MyMathLab in MyLabsPlus educator study measures student success in Mathematical Literacy course at Lehigh Carbon Community College

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MyLab Math in MyLabsPlus educator study measures student success in Mathematical Literacy course at Lehigh Carbon Community College

Key Findings

  • Two years after moving from a traditional lecture format to a modified emporium format, Mathematical Literacy pass rates are nine percentage points higher than the original developmental sequence. After implementation, Mathematical Literacy also boasts a grade distribution with quadruple the proportion of As when compared to the pre-implementation sequence.
  • Objectives from three traditional three-credit developmental courses were reorganized int one six-credit course, allowing students the possibility of completing up to nine credits of prior content in as little as one semester. On average, students are successfully completing the Mathematical Literacy course 27 percent faster than the traditional sequence.
  • Faculty wanted their students to take a more active role in their learning, and the data suggest that students responded favorably to a big shift in teaching styles in the Mathematical Literacy course. Course consistency was established through the use of coordinator and member course design in MyLabsPlus.

School name
Lehigh Carbon Community College, Schnecksville, PA

Course name
Mathematical Literacy

Course formats
Modified emporium in a computer classroom (75 minutes, four days per week or 150 minutes, two days per week) or online; self-accelerated with deadlines; adaptive learning; hand-graded exams and work packets

Course materials
● MyLab Math/MyLabsPlus access code
● Customized textbook: Prealgebra by Lial; Elementary Algebra by Lehmann
Faculty-designed work packet
● Scientific calculator

Timeframe
2014–2016

Submitted by
Christy Hediger, Assistant Professor of Mathematics, Lehigh Carbon Community College
Julie Labbiento, Pearson Customer Outcomes Analytics Manager

Setting

Lehigh Carbon Community College (LCCC) is a public, comprehensive, two-year college located in Schnecksville, Pennsylvania, serving Lehigh County, Carbon County, and Schuylkill County. The three counties provide a diverse array of environments and students; LCCC has responded with distinct satellite campuses in each county. In addition to a larger main campus in rural Schnecksville (Lehigh) and a mid-sized urban site in nearby downtown Allentown (Lehigh), classes are also offered at a small rural site in Tamaqua (Schuylkill) and a very small rural site in Jim Thorpe (Carbon).

LCCC strives to prepare students for their futures by offering a 41 career and 29 transfer associate degrees, as well as 22 certificates and diplomas. The most popular majors vary by campus, but include liberal arts, business administration, psychology, biology, general studies, nursing, and criminal justice. Students seeking transfer degrees outnumber those seeking career degrees or diplomas 67.6 percent to 32.4 percent.

With a student body of over 6,000, the LCCC student population is a diverse mix of students. In Fall 2015, the mean age of degree-seeking students was just over 25 years old, with approximately 28 percent of students attending full-time and 62 percent taking classes part-time. Most students identify as Caucasian (61.7 percent), Hispanic (17.0 percent), or African-American (5.9 percent), and the female to male student ratio is 3:2.

About the Course

The Mathematical Literacy course at LCCC replaces three previously-offered levels of developmental mathematics and is designed to prepare the student for a successful transition to college level mathematics. It addresses topics including evaluating numeric expressions composed of whole numbers, integers, fractions and decimals, rates, ratios, and percents; simplifying and evaluating a variety of algebraic expressions and polynomials in one or more variables and using exponent laws; solving first-degree equations and inequalities in one variable; proportions and percent equations; creating scattergrams and graphing algebraic equations in two variables; using critical thinking and modelling skills to solve a variety of authentic application problems.

The Mathematical Literacy course is a self-accelerated, mastery-based course taught in computer classrooms. Classes are offered either four days per week for 75 minutes each day or two days per week for 150 minutes each day. A fully online option was added in Fall 2015. Class size is restricted to between 18 and 22 students, depending on the classroom capacity. Students are able to work at their own pace, with deadlines, and earn six credits upon successful completion of all content. Students who require more than one semester to complete the content are able to re-enroll the following semester and pick up where they left off with no loss of continuity or achievement.

Challenges and Goals

The years 20112013 saw approximately 1518 percent of the student population enrolled in developmental mathematics each Fall. Teaching large enrollment courses has many challenges, from inconsistency between the large numbers of required sections to the wide range of learning styles and ability levels within each classroom. Success rates in each of the three existing developmental math classes were low, with only 46.7 percent of students successfully completing the developmental sequence. While MyLabsPlus was being used in each of the courses, there was no consistency in its implementation, and many students were not using it at all.

