Affordable Learning in College Algebra
Fort Valley State University, A Unit of The University System of Georgia
Authors: Davis, Josephine, Cartwright, Samuel, Burell, Bhavana
Innovations using low-to-no-cost textbook resources on University System of Georgia (USG) campuses are being supported and encouraged by the System’s Affordable Learning Center (ALC). This trend has been inspired by several factors. State legislators, parents and other stakeholders have continuously decried the rising costs of a college education. College students are increasingly using innovative means such as loans, rentals, digital textbooks and open resources to avoid purchasing high-cost textbooks. Students’ increasing use of technology in the classroom, the widespread availability of “smart” classrooms, and the development of e-book reader technologies, such as Kindle and iPad, are providing college and university faculty the capability to explore open source and e-textbooks as affordable options for students.
Responding to the rising cost of textbooks, the USG Affordable Learning initiative provides funds for college and university faculty to pursue no-to-low cost textbook options for their students. With funding from The University System of Georgia’s Affordable Learning initiative, a team of mathematics faculty at Fort Valley State University (FVSU) launched a “no-cost” course redesign effort. The courses targeted for reducing or eliminating students’ textbook costs were college algebra and pre-calculus. These courses were chosen for redesign owing to their unintentional “gate-keeping” outcomes. It was noted over time that increasingly more students enrolling in these courses were not able to afford the required textbook nor the course management system required for the laboratory component for these courses. Moreover, when some students finally accrued enough money on or after the mid-semester period, it was already too late for them to achieve equilibrium with the requisite knowledge and productivity standards for the course.
The findings of this study suggest that student engagement with the course resources is a major factor affecting achievement. Students who made significant efforts to complete the assigned homework and quizzes in the laboratory were found to have attained A – C grades at a higher rate than students who were less engaged. On the contrary, while students indicate that they prefer to have textbooks at no-cost, homework completion rates and student engagement with the course were not significantly improved based on the availability of no-cost course resources.
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