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Improving Performance in College Algebra Using Technology

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Mathematics Division Technical Session 4

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.923.1 - 26.923.12



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Paper Authors


Judith A Komar Colorado Technical University

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Judy Komar is Vice President of Educational Technology at Career Education Corporation (CEC), a global provider of post-secondary education programs and services. She is responsible for providing innovative technology solutions for CEC students, developing content for more than 500 new courses annually and facilitating and integrating educational technologies for more than 45 CEC campuses. She also facilitates program development, academic requests, and institutional growth, as well as the continuous improvement of the online and blended student experience and environment.

Judy has been an integral part in the development of the award-winning “virtual campus” technologies now used by tens of thousands of students and faculty in the University and Career Schools sector of CEC. Judy has also been an integral part of the development of numerous CEC self-published textbooks which are used by thousands of students. Most recently, Judy has been working with the IT and Academic Teams to design a new Adaptive Learning Platform to students through the creation of Learning Maps powered by Learning Analytics.

Prior to joining Career Education Corporation, Judy worked in the areas of Academics, Instructional Technology, Consulting, and Curriculum Development. Notable is her number of years in the Academic and Educational Technology field and the experience it brings to her present position.

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Tonya Troka Colorado Technical University

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Tonya Troka, with more than 10 years of experience working with online students, has been a leader of the adaptive learning implementation project since its initial launch in October 2012. As the University Program Director for General Education/Psychology, she works directly with the general education curriculum that was used to integrate the adaptive learning technology into the classroom. Troka has also provided insight into using the technology in the classroom and how success should be measured.

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Improving Performance in College Algebra Using TechnologyCollege algebra (MATH112) has historically been a challenge for our institution, and acrosshigher education. It is a course that a majority of college students take, but has low success rates.In January of 2012 nearly half of all students at this University who took MATH112 failed. Anadditional 30% withdrew from the course without earning credit. College Algebra is a gatewaycourse for engineering students. Students must successfully complete this course prior tomoving forward in the program. It was necessary to take additional actions to impact the failureand withdraw rate in this important first-year course. The combination of high failure andwithdraw rates made this course a perfect candidate for our new adaptive learning technology toenhance the learning in the course.The University integrated an adaptive learning (AL) platform into courses in 2012. The firstcourse to use this technology was College Algebra. Within this platform students are givenelectronic pretests that assess the starting point for the learner in each content module, whilebuilt-in formative and summative assessments track student performance and determine thelearning activities which will be presented to the student in sequence. Based on the research by(Brusilovsky & Millán, 2007; De Bra, 2006), who have all explored AL, our platform offers allof the benefits of adaptive learning as it delivers individual learning experiences that are reactiveto the student’s interactions and needs.The AL platform identifies a learning space for each individual user, through complex invisibleprofiling of the student and also of the learning content. This rich individual user profile includesprevious learning experience, desired learning objectives, identified learning styles and alsopsychometric and cognitive information. Together with profiled learning material the systemthen dynamically generates an individual learning path to guide a learner in achieving their ownpersonal learning objectives.In October 2012 a pilot study was launched for College Algebra introducing the adaptivelearning component. The learning map within the course was developed based on the courseoutcomes and developed entirely by the institution’s faculty. The course outcomes are directlylinked to all of the material in the learning map. This approach makes this course unique asstudents are delivered material that is specific to the course design and outcomes. This allowsfor assessment of learning specific to the course outcomes for each student.The research on the effectiveness of adaptive learning and its impact on student success islimited. Specific research on withdraw and failure rates have been completed by Schunn andPatchan (2009) and Knewton (n.d.). This paper will include one specific study that covers twoyears of data (including 2,000 students) that indicates a reduction in failure rate from 30% to18% and a withdraw rate reduction from 32% to 8%. Pass Rates for College Algebra100% 150 14080% 130 12060% 110 10040% 90 8020% 70 60 0% 50 %Pass Index to 2012 Baseline % Pass % Students who Withdrew – College Algebra35%30%25%20%15%10% 5% 0%

Komar, J. A., & Troka, T. (2015, June), Improving Performance in College Algebra Using Technology Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24260

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