The Mathematics Division decided to redesign the developmental sequence in hopes of:

  1. increasing the success rate for the sequence;
  2. decreasing the time to completion in the sequence, thereby getting students into college-level courses more quickly and on their paths to reaching their educational goals; and
  3. eliminating course drift and inconsistency.

Christy Hediger and Julie Labbiento, with funding through a Title III Grant from the National Science Foundation, created the Mathematical Literacy course in a modified emporium format to motivate students to actively participate in their own learning.

Implementation

The course utilizes MyLabsPlus as the primary means for material dissemination, in a flipped, computer-based classroom with a self-accelerated format. Students are presented with lectures via textbook (or eText), PowerPoints, and/or video lectures. They are assessed on their progress through the use of homework, quizzes, cumulative unit exams, and a comprehensive final exam. The course is mastery-based and requires a student to earn a minimum score of 7090 percent, depending on the assignment, prior to moving on to the next benchmark. Multiple attempts to remediate and improve scores are allowed. Adaptive learning tools, including Personalized Homework and Companion Study Plans are used to help students target their remediation attempts.

Students entering the course take a diagnostic pre-test, a copy of the final exam, which serves as a baseline and is used to measure improvement when compared to the actual final exam scores earned at the end of the course.

The content of the course is organized into four units, each containing four to six quizzes. (Table 1.)

Unit Activity Topic(s)
Unit I

(Numeric expressions)

Quiz 1 Whole number
Quiz 2 Integers
Quiz 3 Fractions
Quiz 4 Decimals
Quiz 5 Rates and ratios
Quiz 6 Percents
Sample test Quiz 16
Unit I exam Quiz 16
Unit II

(Algebraic expressions)

Quiz 7 Algebraic expressions with integers
Quiz 8 Algebraic expressions with fractions
Quiz 9 Exponent rules and scientific notation
Quiz 10 Polynomials
Sample test Quiz 710
Unit II exam Quiz 710 (80%)

Quiz 16 (20%)

Unit III

(Algebraic equations)

Quiz 11 First-degree equations
Quiz 12 Applications with equations
Quiz 13 First-degree inequalities
Quiz 14 Proportions
Quiz 15 Percent equations
Quiz 16 Applications with proportions and percents
Sample test Quiz 1116
Unit III exam Quiz 1116 (80%)

Quiz 110 (20%)

Unit IV

(Algebraic equations in two variables)

Quiz 17 Scattergrams and models
Quiz 18 Graphing linear models
Quiz 19 Slope and intercepts
Quiz 20 Modeling
Quiz 21 Systems
Quiz 22 Applications with systems
Sample test Quiz 1722
Unit IV exam Quiz 1722 (75%)

Quiz 116 (25%)

Final unit Sample final test Quiz 122
Final exam Quiz 122

Table 1. Mathematical Literacy Course Content

Unit Activity Topic(s)
Unit I

(Numeric expressions)

Quiz 1 Whole number
Quiz 2 Integers
Quiz 3 Fractions
Quiz 4 Decimals
Quiz 5 Rates and ratios
Quiz 6 Percents
Sample test Quiz 16
Unit I exam Quiz 16
Unit II

(Algebraic expressions)

Quiz 7 Algebraic expressions with integers
Quiz 8 Algebraic expressions with fractions
Quiz 9 Exponent rules and scientific notation
Quiz 10 Polynomials
Sample test Quiz 710
Unit II exam Quiz 710 (80%)

Quiz 16 (20%)

Unit III

(Algebraic equations)

Quiz 11 First-degree equations
Quiz 12 Applications with equations
Quiz 13 First-degree inequalities
Quiz 14 Proportions
Quiz 15 Percent equations
Quiz 16 Applications with proportions and percents
Sample test Quiz 1116
Unit III exam Quiz 1116 (80%)

Quiz 110 (20%)

Unit IV

(Algebraic equations in two variables)

Quiz 17 Scattergrams and models
Quiz 18 Graphing linear models
Quiz 19 Slope and intercepts
Quiz 20 Modeling
Quiz 21 Systems
Quiz 22 Applications with systems
Sample test Quiz 1722
Unit IV exam Quiz 1722 (75%)

Quiz 116 (25%)

Final unit Sample final test Quiz 122
Final exam Quiz 122

Table 1. Mathematical Literacy Course Content

The Mathematical Literacy course is designed to assess and provide remediation exactly when and where a student needs it. Each student is expected to take each quiz “cold”, i.e.  without studying or preparing, so that MyLabsPlus can easily assess his/her strengths and weaknesses and design a specific remediation strategy.

