Teaching Online Classes With MyMathLab

April 19, 2010 at 12:32 pm 2 comments

I’ve been using MyMathLab to teach online courses for quite a while (at least 5 years). In this blog article I will share some tips from my experience. Although some of the information pertains directly to MyMathLab, I think you will find most of the information helpful whether you use MyMathLab or not.

Orientation

We have mandatory face-to-face orientations for our online classes. It’s really beneficial in a couple of ways, but definitely not necessary. It gives me a chance to show my students what MyMathLab looks like.

  • Where to find announcements
  • Where to find homework
  • What the homework screen looks like
  • Where to find quizzes
  • What the quiz screen looks like
  • Where to find the gradebook
  • Where to find the ebook
  • Where to find the video lectures
  • Where to find the calendar of assignment due dates

I could show all of these features in a Jing video, or in a Camtasia video posted to Youtube. It is important that your students know their way around, so be sure to find some way to do this. I have a colleague that uses a “scavenger hunt” assignment to be sure that his students can find all of the tools as well as how to use them.

Another benefit of the face to face orientation is that students form bonds on that first night, and have someone who they can lean on during the semester. You can create the group experience online through discussion boards, Twitter, or Facebook. Students in an online class can begin to feel disconnected and drift away – building connections to other students will help to keep students actively involved in the class.

It is crucial that students have a few days to find their way before the first assignment is due. You have to allow some time for students to get an access code and find their way around the site. My orientation is typically on a Tuesday or Wednesday, and I have the first HW assignment due the following Monday.

Delivering the Material

I use a combination of three tools to get information for each section we cover to my students.

  1. Textbook
    I tell my students to read through the section first. I recommend a quick read – look for new definitions and procedures, work through the examples in the text, try the quick check examples.
  2. Video Lectures
    The video lectures are located in the eBook section. (In some MyMathLab courses this is labeled as “Chapter Contents”.) The videos show one example per objective in the section. Many students benefit from the videos because the work is shown one step at a time as opposed to seeing all of the steps in a textbook. They also give students time to think about what’s next. I have a colleague that believes that the videos are so essential that he assigns the videos and makes viewing them a prerequisite to access the homework assignments.
  3. Regular Announcements
    I send out announcements on a regular basis using the MML Announcement Manager. This tool allows me to post the announcement to the course home page as well as email the announcement to each student. On Sunday I make an announcement that details the tasks that must be completed that week, along with due dates. I also send out an announcement for each section that lists: the objectives for that section, my pointers for specific types of problems, and suggested odd practice problems. (If you’d like to see a copy of one of my announcements, drop me a line and I can send you one.)

The main difference between an online class and a traditional class is that students are more responsible for seeking out and learning the material. My approach helps them to access the material.

Homework and Quizzes

I assign homework for each section we cover. For elementary algebra, this amounts to 40 assignments. I count homework for 10% of the overall grade. Each assignment has 20-25 problems, and I leave all of the learning aids turned on. (Students use the learning aids such as “Help Me Solve This” or “Show An Example” to help learn the material, since they are unable to practice in class or ask questions like traditional students do.)

I assign quizzes twice per chapter. I count quizzes for 20% of the total grade. The quizzes are cumulative and have 20-25 questions as well. The learning aids are not turned on for the quizzes. I essentially treat this as “super homework” – I assume students will use their notes or textbook. Quizzes function differently than homework assignments. Besides the lack of learning aids, students do not get feedback after each problem, but instead must wait until after the entire quiz is complete. I allow my students to retake each quiz as many times as they would like until the deadline arrives.

I have 3-4 HW assignments or quizzes due each week. I make sure to leave an “off day” before each quiz is due. For example, this week my online class has 6.3 HW due Monday, 6.4 HW due Tuesday, a quiz on 6.1-6.4 due Thursday, and 6.5 HW due Friday. I open all of the chapter homework and quizzes at the same time, usually near the end of the previous chapter. My deadlines are firm, because online students with a flexible schedule will push all of the work off as long as they can. (No surprise, I’m sure!)

Exams

My students come to campus to take a midterm (30% of their grade) and a final exam (40% of their grade). So, 70% of their grade comes from pencil-and paper exams in my presence. I warn students about the dilemma of scoring really high on online homework and quizzes while scoring poorly on the exams. I explain that the online work is to be done from the perspective of preparing for the exams. The goal is to use the online work to learn and understand the material, not just to get the best score possible.

In the past I have collected written work from students because I feel that it’s important for students to work in a fashion similar to the way they will be tested. It was difficult getting students to turn in their work, but recent technological advances may make it more efficient. Currently I share review assignments and answer keys with my students, and ask them to let me know if there are any questions.

Summary

I hope you find this information helpful. If you have any questions, or strategies you would like to share, I encourage you to leave a comment, or reach me through the contact page at my web site – georgewoodbury.com.

-George

I am a math instructor at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA. Each Monday I post an article related to MyMathLab on my blog. If there’s a particular topic you’d like me to address, or if you have a question or a comment, please let me know. You can reach me through the contact page on my website – http://georgewoodbury.com.

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Entry filed under: Math, MyMathLab. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Letting Your Students Think Learning Styles – Brief Group Presentations

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Diane Bauman  |  April 27, 2010 at 8:38 am

    Not 10 minutes ago I wrote you to ask about creating an online course and then I found this entry! You can ignore me other questions and I thank you for your input here. This is going to be a huge help!

    Reply
    • 2. georgewoodbury  |  April 27, 2010 at 11:40 am

      You bet Diane! If you have follow up questions, you know how to get ahold of me. – George

      Reply

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