MyMathLab® educator study shows correlations between assignments and student participation in College Algebra course at Palm Beach State College

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MyMathLab® educator study shows correlations between assignments and student participation in College Algebra course at Palm Beach State College

Key Findings

  • In 2012, students finishing Porro’s College Algebra course averaged 67 percent on tests and 59 percent on their final exam compared to students in her MyMathLab-supported course in 2015, where students who finished the course averaged 74 percent on their tests and 68 percent on their Final Exam.
  • Data for this course show a very strong positive correlation between average final exam scores and students’ test average (pointing to knowledge retention since the final is cumulative) and strong positive correlations between both average homework score and test average and average quiz score and test average.
  • Instructor reports having more time to help students and teach new examples because MyMathLab gives students the tools they need to learn the concepts, so they come to class with fewer questions.

School name
Palm Beach State College, Lake Worth, FL

Course name
College Algebra

Course format
Face-to-face

Course materials
MyMathLab; Essentials of College Algebra by Lial, Hornsby, and Schneider

Timeframe
Spring 2015

Submitted by
Ana Porro, Professor III, Mathematics

Setting

Palm Beach State College (PBSC) is a public state college in Lake Worth, Florida. It was formerly known as Palm Beach Community College and before that Palm Beach Junior College. PBSC enrolls nearly 49,000 students in over 100 programs of study including bachelor of applied science, associate in arts and associate in science degree programs. It also offers short-term certificates as well as continuing education and avocational courses. In 2009, the college started its first baccalaureate program, a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Supervision & Management. PBSC now offers three bachelor’s degrees in six tracks. Information Management was added in 2011 and Nursing in 2012. The college is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award the Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Applied Science, Associate in Arts, Associate in Science, and Associate in Applied Science degrees.

PBSC is racially and ethnically diverse. More than half of all credit and college preparatory students are members of minority groups. Specifically, the Lake Worth campus reports the following:

  • 34.7% White, non-Hispanic
  • 28.8% Hispanic
  • 28.3% Black, non-Hispanic
  • 4.0% Asian
  • 3.8% Not reported
  • .4% Native American

Districtwide, women make up about 56 percent of credit students at Palm Beach State. However, this proportion varies significantly by campus, with the Lake Worth campus reporting 57.4 percent female, 41.2 percent male, and 1.4 percent not reporting.

PBSC serves students of all ages. In Fall 2013, 63 percent of the college’s credit and prep students were in the traditional college age range of 18 to 24; however, about 17 percent were older than 30.  At the Lake Worth campus, almost 60 percent of students were 18 to 24 and about 21 percent were older than 30.

In Fall 2014, only about one quarter of credit and college preparatory students at Palm Beach State were classified as full-time. This percentage has been in decline since 2009, when it reached 37 percent. Lake Worth recorded 27.1 percent full-time students and 67.8 percent enrolled in less than 11 hours. Finally, about three out of every five full-time students in financial aid-eligible programs were on some form of financial aid (grants, loans, or scholarships) in Fall 2014.  About half used Pell Grants to pay for classes. Among all students in aid-eligible programs, including part-time students, nearly half were using some form of financial aid.
More information can be found here: https://www.palmbeachstate.edu/panorama/demographics-and-characteristics/

About the Course

The College Algebra course at PBSC covers the following topics: functions and functional notation; domains and ranges of functions; graphs of functions and relations; operations on functions; inverse functions; linear, quadratic, and rational functions; absolute value and radical functions; exponential and logarithmic properties, functions, and equations; systems of equations and inequalities; applications (such as curve fitting, modeling, optimization, exponential and logarithmic growth and decay). The course prerequisite is Intermediate Algebra (or sufficient performance on entrance exams), and a grade of C or higher is required in College Algebra to be used as a general education course.

Challenges and Goals

Ana Porro, instructor, wanted her students to be more active listeners during lecture. She had heard about MyMathLab’s new adaptive capabilities and hypothesized that implementing them would help students better identify where they stood with respect to understanding concepts and being ready for summative assessments. She also hoped that having students take the quiz after class would encourage most students to become active listeners during the lecture time.