Students move along a prescribed path as follows:

  • All students take Quiz 1, regardless of their scores on the diagnostic pre-test. If a student earns at least 90 percent on Quiz 1, attempt 1, he/she has mastered the topic and may move on to Quiz 2.
  • If a student earns less than 90 percent on Quiz 1, attempt #1, a Personalized Homework is built for them in MyLabsPlus. This Personalized Homework contains links to the eText, PowerPoint, and/or video lecture for each objective represented on the quiz. Once the student reviews the lecture materials, links for questions similar to those missed on the quiz are made available for practice. Students may practice these exercises as often as they wish to solidify the concepts presented. Once the student has earned 100 percent on the Personalized Homework, they may retake the quiz in hopes of earning at least 90 percent on attempt #2 in order to move forward in the course.
  • If a student earns less than 90 percent on the second attempt of a quiz, a Companion Study Plan is generated in MyLabsPlus. This study plan offers practice problems as well as three-question Quiz Me assessments to assist in the student’s review of the material. Students earn mastery points for completing Quiz Me assessments successfully. Once all mastery points are earned, the student may retake the quiz for a third time.
  • For students who are unsuccessful in earning at least 90 percent after three attempts of a quiz, the instructor is on-hand in the classroom to offer even more targeted remediation and encouragement. Once a student has completed the instructor’s requirements, they are always given additional attempts to retake the quiz.
  • After a student has mastered all quizzes in a particular unit, a sample test is given. While this sample test has no minimum score required, it does generate a personalized review based on a student’s answers.
  • Completion of the personalized review at 100 percent deems the student eligible to sit for the unit exam. A minimum score of 70 percent on the computerized unit exam is required to satisfy the necessary mastery level for the unit. As with the quizzes, opportunities for remediation through the use of the companion study plan in MyLabsPlus are available for those students who do not master the unit exam of their first attempt.
  • Once a student has mastered all content through the unit IV exam, he or she sits for the final exam. This exam is comprehensive, covering everything presented in the units. Only one attempt is allowed, but no minimum score is required.
  • All students take Quiz 1, regardless of their scores on the diagnostic pre-test. If a student earns at least 90 percent on Quiz 1, attempt 1, he/she has mastered the topic and may move on to Quiz 2.
  • If a student earns less than 90 percent on Quiz 1, attempt #1, a personalized homework is built for them in MyLabsPlus. This personalized homework contains links to the eText, PowerPoint, and/or video lecture for each objective represented on the quiz. Once the student reviews the lecture materials, links for questions similar to those missed on the quiz are made available for practice. Students may practice these exercises as often as they wish to solidify the concepts presented. Once the student has earned 100 percent on the personalized homework, they may retake the quiz in hopes of earning at least 90 percent on attempt #2 in order to move forward in the course.
  • If a student earns less than 90 percent on the second attempt of a quiz, a companion study plan is generated in MyLabsPlus. This study plan offers practice problems as well as three-question Quiz Me assessments to assist in the student’s review of the material. Students earn mastery points for completing Quiz Me assessments successfully. Once all mastery points are earned, the student may retake the quiz for a third time.
  • For students who are unsuccessful in earning at least 90 percent after three attempts of a quiz, the instructor is on-hand in the classroom to offer even more targeted remediation and encouragement. Once a student has completed the instructor’s requirements, they are always given additional attempts to retake the quiz.
  • After a student has mastered all quizzes in a particular unit, a sample test is given. While this sample test has no minimum score required, it does generate a personalized review based on a student’s answers.
  • Completion of the personalized review at 100 percent deems the student eligible to sit for the unit exam. A minimum score of 70 percent on the computerized unit exam is required to satisfy the necessary mastery level for the unit. As with the quizzes, opportunities for remediation through the use of the companion study plan in MyLabsPlus are available for those students who do not master the unit exam of their first attempt.
  • Once a student has mastered all content through the unit IV exam, he or she sits for the final exam. This exam is comprehensive, covering everything presented in the units. Only one attempt is allowed, but no minimum score is required.

The faculty at LCCC were adamant that students in this emporium-style course still be required to show work at all levels. In addition to completing the work within MyLabsPlus on the computer, students are also required to maintain a work packet. The student work packets were designed by LCCC mathematics faculty to assure that students are taking notes, reviewing lectures, and able to show the necessary steps to simplifying expressions or solving equations. The packets contain organized and labeled space for students to show work for all quiz and sample test problems and provide guided notes associated with each quiz that must be answered as part of the participation grade in the course.

