University of Missouri-St. Louis

Course Title: College Algebra
Redesign Coordinator: Teresa Thiel

Status: This project originated as part of NCAT's FIPSE-funded Roadmap to Redesign (R2R) program, 2003 – 2006, and was successfully completed.

Descriptive Materials: In addition to the project description below, links for this project include a final project report, which describes the impact of the redesign on student learning and student retention; final cost savings achieved; techniques that most contributed to improved learning and reduced costs; and, an assessment of future sustainability.

Project Plan:
The University of Missouri-St. Louis (UM-SL) plans to redesign College Algebra. During the 2003-2004 academic year, the course enrolled 824 students in 22 sections of 35 students each. The course is required of students majoring in business, elementary and secondary education, nursing, engineering, mathematics, computer science, biology, chemistry, physics, and economics. In total, these majors represent about half the student body. In the traditional format, students attend three 50-minute lectures per week and have access to a math help lab without computers. The lab is open about 20 hours per week, staffed by undergraduate students. All homework, quizzes and exams are paper-based and are graded by teaching assistants and faculty members.

The major reason for redesigning College Algebra is the low success rate of students, which is about 50%. This leads to a significant problem both in terms of student progress toward learning a critically important subject and in terms of student retention across disciplines. The high failure rate of students in College Algebra is considered to be a major problem at UM-SL and one of the leading causes of low student retention at the university.

The redesign will use the Emporium Model. Each week, students will attend one 50-minute class meeting and two 120-minute lab sessions held in a new math technology center being constructed on campus. This facility will eventually house 150 computers, tables for student collaboration, and a testing center. The redesigned College Algebra course will be the first course to take advantage of the new center. Students will complete software-based online homework assignments using MyMathLab in the lab or at home. Students will use lab time to work on homework problems and to obtain help from the math software tutorials, video lectures, from other students or from the tutors and faculty who will staff the math technology center. Class meetings will introduce new material, provide examples, review past and future assignments, troubleshoot student problems (technical or mathematical), and keep students on track.

The impact of the course redesign on student learning will be assessed by comparing scores on a common final examination taken by students in the traditional format before the redesign and by students in the redesigned sections during the pilot session in spring 2005 and after the whole course redesign is implemented.

UM-SL's cost reduction strategy is to increase section size from 35-40 to 70-75, thus reducing the number of personnel required by almost half. The savings per student will be about $51, moving from $170 to $119, for a total savings of around $42,000. Since the redesigned course will require fewer instructors, the university will no longer need to hire part-time adjunct faculty to teach College Algebra and the number of lecturers teaching the course will decrease from ten to six. The full-time instructors will coordinate the development of the lectures and share tasks so that there is consistency across all lecture sections. The time required for grading homework assignments and quizzes and for course management and record keeping will be decreased. The university also anticipates that increased student success will mean that many more students will choose to take the course on campus rather than at local community colleges, thus also increasing their revenues.


Quick Links:

Roadmap to Redesign Main Page...