Content and Connections: Students’ Responses to a Hybrid Emporium Instructional Model in Developmental Mathematics

By Angela Boatman and Jenna W. Kramer | November 2019

An instructor helps a student in a computer lab

Innovation has led to the rapid implementation of technology-driven instructional platforms in developmental math courses. Prior research has shown that instructional environment and classroom experience influence student development and outcomes, so when colleges adopt technology-driven instruction, faculty and administrators often consider its effect on the quality of students’ academic experience. Among these technology-driven approaches is the hybrid emporium model, through which students primarily use class time to learn online at their own pace while instructors answer questions individually, rather than lecturing to the class as a whole.

This paper uses data from focus groups to examine how students at six public colleges in Tennessee experienced the hybrid emporium model in their developmental math courses. While the purpose of this instructional reform is focused on improving cognitive accessibility, the authors also observed an unintended consequence: The model served to open up multiple avenues to connect students with faculty and to deepen faculty-student relationships.

Student discussion from the focus groups suggests that the model increased students’ cognitive and social accessibility and helped them overcome barriers to success in math. The students said they perceived the math content and their faculty to be more accessible in the hybrid emporium course than in traditional lecture courses.

The paper also contextualizes these findings in light of recent work indicating that technology-centered instruction fails to improve developmental math performance. Notably, a related study finds that public college students throughout Tennessee who were assigned to hybrid emporium developmental math had lower pass rates in the first college-level math course than students who were assigned to traditional developmental math.


Content and Connections: Students’ Responses to a Hybrid Emporium Instructional Model in Developmental Mathematics

Key Findings

Students said the hybrid emporium model made them feel more responsible for their own learning, opened avenues to connect with faculty outside the traditional classroom, and made them feel less intimidated by math.

The perceived cognitive and social accessibility benefits of the technology-centered instruction are rooted in opportunities for practicing math, receiving immediate feedback, and developing deeper relationships with instructors.

A related study on Tennessee public colleges finds that the pass rate among developmental math students in the first college-level math course declined by more than 5 percentage points at colleges that adopted the hybrid emporium model for developmental math.

Examining Trends

Our findings suggest that there are positive unintended consequences of technology-driven mathematics instruction, but these changes do not necessarily lead to improved student performance.