With that same mindset, while unit exams and the final exam are delivered on the computer, they are hand-scored as well. The computerized score counts as mastery to move on to the next unit. But it is the hand score that counts towards a student’s final grade calculation.

A pacing guide is provided to each student with suggested target dates to keep them on track throughout the semester. In general, students are expected to complete an activity every three to four days. Students are expected to work outside of the classroom in addition to their in-class work time.

Mathematics courses at LCCC have been using MyLab Math/MyLabsPlus since 2004, so most faculty were already familiar with the basics. Labbiento was able to build a Mathematical Literacy instructor training course within MyLabsPlus. The training course allowed faculty members to view the course both as an instructor and as a student, and faculty were required to complete the first unit of the course as a student and earn 100 percent on a certification quiz prior to being staffed onto any section of the course. The training course also served as a database of information about this course, including how-to PowerPoints covering everything from what to do on the first day of class to reporting grades. The training course is maintained and updated each semester by Hediger, so that any new faculty member is able to train at any time. Each new semester, the training course is used to build the Mathematical Literacy coordinator and member course shells, so all training information is readily available in each instructor’s classroom shell, as well.

Assessments

Each unit contains four to six quizzes, a sample test, and a unit exam. Quizzes are 10 to 25 questions each. Unit exams are 30 or 40 questions in length, with 2025 percent of their content pulled from prior quizzes and/or exams. The final exam is 40 questions, equally distributed across the four units.

Because not all students are required to complete all Personalized Homework, the homework scores do not count into the final grade calculation. Rather, the 100% required on any assigned Personalized Homework is simply necessary to open the next attempt on a quiz.

A student’s final grade is calculated as follows:

  • 40% Unit exams (4) (hand-graded scores)
  • 30% Quizzes (22) (computerized scores)
  • 20% Final exam (hand-graded score)
  • 10% Participation (work packets and attendance)

Students successfully completing the course earn grades of A (90 percent or higher), B (80–89.5 percent), or C (70–79.5 percent), depending on the overall average of their quizzes, unit exams, final exam, and participation. Students who continue to work through the end of the semester, but do not complete all of the course content, are awarded a D for the semester, indicating that they are still in progress. Students who do not continue to work and do not complete earn an F for the semester. Students may also elect to withdraw with a W (withdraw) or Y (withdraw/failing). Any student who does not earn an A, B, or C is eligible to re-enroll in a subsequent semester to continue his or her work from where he or she previously stopped, and the grade earned in the subsequent semester will replace their current grade.

Results and Data

The last year in which all three prior developmental courses were offered was 2013. The Mathematical Literacy course was first offered in Fall 2014, and at that point each of the three original courses was phased out one at a time. An analysis of the COMPASS placement test scores of students in the Mathematical Literacy course revealed that the average student would have tested into the Prealgebra course in the past. Figure 1 shows a comparison of the success rates for students who started Prealgebra in 2011 through 2013 and the success rates for students who enrolled in the Mathematical Literacy course in 2014 through 2016. Success is defined as completion of both Prealgebra and Beginning Algebra or Mathematical Literacy with a final course grade of C or better.

Success rates (A,B,C) for students placing into Prealgebra and Mathematical Literacy courses

Figure 1. Success Rates (A, B, C) for Students Placing into Prealgebra in 20112013 (n=378) and the Mathematical Literacy course in 20142016 (n=339)

Figure 2 depicts the grade distribution for successful students in the full developmental sequence and the Mathematical Literacy course. The Mathematical Literacy course shows a much higher proportion of As compared to the traditional sequence. Hediger and Labbiento believe this is due to the use of the adaptive learning and remediation interventions in MyLabsPlus, as well as the self-accelerated nature of the Mathematical Literacy course which allows students to take the time they need to work through topics to reach mastery, as opposed to trying to maintain a rigid schedule that often leaves students at a loss if they don’t understand a topic.

Course grade distributions (A,B,C)

Figure 2. Course Grade Distributions for Students Who Successfully Completed the Developmental Mathematics Sequence in 20112013 (n=1,352) and the Mathematical Literacy Course in 20142016 (n=339)

Within the Mathematical Literacy course itself, students first complete a diagnostic pre-test, which is equivalent to taking the final exam. This diagnostic serves two purposes: it gives a baseline for a student’s skill level when entering the course, and it gives the student one final chance to test-out of the course (provided the student earns at least 80 percent on the computerized diagnostic and 90 percent when it is hand-graded.) To date, no student has ever tested out of the course, indicating that the placement process used seems reasonable. At the end of the course, a student’s diagnostic score is compared with their actual final exam score on the computer to measure their improvement in skill level. On average, students who took the diagnostic pre-test earned 21.5% (n=721). Students who took both the diagnostic and the final exam posted an average final exam score of 84.78 percent, an improvement of more than 59 percentage points over their diagnostic pre-test scores of 25.72 percent!

