Online College Algebra Debut

Introduction

I am a recent inductee into the school of both online learning and online teaching. A mathematician by training, I’ve recently learned more about pedagogy than I had ever imagined. Now, for the first time, I’m teaching my college algebra class online. So for, both online courses that I’ve taught have shared one common experience: the initial offering has been challenging.

The point of these three segments of a post (this one and the two that follow: Online College Algebra Debut, Part Two and Part Three) is to record my experience in this first offering; I want to remember what I did well or what I could have improved upon. From recent experiences, it is clear that there are many schools similar to LaGrange College that are learning about online learning as well. Could they benefit from my experiences? Courteous critique would also be welcomed from readers who have experienced similar circumstances as mine. (We could create a small learning community.)

The sequence of points in this segment includes a brief telling of the course structure and the grading scheme. In the next post, more details about each of the structural items of the course (including problems) are given. Finally, in the third post, I outline steps for improvement in the future versions of the course.

Online College Algebra

My online course has been one that could be anticipated fairly well.

  1. The syllabus is made available to the students ahead of time with information such as textbook, due dates, etc.
  2. I require a set of prelimary assignments be completed:
    • A electronic pre-test that gauges understanding in the course. This same exam will be re-administered during the final exam with identical time constraints.
    • A multiple choice syllabus quiz that queries the student on whether or not they have actually read the syllabus. The student can retake the exam until they have understood the content.
    • They must set up their profile in the LMS.
    • They must complete an introductory presentation and then comment on at least two of their classmates’ presentations.
  3. For homework we use WebAssign. This is software that is aligned with textbooks and automates the creation of a variety of problems that are similar to those found in the exercises of the course text.
  4. I used a SMART Board to screen/voice capture “board work” that followed lectures I had given in previous semesters. These were polished lectures (for appropriate and creative examples) that had been highly altered for online availability. These lectures were also available online in the portable document format (pdf).
  5. We use Moodle and I employed the “Lessons” feature to create a sequence of videos with questions that provided feedback for a student to learn the content of the course.
  6. I gave three regular-semester exams and one final. Each of these was taken at a “proctoring center”. These centers were really just multiple opportunities with fixed times and locations to the take the exam.

In general, the grades were computed according to my institution’s standard letter scale (with +/- implementations). Each of the three regular exams was valued at 100 points apiece. The final exam was worth 200 points. Further, the homework scores (WebAssign and Moodle Lesson homework assignments) were all aggregated into one 200-point component of their grade. All in all, the students could earn a maximum of 700 points on the term.

Continue reading: Online College Algebra Debut, Part Two

Online College Algebra Debut, Part One
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