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Robeson Community College - MyLab Math

This case study was created by Pearson. Pearson retains sole editorial control and responsibility for the content in this case study.

MyLab Math with MyLabsPlus™ educator study looks at correlations between assignments in Developmental Math Shell course at Robeson Community College

Key Findings

  • Students who completed at least the median number of homework assignments posted a 94 percent pass rate.
  • Students who completed at or above the median number of homework assignments and earned at or above the median homework score achieved test scores that were an average of 23 percentage points higher than students who did not score above the median for those two homework metrics.
  • A strong correlation exists between the total number of assignments completed in MyLab Math and students’ test scores.
  • According to student survey results, self-reported math anxiety levels decreased significantly over the course of the semester.

School name: Robeson Community College, Lumberton, NC Course name: Developmental Math sequence Course format: Emporium: fixed meetings with flexible pacing Course materials: MyLabsPlus access code; LEAP Log Workbook by Pearson Education, Inc. Timeframe: Fall 2015 Educator: LaRonda Lowery, Discipline Lead for Pre-College Mathematics Results reported by: Julianne Labbiento, Pearson Customer Outcomes Analytics Manager

Setting

As a member of the North Carolina Community College System, Robeson Community College is an open-door, comprehensive, public community college committed to promoting lifelong learning opportunities to the diverse population of Robeson County and the surrounding region by offering associate degrees, diplomas, and certificates. With student enrollment just under 2,000 in Fall 2014, and a student-to-faculty ratio of 17:1, Robeson’s student population is almost evenly split between full-time (49 percent) and part-time (51 percent) students. The majority of students (71 percent) are female, and 45 percent report their ethnicity as American Indian or Alaskan, 25 percent self-report as African American, and 21 percent report themselves as Caucasian. At Robeson in 2014, 25 percent of entering students were counted as full-time, first-time students.

About the Course

The Pre-college Mathematics program at Robeson is designed to prepare students for college-level coursework by developing their reading, writing, and mathematics skills required for entry into their curriculum courses. Any person who has a high school diploma or a GED may enroll in pre-college courses. The number of courses needed and, consequently, the length of time required to complete the courses varies based on student skill level. Some students may need only one course while other students may take several semesters to complete a series of courses. Depending on their individual circumstances, and with the approval of their academic advisor, students may take a combination of pre-college and regular curriculum courses during the same term. Pre-college courses are offered every term, both day and evening, and may be offered in a variety of formats (hybrid and face-to-face).

Students are placed in pre-college courses on the basis of test scores, high school transcripts, recommendation of their advisor or curriculum instructor, or voluntary selection of courses. Once students are assigned to the appropriate courses and levels, students must adhere to the exit criteria for pre-college courses.

The Developmental Math Shell (DMS) is one course; students complete Developmental Math (DMA) modules within a DMS shell course. DMS 001, 002 and 003 are offered in 8- and 16-week sessions. Students are scheduled to meet face-to-face and complete required online activities using MyLab Math with MyLabsPlus. Developmental mathematics utilizes the modularization concept. Students who demonstrate mastery of a module advance to the next module, allowing them to work at a flexible pace.

The three versions of the DMS shell courses are listed in Table 1:

Table-1-DMS-Shell-Courses Table 1. DMS Shell Courses

Once a student is enrolled in a shell course, they then take the appropriate number of modules that corresponds to their shell course and their degree plan, typically 3–5 of the following DMAs:

  • DMA-010 Operations with Integers
  • DMA-020 Fractions and Decimals
  • DMA-030 Proportion/Ratio/Rate/Percent
  • DMA-040 Expressions/Linear Equations and Inequalities
  • DMA-050 Graphs/Equations of Lines For the full course description and prerequisite information on each DMA, please refer to the Robeson Community College 2015–2016 Catalog & Handbook, beginning on page 99 of the PDF.

Challenges and Goals

Robeson first began thinking about redesigning its developmental math sequence in 2011, when their success rates and retention rates were low. They needed online software that would allow them to set up their courses in an emporium format. Some of the factors that led them to choose MyLab Math as their online software were the Course Coordinator function that would allow easy setup from semester to semester, module to module, and the prerequisite feature that would allow them to require certain assignments and/or scores before allowing students to move forward. Around the same time, the state of North Carolina began the state-wide redesign initiative that took three developmental math courses and converted them into modules, adding mastery learning as a requirement. Thus, the department expected MyLab Math to help them track student mastery of learning objectives as well as track students through a fluid, flexibly-paced, modular curriculum.

