MyMathLab in MyLabsPlus educator study analyzes student outcomes in Precalculus Algebra course at Stanly Community College

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MyMathLab in MyLabsPlus educator study analyzes student outcomes in Precalculus Algebra course at Stanly Community College

Key Findings

  • After implementation of the two-week MyMathLab boot camp in Spring 2015, for the targeted group of students with a high school GPA range of 2.6–2.99, the course completion rate increased an average of 15 percentage points, and the course success rate increased an average of 42 percentage points.
  • Pre-test to post-test scores improved an average of 13 percentage points for the targeted group of students with a high school GPA range of 2.6–2.99 and improved an average of 19 percentage points for all students completing the intervention module.
  • Instructors observed that the Let’s Go Racing module did indeed accomplish their goal of engaging students who were otherwise unwilling, underprepared, or undermotivated. Module completion rate was 89 percent in Fall 2015.
  • Using the coordinator course and course copy features in MyMathLab, the department chair was able to offer all students a similar experience by creating one homogeneous course across all sections, regardless of instructor or method of delivery.

School name
Stanly Community College, Albemarle, NC

Course name
Precalculus Algebra

Course format
Online and hybrid; boot camp

Course materials
MyMathLab in MyLabsPlus; Precalculus: Concepts Through Functions, A Right Triangle Approach to Trigonometry by Sullivan & Sullivan

Timeframe
Fall 2013–Fall 2015

Educator
Brigette Myers, Department Head of Mathematics

Results reported by
Traci Simons and Candace Cooney, Pearson Customer Outcomes Analytics Managers

  • Using the coordinator course and course copy features in MyMathLab, the department chair was able to offer all students a similar experience by creating one homogeneous course across all sections, regardless of instructor or method of delivery.

Setting

Stanly Community College (SCC) is one of 58 community colleges in the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS). SCC is located in Albemarle, NC, with a satellite campus in Locust, NC. This institution is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The college serves over 10,000 students annually in programs including associate degree, diploma, certificate, general education, occupational training, adult literacy, and a comprehensive online degree program.

Students enrolled in the curriculum program at SCC during the 2014–2015 academic year were mostly female (71 percent), 68 percent of students identified as Caucasian, and 18 percent identified as African American. Students age 20–24 comprised 26 percent of the population, students under 20 comprised 25 percent, and students age 25–29 comprised 15 percent.

The school’s website states, “As of 2013, the curriculum program graduation rate for Stanly Community College is 18 percent. This is 12 percentage points lower than desired.” In addition, the school reports a retention rate* of 58 percent as of June 2014—seven percentage points lower than the institutional goal. While graduation and retention rates are not where the college would like them to be, course success rates** are more than five percentage points higher than the institutional goal of 75 percent or higher. As of academic year 2014–2015, the Stanly Community College Curriculum course success rate is 80.2 percent.

*Retention rates are based on the number of first-time, full-time, degree/certificate-seeking students who enter the institution in the fall term and who return to the same institution the following term.

**Success rates are determined by the number of students in a course with a “C” or better compared with the total number of students enrolled in the course.

About the Course

The Precalculus Algebra course at SCC is offered as a 12-week (online) or 16-week (hybrid), three-hour, college-credit course. Students spend two hours in the classroom and two hours in the lab each week. Content is delivered through the Moodle learning management system and through MyMathLab in MyLabsPlus.

The course is designed to develop topics which are fundamental to the study of calculus. Emphasis is placed on solving equations and inequalities, solving systems of equations and inequalities, and analysis of functions (absolute value, radical, polynomial, rational, exponential, and logarithmic) in multiple representations. Upon completion, students should be able to select and use appropriate models and techniques for finding solutions to algebra-related problems with and without technology.

