Reengineering Developmental Math

Accelerating Student Success Through High-Return Personalized Pathways

Topics: Community College, Academic Affairs, Academic Planning, Curriculum Development, Program Approval, Program Prioritization, Student Retention and Success, Developmental and Remedial Education

Create Self-Sustaining Faculty Buy-In

In Need of Self-Sustaining Faculty Buy-In

Lack of Staff Engagement Most Oft-Cited Implementation Barrier

Community College Forum interviews reveal that despite the administrative challenges inherent in any classroom transition, college leaders are far more concerned about faculty transition difficulties to the modified emporium approach. A survey of presidents at member colleges found that leaders consider “lack of faculty buy-in” the single greatest barrier to math redesign. They explained that without a faculty champion to lead the charge, flipping the classroom would not be feasible on their campus.

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Campus Momentum Attainable and In Leadership’s Hands

Presidential Support Needed to Secure Staff Engagement, Redesign Success

Our research uncovered a welcome finding: campus support is attainable without a strong faculty champion. However, it’s up to the college leadership to gain campus momentum for redesign.

Our research of 19 successful modified emporiums found that only 17% of these colleges had a faculty champion who was driving the initiative and generating momentum within the faculty ranks. However, in all of the successful modified emporiums, the redesign had strong presidential support. The president spearheaded planning, was responsive to task force needs, and demonstrated a strong commitment to reaching goals. This support drove campus-wide engagement, and ultimately led to a successful redesign.

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Addressing Campus Concerns from Day One

Leading Redesign Launch Workshop Most Important Presidential Act

Campus momentum starts with a redesign launch workshop. This is the single most important event for a college president to lead, a visible early demonstration of their commitment to math redesign. The workshop convenes campus constituents from academic affairs and student services to troubleshoot concerns and establish a timeline for implementation. Below are several of the most common staff objections leaders face during redesign planning as well as proven solutions to move past these concerns.

Our research surfaced an overwhelming number of stories of skeptical faculty who eventually became advocates of computer-mediated math redesign. In each instance, leaders showed strong support for the redesign, shared peer success stories, and organized representatives from across campus to develop sound plans for implementation.

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Low-Cost Academic Integrity Safeguards

The credibility of the modified emporium model relies on the ability of colleges to maintain academic integrity safeguards. Faculty skeptics often discredit the self-paced model as an opportunity for students to cheat on class assignments and final assessments; however, we uncovered several low-cost academic integrity safeguards that solicit faculty buy-in for developmental math emporiums.

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Behind-the-Scenes Software Demonstration

Engaging Math Faculty in Critical Decision for Math Emporium

Implementing the emporium model requires faculty input starting in the initial planning stage. Since developmental math faculty use the emporium software platform every day, they are often included in the software selection process. Faculty meet to discuss their needs in a software platform, see behind-the-scenes demonstrations, and ultimately take part in the final selection. The diagram below outlines how faculty involvement in software selection is integrated in the first six months of emporium implementation.

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Instant-Access Multimedia Training

Supporting Emporium Instructors with Quick-Win Resources

One instructor we interviewed drew the comparison between teaching in a math emporium for the first time and learning to swim. First-time swimmers learn by jumping in the water and making adjustments until they figure out how to swim. Similarly, instructors learn to teach in an emporium simply by teaching, recognizing where they need assistance, and seeking out help when necessary. Administrators can help faculty best by making support resources widely available. The training materials profiled below support faculty in their first years teaching in an emporium setting. All of the resources can be made fully available online.

Supplemental materials:

Download PDF Montgomery College Math Emporium 101 Manual
Download PDF Montgomery College Sample Lecture Scripts

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Publicizing Success at Sinclair Community College

Student Magazine Highlights Emporium Benefits, Urges Campus Acceptance

Faculty often worry that students will reject the modified math emporium in favor of the traditional lecture-drill model. To assuage these fears, administrators at Sinclair Community College charged a student journalism class with featuring the emporium pilot course for their next assignment. Students produced a high-quality magazine that included the history of the math redesign, early outcomes data, and student feedback from short interviews—nearly all overwhelmingly positive. Seeing this honest student feedback helped faculty understand the value of the emporium model and eventually become champions for its use at their institution.