Implementation

Students meet each class period in a computer lab with their instructor. The instructor typically spends 5–10 minutes doing a mini-lecture based on where most of the students are in the module. Then, students begin working in MyLab Math to complete their modules.

Each module starts with a placement test. Students must take that test before anything else opens up in MyLab Math. The placement test is timed, but the time allotted to students to take the test depends on the content covered in the module. If students score 80 percent or higher on the placement test for that module, they can move on to next module. If they score less than 80 percent, they begin to work through the module.

Students begin by watching an optional video for the section and then completing the section in the LEAP Log, a customized workbook adopted from Guilford Technical College. Faculty feel that the LEAP Log and accompanying Your Turn exercises are a vital part of the developmental math curriculum at Robeson, saying “The Your Turn exercises give the students the opportunity to show that they have a clear understanding of the procedures that are required to work the problems.” The LEAP Log gives examples of the problems and then students must complete Your Turn problems, showing their work so that instructors can see their thought processes. Faculty note that many students also use the LEAP Log and the Your Turn exercises to their advantage by reviewing the material prior to taking the Placement Test so that they might be able to test out of the module.

Once the LEAP Log section is completed, students then go into MyLab Math and complete the corresponding homework assignment, which must be completed at 90 percent or higher to move on to the next section. Homework assignments are tied to the pre-test as a personalized assignment within MyLab Math, so mastered objectives on the pre-test are automatically taken out of the homework. The pattern of video→LEAP Log→MyLab Math homework is completed for each section.

In the middle of the module, students must complete a mid-module quiz and must score 80 percent or higher in order to move forward. Students are not required to remediate their first two attempts; however, if students are not successful on the third attempt, they are required to review their last attempt, write down the problems they missed, and sit one-on-one with an instructor to review the entire quiz. The instructor also checks the LEAP Log at this time to ensure all Your Turn problems associated with that quiz have been worked. One instructor notes that the LEAP Log is, “the best measurement for seeing if the student understands the steps required to solve the problem. With the online activities, the student can continue to guess at the answer, not focusing on the problem-solving steps.” If a student isn’t successful after six attempts on the quiz, the instructor deletes all homework results and the student must re-do it. After completing the mid-module quiz at 80 percent or higher, students move on to the second half of the homework sections and repeat the process, culminating in a second quiz.

Next, students complete a final assessment review, which is a homework assignment in MyLab Math that has all learning aids turned off and covers the entire module. Students must complete this assignment at 100 percent before they are allowed to take the final assessment. In addition, before they can take the final assessment, the instructor must check their LEAP Log to make sure they’ve worked all Your Turn problems for the whole module. At that point, students can take the password-protected final assessment and must pass at 80 percent or higher. If they aren’t successful the first time, a personalized homework assignment is created and must be completed before attempting the final assessment a second time. If students attempt the test a second time and don’t get at least 80 percent, the instructor deletes their final assessment review results and they must do it again. Along with completing the final assessment review homework again, students must write down the problems they missed on the second attempt and review the entire assessment with an instructor. After three attempts, if students still do not score 80 percent or better on the final assessment for that module, they must start the whole module over again.

With this format, students are allowed to work ahead, and if they’re able to finish more modules than their shell course designates, they can do extra for free, as long as it is within the 16- or 8-week time frame allotted for the course. Students are given a pacing guide at the beginning of the semester to let them know when they should hit certain benchmarks in order to finish on time. Because there are no due dates, there are no late assignments, but if student get off track or fall way behind, the instructor has a conversation with them and refers them to the Learning Center for extra help. Along with the Learning Center, Robeson also has the Pre-College Mathematics Success Center (PMASC) available for students, staffed with a professional tutor or instructor Monday through Friday.

Assessments

A student taking required pre-college courses must earn a grade of P in order to progress to the curriculum course or to the next pre-college course level. A grade of R requires the student to repeat the course. Note: Developmental math and developmental reading and English courses are not eligible for a grade of Incomplete (I). Students enrolled in a pre-college course will not earn traditional letter grades (A, B, C, D or F). Grades for all pre-college courses will be P (Pass) or R (Re-enroll). For all pre-college courses, if a student demonstrates mastery, a grade of P will be awarded. The P grade is not included in the computation of the GPA. However, for financial aid purposes, a grade of P means that a student has made satisfactory academic progress. A grade of R is given when a student has not demonstrated mastery and will have to re-enroll in the pre-college class. The R grade is considered a non-punitive grade and is not included in the computation of the GPA. However, for financial aid purposes, a grade of R means that a student has not made satisfactory academic progress. Financial aid will be affected by a grade of R.

For all of the pre-college mathematics shell courses (DMS), mastery is defined as a grade of 80 percent or higher on each scheduled module final assessment.