Challenges and Goals

When the NCCCS created its Multiple Measures Placement Policy in 2013, community colleges were required to revamp placement procedures for incoming students across the state within two years. Essentially, incoming students who had graduated from high school within the last five years would be waived from placement testing in math and English if their high school grade point averages (GPA) were 2.6 or above. SCC, an early adopter of Multiple Measures, began to admit students using these new rules in Fall 2013. Student success in gateway math courses was assessed during the following Spring 2014 and Fall 2014 terms. Preliminary results suggested that students with a high school GPA lower than 3.0 who were exempt from placement testing as part of the MM program, referred to as Multiple Measure-waivered (MMW) students, were less likely to be successful in their first math course than were their counterparts whose high school GPAs were 3.0 or above.

This lack of success led SCC to create a just-in-time, boot camp-type intervention that would quickly get students up to speed so they could be successful in the Precalculus Algebra course. Aided by a sub-grant from the Gates Foundation, Stanly developed the Let’s Go Racing Modules Intervention (RMI). The primary goal of the RMI is to help students succeed by identifying gaps in prerequisite knowledge and subsequently providing appropriate lessons for review and remediation of relevant material. Since Brigette Myers, Department Head of Mathematics, and her colleagues had been using MyMathLab for years, were pleased with feedback from their students regarding the product, and would be using it in the Precalculus Algebra course, they opted to use MyMathLab for the two-week RMI as well.

Implementation

Planning to brand their online intervention module and market it to students, SCC instructors looked to North Carolina’s well-known auto racing industry for inspiration and called their module Let’s Go Racing (aka RMI for reporting purposes). They wanted to avoid using terms like pre-test, post-test, and remediation, since they felt those terms sometimes have a negative connotation to students. Instead they named the three phases of the module, Start your Engines, Pit Stops, and Winner’s Circle. According to Myers, “Students don’t question the module. Rather, they tend to jump in and get started on it the first week because we don’t use those terms that they find so scary.” Myers believes that were it not for the motivational aspect of the Let’s Go Racing brand, students may not have engaged with the module as readily or effectively.

Implementation of the RMI in Precalculus Algebra started in Spring 2015. Students were given access to the RMI through MyMathLab with instructions to complete it the first two weeks of class. Each Let’s Go Racing module has three primary sections:

  • Start Your Engines is a 25-question pre-test delivered in MyMathLab and designed to detect prerequisite skill areas in which students need additional training. The test is timed at two hours, and students have one attempt. Created by Myers and Greg Edwards, Coordinator of Developmental Math, the questions cover the appropriate developmental math material needed for the Precalculus Algebra course.
  • Pit Stops are instructional modules that address gaps in knowledge and are assigned as a homework within MyMathLab. Students have unlimited attempts on homework assignments. Students are given a handout (also posted in Moodle) that directs them to the homework problems they should work based on what they answered incorrectly on the Start Your Engines pre-test.
  • Winner’s Circle is a post-test that gauges and records changes in knowledge and skill levels. The post-test is a copy of the pre-test with a two-hour time limit and one attempt allowed. This allows instructors and coordinators to determine the increase in content understanding that occurred by taking the RMI and to anticipate any continued student needs as they enter the Precalculus Algebra course. Student performance on the Winner’s Circle counts as one quiz grade for the entire course.

After the first two weeks of class and completing the Let’s Go Racing modules, students move into the credit-bearing content portion of the MyMathLab course, which includes the following:

  • Homework assignments: There is a required homework assignment for every section covered in the course which is completed in MyMathLab. Students have an unlimited number of attempts on homework assignments, but the assignments should be completed by the due date. There is no time limit on homework assignments. Assignments are due each week on Wednesday night in MyMathLab.
  • Quizzes: There is a required online quiz for each chapter completed in MyMathLab. Quizzes must be completed by the due date. Quizzes are not timed and students have two attempts on each quiz. Only the highest grade of the two attempts is used to calculate student’s course average.
  • Lab assignments: There is a required lab assignment for each chapter in Moodle. For the online course, students print the assignment and complete it. They then submit their answers online in Moodle in the corresponding answer entry sheet. Students have one attempt and a one-hour time limit to enter their answers. For the hybrid version of the course, students complete the lab assignment in the classroom in groups.
  • Pre-tests: There is a required pre-test before the midterm and final exam that must be completed online in MyMathLab by the due date. Students have two attempts and a three-hour time limit on each attempt. The highest grade counts towards students’ final grade.
  • Exams: There is a required midterm and final exam that is completed online in MyMathLab by the due date. Students only have one attempt on each exam. The exams are each timed at two hours.
  • Study Plan (optional): While students are not required to answer questions in the Study Plan, they are encouraged to use it as a resource to assist them in learning the material throughout the course. 

