A Team Approach to Redesign of a Large-Enrollment, High-Failure-Rate Course in a Blended, Active and Adaptive Format

Concurrent Session 3

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

This presentation will demonstrate how a team of math instructors, instructional designers and instructional technologists completely redesigned college algebra as a blended, active, doubly adaptive course. This collaborative effort also informed redesign of the fully online version of the course leading to significant improvements in student success in both formats.


Cub Kahn is coordinator of the Oregon State University Hybrid Initiative in Extended Campus. He focuses on hybrid pedagogy and faculty development across the curriculum. He facilitates faculty learning communities in a hybrid format to support course redesign for blended delivery. Cub has extensive experience in curriculum development, instructional design and blended/online course development. Prior to his current position, he taught environmental sciences and geography. He holds degrees in environmental and marine sciences and an Ed.D. in technology education.
After completing her Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Pacific Lutheran University, Sara Clark returned to her home state to continue her academic pursuits at Oregon State University. She received a Master’s degree in Mathematics with an emphasis on Education in 1999 and since then, she has held various instructor and course-development positions at Linn Benton Community College and Oregon State University. She has taught a wide variety of undergraduate courses, ranging from developmental math to vector calculus. Her career has spanned the evolution from traditional in-person lectures, to wholly online courses; she is currently helping to develop a new adaptive learning approach, utilizing in-person and online digital resources, to teaching developmental and pre-calculus math courses. She was a recipient of a 2016 Digital Learning Innovation Award from the Online Learning Consortium. Sara lives in Corvallis, Oregon with her husband, Ben, of 20 years and their 13-year-old daughter, Paige.
Dr. Elizabeth Jones teaches for the Educational Opportunities Program at Oregon State University. Her students, from traditionally underserved populations, inspired her to find ways to help students be able to build the big ideas in College Algebra. She has been teaching Mathematics at the university level and participating in curriculum design for 25 years.
I have a Masters of Science in Statistics from Oregon State University. I am currently an Instructor and Course Coordinator in the Oregon State University Mathematics Department. I am also the coordinator of new Learning Assistant Program in mathematics department. This program promotes experiential learning for undergradutes throughout the College of Science. I have been involved in the intense redevelopment of three algebra-based courses implementing adaptive course ware and increasing active learning through the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). Most recently, I am currently re-developing online College Algebra to increase student engagement and success. In the first term of this course, we have already seen significant improvement in student success.
Lyn Riverstone has taught introductory college mathematics courses for over 20 years and is currently a Senior Instructor in the Oregon State University Mathematics Department. Her passion for course development and extensive training in the implementation of evidence-based teaching practices led her to coordinate the instructional team that extended this story of Algebra to all College Algebra courses on campus.

Extended Abstract

Our goals for this session are to share a successful team approach to course redesign and to share strategies that faculty, instructional designers and technologists, and administrators could apply at their institutions. A team of seven instructors, two instructional technologists, an instructional designer and a blended learning specialist collaborated to completely redesign college algebra as a blended, active and doubly adaptive course at Oregon State University in 2017. This collaborative effort also informed redesign of the fully online version of the course leading to significant improvements in student success in both formats.

How did this redesign project come about? The Mathematical Association of America’s “Common Vision” report notes that only half of college algebra students nationally pass the course with grade of C or higher, and that math courses are the biggest barrier to college students completing their degrees (Saxe et al., 2015). An Association of Public & Land Grant Universities “Accelerating the Adoption of Adaptive Courseware” grant focusing on redesign of large-enrollment, high-failure-rate courses provided a unique opportunity for this team to redesign college algebra as a blended course using ALEKS adaptive courseware as a centerpiece.

The redesign took place in just over three months, beginning with an all-day retreat in December 2016, which was followed by multiple working meetings each week from January through March 2017, The first offering of the redesigned course was in spring term starting in early April. In our presentation we will describe our strategies for managing the redesign team, building trust, creating buy-in, dividing tasks, and maintaining project momentum. We will also discuss the important role of numerous faculty guests that came to team meetings to introduce the group to their successful use of tools and innovative pedagogical techniques.

In this session you will learn how we transformed a traditional lecture-based course into a fully blended course. The team used a backward design approach that began with a major reshuffling of course learning outcomes and weekly learning objectives to structure the content of college algebra around the “big ideas” of college algebra rather than a traditional textbook sequence of topics. This presentation will spur audience reflection on this approach to course redesign as compared to more traditional approaches that frequently use an adopted textbook as the starting point.

We will explain our blended learning mix map to illustrate how the new course was designed to thoroughly interweave online and face-to-face learning activity. This approach ensures that students perceive the deep connections between active in-class learning and their out-of-class work, primarily in ALEKS. We will explain how the course is “doubly adaptive” in that the instructors customize class sessions based on learning analytics from ALEKS and--in real time--on student input via responseware throughout class.

In this presentation we will share successes and roadblocks our redesign team encountered in the process of redesigning College Algebra and implementing active learning and adaptive courseware. We will provide our audience with examples of successful team-building strategies used to strengthen and sustain a team of math faculty and support staff. We will explain how the redesign was collaboratively supported by personnel from the Dept. of Mathematics, Division of Undergraduate Studies, Academic Technology, Ecampus and the Center for Teaching and Learning. We will provide examples of how the instructional faculty and support staff worked together to overcome differences and challenges to create the “Best College Algebra Class Ever!”

The presentation will also describe:

  • student and faculty reactions to the redesign

  • improvements in student success following the redesign

  • how the redesigned course can benefit diverse learners  

  • how math faculty continue to refine the course design

  • the training of new instructors graduate teaching assistants and undergraduate learning assistants each term to sustain the new course  

  • how the blended redesign has informed the subsequent redesign of fully online version of college algebra and blended versions of two other math courses.

The presenters will encourage discussion of blended redesign and engage the audience through interaction via BYOD responseware. This will also show how an audience response system can be used to adapt classroom instruction to the particular needs of learners.

We will provide handouts that outline the course design process and team structure. The presentation slides, handouts and web links to videos about the redesign process will be posted on the conference website.


Saxe, K., & Braddy, L. (2015). A common vision for undergraduate mathematical sciences programs in 2025. Mathematical Association of America.