Better Remediation?

Maybe the lecture course doesn’t really work that well, one college has concluded.

Montgomery College, a community college in Maryland, has apparently decided to stop teaching remedial mathematics lectures.

According to an article by Paul Fain at Inside Higher Ed:

The remedial math class at Montgomery College thrums with the sounds of clicking keyboards and low murmurs. Students pack the room and stare intently at computer terminals.

Missing, however, is the voice of a professor lecturing to the class. This modular classroom is a computer lab, not a lecture hall. There is no podium or other central spot for a professor. Several instructors are here, however, hovering around the room and helping students one at a time. Their role looks more like that of tutors than professors.

This computer lab classroom is part of something thing called an emporium class. Accord to Fain, in such classes “students work on computer-based math software and move at their own pace. Professors track their progress online, and answer questions individually, both online and in the lab.”

Virginia Tech apparently created the first such class. Community colleges in Virginia and Tennessee also make use of the method.

It looks promising, though its unclear if the method is actually more a more effective way to provide remedial instruction. The success may come down to faculty.

While technology-based instruction is often pushed as a way to help colleges cut costs, according to the article “it only works if colleges employ enough instructors to give students individual attention.”

And that means doing remediation effectively using the emporium method means it will cost colleges more money, not less. If before community colleges could provide remediation with one professor in a lecture hall, now they need a computer lab with the latest technology, and several instructors.

Let’s hope it works.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer