Faculty-Authored Interactive Online Learning Modules Go Live!

Posted September 7th, 2016 at 5:20 pm.

This fall, faculty at Bryn Mawr and seven partner liberal arts colleges will be field-testing online, interactive learning modules they have developed and refined over the past two years.

Website screenshot of the MyOpenMath showing a header and some text.

Blended Learning online modules give extra interactive math help.

Faculty teaching introductory chemistry, calculus and physics will be piloting interactive learning materials created for the Blended, Just-in-Time Math Fundamentals program, developed through a $1.6 million grant (P116F140302) from the First in the World initiative of the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE), led by professor of physics, Elizabeth McCormack, as primary investigator. Psychology faculty will teach blended courses in psychology research methods and statistics, which Professor Anjali Thapar and colleagues around the country have developed through a grant from the Teagle Foundation’s Hybrid Learning and the Residential Liberal Arts Experience initiative. In both cases, faculty were motivated by the potential for using blended learning to help differentiate instruction to better meet student’s needs.

STEM courses: Building Skills and Confidence in Applied Mathematics

The Blended, Just-in-Time Math Fundamentals program tackles math review for students enrolled in introductory STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) courses. It is designed as a scalable, affordable method for helping students who are interested in STEM fields and generally college-ready in math, but who have areas of weakness or lack experience with applied mathematics, to build skills and confidence needed to thrive in introductory STEM courses.

A circle drawn on a graph with some calculations.

Blended modules cover topics such as trigonometry and statistics.

For example, a student taking introductory physics will need to draw on trigonometry in order to solve certain types of vector problems. While most students encounter trigonometry at some point in high school math courses, the timing, breadth and depth of that exposure can vary considerably. To help these students, physics, chemistry and calculus professors at Allegheny, Bryn Mawr, Franklin & Marshall, Grinnell, Lafayette, Mills, Smith, St. Olaf, and Vassar colleges have worked with instructional designers to develop a “sandwich” approach to math review. Each module starts with a worked example of a canonical course problem — such as resolving vectors in introductory physics. This example identifies the fundamental math skills needed to solve the problem and provides links to online, interactive self-assessment and practice resources. These resources give students individualized feedback on their mastery of math fundamentals. Meanwhile, faculty, academic support staff, and peer tutors can review students’ work to provide additional assistance to those who need it. Students then solve a “do-it-yourself” version of the original problem to practice applying those skills in context.

Psychology: Mastering Statistics and Research Methods

The materials that Anjali Thapar and faculty from the College of St. Benedict, Wesleyan University, St. Mary’s College of California and Albright College have developed similarly help students review and practice applying concepts and skills they need to master psychology research methods and statistics. Each module has a summative test that students can use to demonstrate mastery, and formative exercises that students can use to practice and get feedback on concepts and skills they need more work on. Resources like this can help faculty ensure that students who need extra review or time to process concepts and skills get the support they need, while students who have already mastered certain concepts can demonstrate this and move on.

Providing Multiple Pathways to Success
A colorful graphic shows "Universal design for learning" with various bubbles and connections drawn.

Universal Design for Learning advocates a flexible approach to learning, customizable to different needs. Image by Guilia Forsythe, Flickr.

These resources can also help faculty apply Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles of giving students multiple pathways for receiving information and demonstrating competency. A student who may not be comfortable demonstrating how to calculate a p-value during an in-class exercise, for example, may do so brilliantly in an online setting in which the only audience is the instructor. Providing multiple pathways ensures that every student has equal opportunity to learn and demonstrate their learning.

We are developing our materials for both projects using MyOpenMath, a free, online math homework and assessment system for high school and college mathematics supported by Lumen Learning, and Kahn Academy.

If you would like to preview or inquire about adopting the materials, please contact project manager, Jennifer Spohrer.

Filed under: Projects Tags: , , , , by Jenny Spohrer

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