Blended General Education Mathematics – Been There, Done That!

Presenter: Jan Costenbader (Depaul University)

[ SLOAN-C Proceedings Web Site ]

He is a senior instructional technology consultant at DePaul University. His objectives for the presentation are to share the design process for moving to a blended course, how lessons learned during the process were applied to a rework.

Math 101, the course Jan teaches, is general education mathematics, started as a small lecture (35-40 students). Eventually, it grew into a large lecture with up to 350 students. Mostly this increase was driven by economics–Cal State Chico, where he taught at the time needed much more revenue. Blended learning addressed room space issues and allowed for increased enrollment.

Jan did all the large lecture portion of the teaching while 5-6 other instructors taught the online portion.

The course was mostly about basic quantitative literacy (computation, statistics, financials, and modeling).

Demographically, online students were overwhelmingly female (over 60%). 44% were sophomores while 33% were freshman.

an online survey, 65% of the class either hate math, or admit they
aren’t good at it. Only 35% like math and have some self-proclaimed

Many students responded they were “forced” into the online section due to scheduling conflicts.

majority of students thought it would be as rigorous as a face-to-face
class. Most of the students also said they thought they might have
trouble managing their time in an online course.

During the
Course Design process, Jan wanted to address multiple learning styles,
create a rich environment, frequent practice and assessment, and provide
a clear path for students to communicate.

Entire course is
deployed through WebCT (now Blackboard). Mini lectures were created
using Keynote and ScreenFlow. Learning modules were created using
Dreamweaver. Video was packaged into *.m4v format.

approach for delivery was a random approach where students could
navigate as they wanted. However, it was a bit confusing so for the
second semester, content was arranged much more linearly.
Although modules were created using Dreamweaver, the look and feel was very Blackboard like.

were able to post questions and receive answers in a “get help, give
help” section of the course web site, similar to the way our Chem 1
students ask and receive help in the General Chemistry Discussion Board
in Blackboard (it’s an Org, not a Course).

Each module has several components such as a reading assignment, an online assignment, and section homework.

showed several examples of connecting mathematics to real world
applications, especially using pop-culture references (Stephen Colbert,
The DaVinci Code, etc.). Using video clips that contain references to
mathematics gives Jan the opportunity to connect math to students in
terms they are more familiar with. It also illustrates how important
math has been over time throughout history (something that definitely
resonates with my own work in the BrainTrax project).

Mini lectures (movies) are embedded in all of the lessons to again illustrate various points relating to the content.

takes about 1-2 hours to get through each module. At the end of the
module Jan includes 10 questions for participation, with 2 tries
allowed. Online average at end of the semester was 70%, while in
face-to-face the average was 85%. This was why Jan included the quick
quiz with two tries, where he gives students the correct answer on the
first try.

After evaluating the course at the end of the
semester, Jan found that out of 5 goals, only three were being met to
his satisfaction. Assessments & quizzes weren’t quite there, nor
were the pathways for student-instructor interaction giving the best

One observation on student behavior–THEY DON’T READ!
Students either didn’t pay attention to the course content or wanted Jan
to provide additional information that was already there.

issues involve figuring out the technical skills of students, their
self-discipline (study habits), and their overall reading
ability–reading math is different from reading a novel (or Twitter).
Also, what is the best method of communicating with students?

the course overhaul, Jan converted his course into a
Blackboard-compatible version for Bb 8. He released content by week,
instead of by unit. It was easier to set due date expectations for
students. They could also access the eBook version of the textbook.

All homework was moved to MyMathLab for standardization of the homework problems and assignments.

Jan moved from CalState Chico to DePaul University, he moved his
lessons into a SCORM-compliant package using SoftChalk. He was able to
test his module packages successfully in several different LMS
(Blackboard, D2L, Moodle, etc.).

Embedded questions in the SCORM
module could be graded and tracked in the Grade Center. However, there
was no good “Academic Alert” system built into Blackboard for tracking
students who are falling behind. D2L does have some tools that make this

Still to do–reach students using social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google).