SCC designs the course in MyMathLab using the coordinator course functionality. A master template is used to create all member sections, and each section offers a fully-loaded, ready-to-go course complete with assignments, quizzes, exams, and due dates, intended to offer every student the same experience across all sections. As students progress through the course, they are familiar with how to navigate the program and complete assignments and assessments.

Assessments

  • 23% Chapter quizzes and pre-tests
  • 20% Final exam
  • 20% Midterm exam
  • 20% Homework assignments
  • 17% Chapter labs

Results and Data

For the purpose of this study, students with high school GPAs of 2.6-2.99 were considered the target group for instructor intervention and analysis. Figure 1 compares the course completion and success rates of this group prior to implementing the RMI (Fall 2013–Fall 2014) and after implementation of the RMI (Spring 2015–Fall 2015).

  • Course completion rate increased 15 percentage points after implementation of the RMI.
  • Course success rate increased 42 percentage points after implementation of the RMI.

After implementation of the RMI in Fall 2015, average MyMathLab post-test scores were higher than the average MyMathLab pre-test scores for all student groups, including the target group of Multiple Measures students with high school GPAs of 2.6–2.99 (figure 2):

  • High School GPA 2.6–2.99 students scored 13 percentage points higher on the post-test.
  • All students scored 19 percentage points higher on the post-test.

Course completion and success rates

Figure 1. Course Completion and Success Rates Before and After Implementation of the RMI for Students with HS GPA 2.6–2.99; Pre-intervention (n=30); Post-intervention (n=16)

Pre-test vs. post-test scores

Figure 2. Average Pre-test and Post-test Scores After Implementation of the RMI for Students with HS GPA 2.6–2.99, Spring 2015 and Fall 2015 (n=16)

The Student Experience

Student feedback to instructors has been positive. Some quotes from students collected by the department are as follows:

  • “I believe the Pit Stops were a good use of my time. It helped trigger some of the things I was taught in high school and had forgotten.”
  • “I think it [Start Your Engines Quiz] is a great way to show how prepared a student is for the course.”
  • “The Pit Stops were very helpful in making sure each student covers what they’ve missed in order to succeed in the class without going over what they already know in order to make the most of their time.”

Conclusion

Stanly Community College’s RMI is a unique approach to getting students up-to-speed in the developmental prerequisite knowledge needed for the Precalculus Algebra course. The department has found the module implementation to be cost-effective for both the college and students. Other colleges in the sub-grant chose to require target students to take the remediation as a one-hour, co-requisite course. These students had to pay tuition for that course, and instructors or teaching assistants also had to be paid to teach those courses. At Stanly, there is no extra cost to students to complete the remediation module since the MyStatLab access codes are already a required part of the course. Students responding to the survey reported that RMI was a key motivator that prepared them for work in the credit portion of the course.

Preliminary RMI data indicate that students with a high school GPA of 2.6–2.99 experience lower course completion rates than the other cohorts. Per Stanly’s report, “As the project continues into future semesters, RMI completers will be offered opportunities for feedback, as SCC wants to ensure that the modules are efficient and effective.”

Overall, Myers has found that using MyMathLab to implement early intervention has been a very positive experience because the instructors and students typically find MyMathLab to be very user-friendly. According to Myers, “The module was fairly easy to build and implement since both our developmental and curriculum math courses were already using MyMathLab.” She goes on to state, “MyMathLab has made my job much easier as both an instructor and as the head of the math department. All sections of each course use the same assignments which helps provide homogenization across course sections.” Faculty report that they are happy with the results from the intervention and will continue to closely track student learning gains from pre- to post-test, as well as success and completion rates in gateway math courses.

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