Implementation

Students complete all work in MyMathLab. For each section covered in class, students start with an untimed section quiz. If they receive a 100 percent on the quiz, they automatically receive 100 percent on the corresponding homework. If they do not receive a 100 percent on the quiz, they are assigned homework problems that address the objectives they didn’t master on the quiz. This is done through a personalized homework assignment in MyMathLab. After they have finished working on the homework assignment, the course is set up to prompt students to work in the Companion Study Plan prior to retaking the quiz. In the Study Plan, students can work on Practice Problems and then on Quiz Me problems. In order to retake the section quiz, they must show mastery on the Quiz Me problems in the Study Plan by earning at least 75 percent. Once students demonstrate  this mastery, they have the opportunity to retake the section quiz a second time in order to improve their score.

Students are advised to complete all homework assignments before the next class meeting and most sections require a minimum score of 70 percent on the homework assignments in order to move on to the next section. This is because Porro believes students will rise to the bar that is set for them, and her goal is for students to earn passing grades on homework assignments at a minimum.

Tests are delivered via paper and pencil and students can earn 100 points on each test. In addition, students take a cumulative, proctored final exam in class via paper and pencil.

Assessments

  • 400 points     MyMathLab tests (4)
  • 200 points     MyMathLab final exam
  • 100 points     MyMathLab quizzes
  • 100 points     MyMathLab homework
  • 800 points     Total
Letter Grade Points Percentage
A A ≥ 720 A ≥ 90%
B 640 ≤ B < 720 80% ≤ B < 90%
C 560 ≤ C < 640 70% ≤ C < 80%
D 480 ≤ D < 560 60% ≤ D < 70%
F F < 480 F < 60%

Results and Data

Spring 2015 grades were analyzed with the exception of 12 students who did not take the final exam but did not officially withdraw from the course. Figures 1–3 are correlation graphs; correlations do not imply causation but instead measure the strength of a relationship between two variables, where r is the correlation coefficient. The closer the r value is to 1 or -1, the stronger the correlation. The corresponding p-value measures the statistical significance/strength of this evidence (the correlation, or r), where a p-value <.05 shows the existence of a positive correlation between these two variables.

  • A very strong positive correlation exists between students’ final exam scores and their average test score, where r=.86 and p<.001 (figure 1).
  • A very strong positive correlation exists between students’ homework scores and their average test score, where r=.78 and p<.001 (figure 2). Also, a strong positive correlation exists between students’ homework scores and their final exam score, where r=.66 and p<.001.
  • A very strong positive correlation exists between students’ average quiz scores and their average test scores, where r=.80 and p<.001 (figure 3). A very strong positive correlation was also found to exist between students’ quiz average and their final exam scores, where r=.72 and p<.001. Finally, a very strong positive correlation exists between students’ quiz scores and their homework average where r=.81 and p<.001.

Data suggest the course components show very strong positive correlations, which in part may be a reflection of a well-designed course, each component building on the other and providing students the practice they need as well as setting their performance expectations accurately.

Correlation of final exam score and test average

MyMathLab_PalmBeachState_Figure1Figure 1. Correlation of Final Exam Scores and Test Average. Spring 2015 (n=22).

Correlation of homework average and test average

 

MyMathLab_PalmBeachState_Figure2Figure 2. Correlation of MyMathLab Homework Average and Test Average. Spring 2015 (n=22).

Correlation of quiz average and test average

 

MyMathLab_PalmBeachState_Figure3Figure 3. Correlation of MyMathLab Quiz Average and Test Average. Spring 2015 (n=22).

In addition, data show a strong linear relationship of the final course grade distribution per average MyMathLab homework and quiz score (figure 4). Students who earned higher homework and quiz scores also earned higher final course grades. It should be noted that homework scores comprise 12.5% of the final course grade, as do quiz scores, thus influencing this relationship.

  • Students earning a final course grade of A, B, or C had a MyMathLab homework average 45 percentage points higher than students earning a final course grade of D or F.
  • Students earning a final course grade of A, B, or C had a MyMathLab quiz average 34 percentage points higher than students earning a final course grade of D or F.