Results and Data

The median number of assignments completed and the median score for homework scores were calculated. Students were first partitioned into two groups based on the number of assignments completed in MyLab Math: H#H (students who completed at or above the median number of homework assignments) and L#H (students who completed fewer than the median number of homework assignments), where the median was 39 assignments. Then students in these two groups were further divided based on their average homework scores earned during the Fall 2015 semester: HHS (students whose average homework scores were at or above the median level) and LHS (students whose average homework scores were below the median level), where the median score was 63. The four groups analyzed were as follows:

  • H#H/HHS – students scoring at or above the median on number of assignments completed and at or above the median on average homework scores (n=111)
  • H#H/LHS – students scoring at or above the median on number of assignments completed and below the median on average homework scores (n=12)
  • L#H/HHS – students scoring below the median on number of assignments completed and at or above the median on average homework scores (n=6)
  • L#H/LHS – students scoring below the median on number of assignments completed and below the median on average homework scores (n=110)

The data show that, among the students who completed at least 39 homework assignments (H#H/HHS and H#H/LHS), 94 percent successfully passed the course. In addition, when student test scores from the H#H/HHS group were compared to the other three groups, it was found that test scores in the H#H/HHS group were an average of 23 percentage points higher. This result is statistically significant.

A correlation measures the strength of a relationship between two variables, where r is the correlation coefficient. The closer a positive 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 <0.01 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.

An analysis of the total number of assignments completed in MyLab Math and students’ test scores showed a strong correlation when all course results were combined (r=0.78, n=239). Figure 1 illustrates this correlation.

Correlation between test scores and total number of MyLab Math assignments completed

Figure 1 Correlation between Test Scores and the Total Number of MyLab Math Assignments Completed Figure 1. Correlation between Test Scores and the Total Number of MyLab Math Assignments Completed (n=239)

An analysis of students’ homework scores resulted in two very strong correlations. In a comparison of the total number of assignments completed and homework scores, a very strong correlation of r=0.87 (n=239) was found (figure 2). Similarly, the correlation between homework scores and test scores was also calculated to be very strong, where r=0.91 (n=239). Figures 3 shows this correlation and distinguishes between students who passed or failed the courses.

Correlation between test scores and total number of MyLab Math assignments completed

Figure 2 Correlation between Homework Scores and the Total Number of MyLab Math Assignments Completed (n=239) Figure 2. Correlation between Homework Scores and the Total Number of MyLab Math Assignments Completed (n=239)

Correlation between homework scores and test scores

Figure 3 Correlation between Homework Scores and Test Scores for Students Who Passed or Failed the Courses (n=239) Figure 3. Correlation between Homework Scores and Test Scores for Students Who Passed or Failed the Courses (n=239)

The Student Experience

At the end of the semester, students were asked to complete a post-semester survey (31 percent response rate). While 62 percent of students who responded identified as first-generation college students whose parents had never attended college, 73 percent had aspirations of completing at least a bachelor’s degree. When asked about their attitudes towards math at the end of the course, 57 percent of students responding to the survey agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “A strong math background could help me in my career.” When this group of students had been prompted on a pre-semester survey with, “It makes me nervous to even think about doing a math problem,” 58 percent agreed or strongly agreed with the statement. When those same students responded to the same statement on the post-survey, only 20 percent agreed or strongly agreed.

Students taking the survey also responded to questions about MyLab Math. Some responses given to questions about impact and benefits were:

How has MyLab Math impacted your learning in this course?

  • “It helps to deepen the learning experiences and gives you examples that you can learn from and apply in the math you take.”
  • “It showed videos on how I should solve a problem and made me understand better. I could stop the videos to take notes, and I like how I can work on my own pace.”
  • “Because it is accessible anytime, I can make strides in my course away from school.”
  • “I am now more confident in math than I was before I started this course.”

What do you think are the benefits of using MyLab Math?

  • “The benefits would be that it helps individuals learn to be independent people.”
  • “Being able to work at your own pace is great for me and being on MyLab Math with MyLabsPlus helps me to learn better, I can see what problems i missed and why I missed them, it also can let me do extra problems to make sure I know what I’m doing.”
  • “Practice makes perfect’, the site gives the students the opportunity to practice anything that they need to focus a little more on.”

Conclusion

Since redesigning math courses with MyLab Math, Robeson has been able to modularize their developmental sequence and offer the courses in an emporium format, tracking students’ accelerated learning while maintaining a mastery-based curriculum. The use of a coordinator course ensures easy set-up each semester. Lowery also plans to track her students’ success in their subsequent mathematics courses.

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