • Calculate and perform the measurements dealing with a circle
  • Perform the measurements dealing with solids

Table 1. Modules for Elementary Plane Geometry

Prior to redesign, the format was lecture/discussion. The course always had a high success rate since many Illinois students took the course in high school, but did not do well enough to meet the standards set by the IAI to proceed. Sompolski says that the conversion of the course into the emporium model was an attempt to allow those who needed only a quick review of the material to pass through quickly and accelerate into more advanced courses.

Faculty members no longer lecture; instead they are encouraged to find students working on the same module and give mini-lectures to those students, as needed. 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. Instead, more faculty time has gone into maintaining gradebooks and making regular use of the analytics it provides. There is also a greater expectation that faculty spend more time working off-campus to keep up with student emails.

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 per class. 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 Elementary Plane Geometry course, students must earn minimum scores as determined by the department. Course participants must attend scheduled class hours as well as one computer lab hour per week. The first four modules must be completed with the minimal required post-test score to proceed to the final module for the course.

Results and Data

Several analyses were completed on data containing student scores from the Elementary Plane Geometry course. Data were obtained from the MyMathLab course gradebook and pre- and post-semester surveys were given to students. With 121 students initially enrolled, 86 percent were retained through the end of the semester, and 98 percent of those retained earned credit for the course. Credit is given to students who earn final course grades of 70 percent or greater. Figure 1 displays the final course grade distribution.

Distribution of final course scores

Figure 1. Distribution of Final Course Scores, Fall 2015 (n=104)

Figure 2 presents the total time spent working in MyMathLab per week and student success in the course. Students passing the Elementary Plane Geometry course with a final course grade of 70 percent or greater spent nearly one hour longer per week working in MyMathLab compared to those who did not pass the course.

Total 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=102); Students Failing the Course (n=2)

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. Data indicate a moderately strong correlation between these two grades, r(102)=0.51, p<0.001.

Correlation between homework and test scores in MyMathLab

Figure 3. Correlation between Homework and Test Scores in MyMathLab, Fall 2015 (n=104)

The Student Experience

In a survey given at the beginning of the semester (14 percent response rate), approximately 47 percent of respondents 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, 78 percent of those first-generation students responding earned credit for the course.

Students were asked about their attitudes towards math prior to the start of their course. Response rates to those statements and ultimate course success rates for those students are illustrated in the following table.

“I get very nervous doing math problems.” 86 percent agreed or strongly agreed 83 percent of those students passed the course
“I feel helpless when doing math problems.” 86 percent agreed or strongly agreed 75 percent of those students passed the course
“I’m just no good at math.” 79 percent agreed or strongly agreed 82 percent of those students passed the course
“I worry that I will get poor grades in math.” 53 percent agreed or strongly agreed 78 percent of those students passed the course

Table 2. Responses to Selected Statements from a Survey Given at the Beginning of the Semester, the Percentage of Students Who Agreed or Strongly Agreed with the Statements, and the Percentage of Students Who Responded Agree or Strongly Agree and Subsequently Earned Credit for the Course, Fall 2015

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

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

  • “It made me pay attention more to the examples given and therefore led to my success in this class.”
  • “Made difficult problems more understandable.”

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

  • “Being able to open it at any moment during anytime of the day.”
  • “It is a lot of individual work which can make a person solve the problem by understanding it clearly. Also, Mathlab [sic] requires a 100% on the homework assignments which really did help me learn the topic more.”
  • “multiple perspectives…”


As the success rates and correlation in homework and test grades show, students clearly benefit from the Elementary Plane Geometry course, as it continues to serve its prerequisite role in response to the Illinois Articulation Initiative requirement. Sompolski relates, however, that in response to the May 2016 update to the policy, he has seen the need for the course decrease by nearly half. He postulates that since those students matriculating into Calculus-based or K-8 education majors have likely completed their geometry requirement satisfactorily at the secondary level, there is less of a need for them to take the geometry course at Oakton. The conversion to the emporium model offers students who do need to take the Elementary Plane Geometry course the opportunity to successfully complete their prerequisite in an accelerated manner, thereby allowing them to continue into their advanced courses more quickly.


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