Relationship between final course grade and homework and quiz averages

 

MyMathLab_PalmBeachState_Figure4Figure 4. Relationship Between Final Course Letter Grades and Average MyMathLab Homework and Quiz Grades, Spring 2015 (n=34).

The Student Experience

Responses from a summer 2016 end-of-semester, voluntary student survey (100 percent response rate) indicate that the majority of responding students recognize the value of MyMathLab in terms of practice, success, and engagement:

Providing Adequate Practice

  • 87.5 percent of students agree or strongly agree that MyMathLab provided adequate practice to understand the concepts.
  • 81.25 percent of students agree or strongly agree that MyMathLab adequately prepared them for exams.

Setting up for Success

  • 81.25 percent of students agree or strongly agree that the use of MyMathLab allowed them to get a better grade in the course.
  • 81.25 percent of students agree or strongly agree that completing work in MyMathLab prepared them for future courses.
  • 77 percent of students agree or strongly agree that they would not have succeeded in the course without MyMathLab.
  • 75 percent of students agree or strongly agree that their understanding of the course material increased as a result of using MyMathLab.

Increasing Engagement

  • 81.25 percent of students reported that they agree or strongly agree that completing work in MyMathLab allowed them to have a better grasp of where they stood in understanding the concept.
  • 75 percent of students agree or strongly agree that they felt they were more engaged in class because of the work they did in MyMathLab.
  • 68.75 percent of students reported that they agree or strongly agree that taking quizzes after lecture led them to listen better during class.
  • 68.75 percent of students agree or strongly agree that they would recommend MyMathLab to another student taking this course.

Porro believes this is an accurate portrayal of her class’s increased participation rates, stating, “They are definitely more active learners and have taken more responsibility for their own learning since I started implementing MyMathLab in this way.”

The survey also asked students questions about the Adaptive Study Plan in MyMathLab. About half of the students stated they never used the Adaptive Study Plan, but those who did use it reported the following:

  • 6 out of 9 agree or strongly agree that the Adaptive Study Plan helped them track their learning needs.
  • 8 out of 10 agree or strongly agree that the Quiz Me’s in the Adaptive Study Plan were a good test of their understanding of the material.
  • 7 out of 8 agree or strongly agree that the Adaptive Study Plan gave them the extra practice they needed to understand the concepts.
  • 6 out of 7 agree or strongly agree that working in the Adaptive Study Plan helped them get better grades on section quizzes.

Finally, in terms of specific MyMathLab features used by respondents, the following was noted:

  • The top two features utilized by students often or very often are Power Points (75 percent) and Learning Aids within problems (68.75 percent).
  • Likewise, the top two features students found to be somewhat or very helpful are Learning Aids within problems (87.5 percent) and Power Points (81.25 percent) and

Student survey responses to the question, “What do you feel were the benefits of using MyMathLab?” include:

  • “MyMathLab is very good at explaining a process to the point of understanding.”
  • “I can do it from my home at any time.”
  • “When working problems, the View an Example learning aid was very beneficial to my understanding of the material.”
  • “You are able to learn from the little mistakes you made while doing the homework and quizzes.”

Conclusion

By adopting MyMathLab, Porro wanted her students to be more active listeners during lecture. She hoped that implementing MyMathLab and utilizing its adaptive capabilities would help students identify where they stood with respect to understanding concepts and being ready for summative assessments. She also hoped that having students take the quiz after class would encourage most students to become active listeners during the lecture time.

Porro is very happy with the results of her class since implementing MyMathLab. She believes the strong correlation between homework average and test average shows that MyMathLab is preparing students for their summative assessments. In addition, student feedback on the survey indicates that they have, in fact, become more active participants in the course and listen more intently during class time. Porro plans to continue surveying her Fall 2016 students and analyzing data in order to assess the course’s tools further. She concludes, “Using MyMathLab has allowed me to spend more time helping students. Students don’t have as many questions on the homework, so I spend more time teaching new examples. I believe MyMathLab is the best thing that has happened to me and my students.”

 

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