Monday, October 02, 2006

College Math in Redesign

So, how is the LCC math department participating in the college's redesign efforts?

First, classes are being modularized. One class is already modularized (Math 95) and is as "Flexible Sequence Algebra". The ten weeks of the term are divided into five sections. Students must pass each section to pass the class. The class is taught by five instructors (or more) with instructors starting the term with a different section. Thus one instructor teaches the sections in the normal order, A-B-C-D-E. Another instructor goes B-C-D-E-A. And so forth, allowing students who failed one module to sign up the following term for only the module they need, pay only for one credit instead of five, and be done in two weeks (which allows them to move along to Math 111 without being held back a term).

Other classes will be modularized but the details are tricky. Should all modularized classes have five sections, or as many sections as the class currently has credits, or as many sections as sensibly fits the material? What is the best way to pay instructors and charge students when some of the class is not planning on staying more than a few weeks? Will it always work that the next math class can postpone needing mastery of every topic in the previous class for a few weeks?

Second, new class schedules are being tried out. This term many math classes are being offered three days a week for 80 minutes instead of four days a week for 50 minutes. So far this is receiving predictably mixed reviews. A idea combining new scheduling attempts and modularization is to offer some "catch up modules" as a long weekend workshop, the way a CPR class is often taught all day long at a high school or college.

Third, the use of computers in math classes is being explored. Individual instructors already experiment with class projects that use computers. The department as a whole is now starting to plan "hybrid" variants of certain classes, and perhaps even 100% distance learning variants. Hybrid classes are easier, both because of the nature of math teaching and because the administration has put together sensible guidelines and policies about them (warning: links are to PDF and PowerPoint).