With 17% of the nation’s college students being 35 years or older (TCOHE, 2009), traditional approaches to basic skills mathematics instruction may need to expand by creating learning experiences more relevant to the adult learner (Knowlton & Simms, 2008). As research has shown that an integral part of the educational process involves teachers as innovator, researcher, and change agent (Casazza & Silverman, 2000), one approach could be that teachers solicit student feedback as part of a self-evaluation process. Since external obligations such as those to employers and family in some cases hinders persistence (Tinto, 1993), extra effort should be made to assure that returning adult learners are part of the evaluation process. This information is essential for instructors attempting to alter their pedagogical models in order to meet the needs of these students. Given the recent origin of the online learning environment, this type of research in action can lead to entirely new ideas in instructional design. It should be noted that initially there was no intention of using technology to support student learning in this case. Only through defined student need did the tool array find its way to the online environment.
To accommodate different learning modalities, it was necessary to develop an array of online learning tools designed to function individually or collectively. This gives students full control of their learning experience and the opportunity to develop individualized learning schemes. Hand written lecture notes provide a natural less threatening portrayal of mathematics. Worksheets that mirror video presentations promote active learning. Video presentations that include both professor and student create a unique learning experience designed to maintain focus, alleviate anxiety, and draw students into the presentation. Homework sets with solutions provide extra practice. Online quizzes give students the opportunity to test their skills. Finally, online assessment quizzes that yield individualized reports allow students to check mastery skills of major topic areas.
Generally, student responses appeared to be positive with self-directed learners that carried with them some level of fear or math anxiety. Several top performing self-directed learners found the videos to be a bit annoying. Jackie responded with, “Charlie is a little distracting in an annoying way like some of the kids in the class.” Louise’s response was, “Charlie was ok at first, but it got a little old.” The fact that students with low levels of math anxiety did not find this video dynamic useful while those who were fearful of math did find it engaging suggested this video format was successfully addressing student affect.
Learning Effectiveness – In addition to the solicitation of student feedback, electronic portfolios are collected mainly consisting of the students hand written exam work. None of the exams are multiple-choice and calculator usage is limited. These documents are used as a means of both evaluating the effectiveness of the projects online learning resources as well as designing new content. Analyzing students’ work to define common arithmetic errors allows the researcher to create new content while being mindful of these common mistakes. Secondly, these errors are conveyed to the students as well as other faculty members during faculty development events to increase awareness.
Depending on the type of learning resources developed, cost will vary. Video editing and production can be very expensive if you need to hire a crew. Tablet PC’s equipped with Camtasia software a very popular these days for creating digital content with a total cost of about $1500. Purchasing a $300 video camera is sufficient to capture individual or focus group interviews. A hosting service may be required to deliver content to users via the internet although video content can be delivered freely using the “YouTube” or “TeacherTube” websites. Numerous websites such as “issuu” offers a free service to publish your documents. To organize all the materials in a structured format, a dedicated knowledgeable person will be required to design a main home page preferably using your college as the hosting service.