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Response to Nov. 3 “Instructional Designer Continues to Encourage Adaptive Learning Technology Despite Faculty Hostility”

Tingxiu Wang, Head of Math Department

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Article in Response to: http://tamuceasttexan.com/2859/features/adapt-tech/ 

The math faculty read the article, Instructional Designer Continues to Encourage Adaptive Learning Technology Despite Faculty “Hostility,” published by The East Texan on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016. Since the article mentions MyMathLab, the Math Department would like to take this opportunity to show the readers that our faculty are enthusiastic, open, and friendly to technology, and how much the math faculty care about students and their learning.

 

  1. We have used MyMathLab for at least 12 years. Currently, all 29 sections of Math 131 and 1314 with about 900 students are using MyMathLab. Five classes of dual credit Math 1314 with about 100 high school students are using MyMathLab. Two sections of Math 350, 351 also use MyMathLab. In addition, three classes of dual credit Math 1314 and three classes of dual credit Math 2413 with about 110 students are using WebAssign.
  2. MyMathLab is a product of Pearson. Each major publisher has its own product similar or competitive to MyMathLab. For example, Cengage Learning has MindTab and WebAssign, McGraw Hill offers ALEKS and Connect, and Wiley has Wiley Plus. Since not all the textbooks are published by Pearson, we use different software based on the adopted textbook. Some faculty members use WebAssign in Math 1324, Math 176, and other math classes. In Summer 2016, we piloted ALEKS for a group of Math 131 students. Math 314, 331, and 334 are currently using WeBWork. WeBWork is a free product provided by the Mathematical Association of America.
  3. The math faculty are keen and current with the newest technology. We invited publishers (Cengage Learning, Hawkes Learning, McGraw Hill, Pearson) and campus IT experts to talk about technologies such as MyMathLab, ALEKS, WebAssign, Adobe Connect, Smart Projectors. We will continue to invite publishers to discuss their adaptive learning technology solutions. We met with representatives from McGraw Hill on Oct. 19 and will host a follow-up workshop on campus on Nov. 18.
  4. Our faculty use technologies when appropriate. For example, they use graphing calculators, GeoGebra, Mathematica, MatLab, Minitab, R, and SageMath to support student learning.
  5. Our faculty develop and teach online classes with software such as One Note, Camtatia, Adobe Connect, and Skype. Since we obtained approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for offering online graduate programs in October 2013, about half of our graduate classes are now available online, which has helped almost double our graduate enrollment compared to that in fall 2013, when no online graduate class was offered.

 

The article recognizes that a student’s schedule is inherently full. Likewise, our faculty also have been overloaded. Despite their heavy teaching load, and research and service requirements, they continue learning and adopting technologies for improving their teaching effectiveness. In terms of cost, the department has looked into more affordable and comparable adaptive learning technology as well as other technologies. We are also very interested in good open source software, such as WeBWork, R, and SageMath.

 

An obstacle for the math faculty to use adaptive learning technology is lack of a computer lab for teaching. The math department has a small computer lab with 10 computers in the math skills center, which is not sufficient for a full class. The math department has been looking for solutions since Spring 2014. With support from the administration, we are optimistic to have a good solution to use more advanced adaptive learning technologies to improve student learning.

 

Our faculty do not worry that computers may replace them to teach students. In fact, it is very unlikely because one of the core objectives of the Texas Core Curriculum (http://www.thecb.state.tx.us/index.cfm?objectid=427FDE26-AF5D-F1A1-E6FDB62091E2A507) is “Communication Skills (COM) – effective development, interpretation and expression of ideas through written, oral and visual communication.” We have seen that some students can get correct answers but cannot present their work clearly and properly. Adaptive learning technology does not help students’ communication skills.

 

Our faculty embrace technologies, including adaptive learning technology. Many of them have used MyMathLab since it was introduced to the market. They are competitive and professional. They have been invited and their travels were paid by Pearson and McGraw Hill to attend symposiums to discuss the use of MyMathLab and ALEKS. They have also served as reviewers for Pearson, McGraw Hill, and Wiley.

 

Please let students know that the math faculty care about their learning, and that studying at A&M Commerce is a wise choice. Let us use a slogan of Allstate to finish this article: please let our students know that “You are in good hands.”

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Response to Nov. 3 “Instructional Designer Continues to Encourage Adaptive Learning Technology Despite Faculty Hostility”