Leaders discuss taking online learning from an alternative to a “must”

It’s a content mastery blessing

kathyspradlinresizedBy Kathy Spradlin, Liberty University

Our Math Department decided to redesign our developmental math sequence from traditional, face-to-face courses to an emporium model, supported by online mastery-based learning technology and assessment, and scheduled lab hours. After the initial implementation, our faculty made adjustments to the program to improve course outcomes. We hypothesized that allowing late work to be turned in, with a penalty, and requiring lab hours would improve student performance.

Through the use of Pearson’s MyMathLab and MyLabsPlus technology, our fall 2012 ABC rates rose by 22 percent in Fundamentals of Math and 14.7 percent in Intermediate Algebra, compared with average ABC rates prior to implementation of the emporium model. In addition, pass rates based on the number of our students completing the course rose 13.3 percent in Fundamentals of Math and 15.7 percent in Intermediate Algebra, compared to pass rates in the 12 prior semesters.

Overall, through the use of online learning technology, my students are spending more time doing math and less time watching someone else do math. Because mastery is required, they are getting a solid foundation in all concepts; whereas, in traditional courses, a student could pass with high grades on a few chapters and failing grades on others.

Students like the immediate feedback and opportunity for additional practice the online learning system offers. Unit pretests have been added to help students who know the material move ahead more quickly. Post-quiz reviews and post-test reviews are required of students who need remediation. Tutoring sessions and instructor conferences are scheduled for those students who need more personal instruction and assistance. I would suggest use of mastery-based learning technology and assessment to a colleague with the warning that merely adding computer homework onto traditional instruction is not the best use of an online learning system. The course should be redesigned with a balance of online learning and human interaction.

Kathy Spradlin is coordinator of Math Emporium and Developmental Math at Liberty University. Liberty offers than 200 programs online.

It allows educators to create and collaborate

Nan at Utrecht 2008300By Nancy Zingrone, Northcentral University

I think online education of some sort is an absolute must for the future of education. I still take online education courses on WiziQ, have sampled courses from the MOOC provider Coursera on social psychology, behavioral economics, and the history of computing, and never miss an episode of CrashCourse history or psychology on YouTube. A gifted teacher from Mexico taught Spanish to me and a group of students from both hemispheres. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and the Virginia Society for Technology in Education have provided activities on teaching with technology in Second Life. Then there are the webinars from the TLT Group and the Center For Faculty Excellence at Northcentral University.

It is impossible to list all the online experiences that have enriched my own education. Learning online is not only effective and convenient, it inspires you to create and collaborate. I have been inspired to work in online education, to create blogs, online courses, YouTube tutorials and three channels, not to mention a library and learning center in Second Life. For the second year, I’m co-facilitating a free, three-platform course on virtual world education that takes place on WizIQ,, Moodle, and Second Life. We three co-facilitators not only live in different countries but in different time zones. The presenters and learners who have participated in our course are also from all over the world. We couldn’t duplicate face-to-face the experiences we have all shared so far without a huge budget for travel, books and materials. But through online technology, the global has become local for us, the local global, and the conceptual concrete. What could be better?

Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone, adjunct faculty at the School of Psychology, Northcentral University, teaches psychology to undergrads and masters students online for the University, as well as adult education at her own consulting firm and with online teaching colleagues on Moodle, WizIQ and in Second Life.