Supplemental Study: Exploration of the Use of Learning Technologies in Developmental Math

Students in a computer classroom

Developmental math has a higher failure rate than any other course in higher education. Yet we know little about the effects of increased technology use in developmental courses. This study is evaluating the adoption of a new technology-centered curriculum that has replaced traditional developmental and gateway college-level math courses at all public colleges in Tennessee.

The Emporium Model replaces traditional lectures with interactive instructional software and on-demand personalized assistance. Students spend much of their class time in a computer lab learning the course content online at their own pace, with faculty serving more as tutors who deliver individualized instruction as opposed to lecturers. Much of the course content is divided into smaller blocks, or modules, and is taught using tutorials, practice exercises, and online quizzes and tests. When students fail to master a concept, they are allowed to complete the module again, with new problems replacing the old. This technology-aided instruction is made possible through the use of an online interface created by third-party providers such as Pearson or ALEKS (McGraw Hill).

The CAPR study explores how the Emporium Model is implemented across the state, including an examination of site-specific variation, and evaluates a set of outcomes for college students. It will address the following specific questions:

  1. Implementation:
    1. How has the adoption of the Emporium Model impacted the operations of math departments across the state’s colleges in terms of staffing, scheduling, and reconceptualizing the curriculum, if at all?
    2. Which math modules are particularly difficult for students, and when are students most likely to exit the program?
  2. Outcomes:
    1. Does the use of technology-centered instruction in lower level (i.e. developmental) math courses result in higher course pass rates and persistence rates for students than the traditional version of these courses?
    2. Do these results differ by student subgroup (prior level of academic preparation, age, socioeconomic status)?

The Study Design

This study relies on survey data collected from the institutions and transcript data from the institutions and the Tennessee Board of Regents. The analytic strategy for the quantitative analysis involves subtracting a pair of mean differences to obtain an estimate of the effect of being assigned to a developmental math course taught using the Emporium Model on student outcomes. This difference-in-differences method of analysis will be used to compare similar colleges that were “early adopters” of the Emporium Model to those that were later adopters.

The analysis will report on short-, intermediate-, and long-term outcomes (e.g., credit hours per student by term, grades in college-level math courses, persistence by semester, and degree attainment). Surveys, site visits, and interviews will be used to evaluate the implementation of the Emporium Model and the impact on the operations of math departments.

Early Findings

A June 2019 presentation to the Tennessee Board of Regents outlined implementation and outcomes findings from the study. Students who took Emporium Model classes were about as likely as their peers to pass their first developmental math course, but they were less likely to pass college-level math if they enrolled in it. Negative effects were also observed on the number of credits they accumulated and their likelihood of earning a degree within six years.

Lead Researcher:

>  Angela Boatman