Another metric of interest to LCCC was successful time-to-completion of the developmental coursework. Under the previous design, students needed to complete up to nine credits in subsequent semesters, adding an automatic three additional semesters onto the college careers of those students starting at the lowest level: Basic Skills Mathematics. In an analysis of 2,894 students who started in Basic Skills Mathematics, Prealgebra, or Beginning Algebra in 20112013 and 840 students who started in Mathematical Literacy in 20142016, the time to completion for the Mathematical Literacy students was less than the other cohorts. Figure 3 illustrates the time to completion comparison.

Time-to-completion of developmental mathematics coursework for students starting at each level of the sequence

Figure 3. Time-to-completion of Developmental Mathematics Coursework for Students Starting at either Basic Skills Math, Prealgebra, or Beginning Algebra in 20112013 (n=1,352) and Mathematical Literacy in 20142016 (n=339)

The Student Experience

Results from the time-to-completion and grade distribution analyses show that the Mathematical Literacy students are completing in less time and with a more solid knowledge of the content in the course.

In a survey given to 62 Mathematical Literacy students (63 percent response rate) in Fall 2014, the following statements were given:

  • 87.2% of students indicated that this was their first semester in college.
  • 97.4% said this was their first math course in college.
  • 79.5% were nervous about math when they started the course, but 82.0% were less nervous at the end of the course, with one student noting, “I was nervous, but the structure of this class and MyLab Math took all the worry away.”
  • 87.2% said this was a good way to start their college experience,
  • 82.0% indicated that their attitude towards learning math improved after taking this course: “I feel more confident in math because of this course.”

Students were asked to rate whether they “strongly agree,” “somewhat agree,” “somewhat disagree,” or “strongly disagree” with several statements regarding the course. Each answer option had a corresponding score (4 for strongly agree, 3 for agree, etc.), and a mean was calculated and reported. Students responded most positively to the following statements:

  • “MyLab Math assigned grades were a good indication of my understanding of the concept.” (mean=3.59)
  • “The format of the course provided the flexibility I needed or wanted.” (mean=3.56)
  • “The format of the course let me take responsibility for my learning.” (mean=3.49)

When asked if they would like to comment or elaborate on their experiences in the course, one student wrote: “Great math class. I’m more proud of myself than I have been in any other math class.”

Conclusion

Hediger and Labbiento are happy with the new Mathematical Literacy course and its progress. Students claim that they now show more confidence and effort and are taking an active role in their learning. They’re asking deeper, more insightful questions and are identifying and resolving their mistakes more readily.

Hediger also notes that the new format of the course “has allowed me to really have a one on one experience with every student. MyLabsPlus in this course has given the instructors the capacity to really individualize their work with every student.” In coming semesters, she hopes to have special sessions at LCCC’s adjunct convocation nights, held at the beginning of each semester, to build off of the online training the instructors do to really hone-in on some major changes (a new letter grade offering, the addition of outside work participation grades, etc.), as well as make sure that the faculty are being proactive in the classrooms and even slightly intrusive when it comes to their students.  

Two other changes are being explored for 2017. First is the possibility of offering two seven-week sessions, instead of one semester-long session, which would allow students who only need to finish a few units to enroll for a shorter time period and pay less in tuition. Secondly, for students who finish the course early in the semester, units containing previews of LCCC’s Intermediate Algebra and Business Mathematics courses will be built so that students can continue to review their Mathematical Literacy skills while waiting for the next semester to begin.

“The Mathematical Literacy Program at LCCC has allowed developmental students to be in the driver’s seat and really take control of their education,” says Hediger. “The flexibility that MyLabsPlus has provided allows students to get the individualized attention they need both within the program and from their instructor. The Math Lit Program has revolutionized what developmental mathematics looks like at LCCC and has increased the confidence of students, as well as strengthened their relationship with their instructor.” She adds, “The Math Lit program has also brought the campus community together for these students through collaboration with Educational Support Services and the Office of Student Support and Success.”

Read Christy Hediger’s blog post, How a redesigned class redesigned my teaching, published October 2016 on Pearson’s Teaching & Learning Blog.

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