Our campus is offering 46 sections of Mathematics Prep. The first half of the course gets the students ready for high school (or middle school) Algebra I. The second half of the course gets them through Algebra I. The course is self-paced and on a computer. The typical student who needs to learn the material starting with the first half of the course is expected to take two semesters to finish. Some finish in one semester, but it is more common for students to need more than two semesters.
There are currently over 1200 students registered for the class, and most sections are full or nearly so. A tremendous amount of resources went into this course. We have dedicated computer labs. Teachers had to be trained to use the software and to learn a new way of teaching. The course design took many teachers many meetings. Teachers looked at what other schools are doing and others are looking what we are doing. The faculty-to-student ratio is about the same as it is for traditional classes, due to lab assistants.
The software is good. It’s not perfect, but it is good and computer savvy students learn it quickly. Unfortunately, they learn some of it too quickly, since it is sometimes possible to get the right answer by trying to beat the system, rather than learn the material. Students who try to learn can do so. Instant feedback is useful.
The course is undoubtedly better than traditional teaching for some students. It may be cheaper in the long run, because it is possible to run the course with lower paid faculty. I’m going to be teaching it for the first time this coming semester and I am curious about what it will be like to teach.