Supplemental material:

Download PDF Sinclair Community College Student Journalistic Magazine

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No Going Back

Once Skeptical Staff Sing Praises of Modified Emporium Thanks to Results Data

Virtually every faculty member we interviewed told the same story: they were skeptical of the modified emporium at first, but saw the model’s merits after seeing students enjoy the course and, most importantly, seeing impressive gains in developmental math completion rates. The data has convinced faculty members from across the country that the modified emporium will also work for their students.

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Students With Greatest Developmental Need Still a Challenge

Highest Return for Students with Medium-to-High Aptitude

Results data from the modified math emporium becomes more informative when broken down by student placement level. Disaggregated completion rates indicate that students with different levels of math aptitude derive different levels of benefit from the model. Overall, students with medium-to-high developmental math aptitude benefit the most from the modified math emporium.

Students with the highest developmental need, those placing into pre-algebra math, still perform better in a modified math emporium than in a lecture-drill classroom. But with only 20% of these students completing a developmental math sequence and 10% completing a college-level math course, students with the highest developmental need still struggle. The next section of this study explores strategies to improve success rates among this group.

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The Best is Yet to Come

Heightened Competition Raising the Bar for Learning Platforms

We are optimistic that, in the coming years, continual improvements to the modified math emporium will produce better outcomes for all students, especially those entering with the highest developmental need. Competition among software vendors and online platforms is spurring innovations in digital learning, providing better functionality for the same or lower cost to consumers.

Software vendors like Pearson, Cengage, and ALEKS are now facing competition from open-source providers like the Khan Academy, EdX, and Coursera. This competition will lead to innovations in digital learning platforms as providers distinguish themselves to capture greater market share. Our research indicates that community colleges will benefit from improved features like adaptive learning, predictive analytics, gamified learning modules, and contextualized content. These features are already starting to take shape.

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Building Virtual Circuits in Ulan Bator

Interactive Problem-Solving Erodes Language and Learning Barriers

The positive effects of these next-generation features are already being realized. More than 6,000 miles from where the gamified course was first developed, a group of high school students in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, enrolled in the MIT-EdX “Introduction to Circuits and Electronics” MOOC. Of the 20 high school students enrolled in this college-level course, 60% earned a certificate of completion and one student even went on to earn an “A,” one of only 320 people worldwide, suggesting the interactive components of the course eroded language and learning barriers.

Using an online interactive lab, students could drag and drop circuit board parts, adjust voltage and resistance, and test the output of their circuitry. The MIT-EdX circuits course is only the beginning of the gamification movement. Some platforms already offer embedded puzzles and narratives that develop as students progress through software, and vendors are starting to develop more interactive classes where students can engage in building bridges, phones, and even laptops.

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Competing on Contextualization

Vendors Opening Doors to Blended Delivery and Curricular Innovations

Vendor competition is also leading to advancements in curriculum contextualization. As community colleges support a growing number of vocational students, demand for discipline-specific math content has grown. Thanks to technological advances, in the near future students across disciplines may be able to fulfill their developmental math requirement by learning content relevant to their future careers. While aspiring welders calculate angles and melting points, aspiring pharmacists may be asked to solve an equation to fill a prescription.

Contextualized curriculum helps students like Abby, our earlier hypothetical student who thinks formulas are too abstract, apply math to everyday problems and her future career goals. As more colleges seek contextualized math content for their students, more providers will compete to create next-generation software packages with expanded libraries of discipline-specific math. This will only enhance the value derived from investments in flipped classrooms.

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Contain Administrative Transition Costs

A Matter of Philosophy, Not Just Economics