LACOL’s Quantitative Skills Group is focused on providing students with the preparation they need to engage in quantitative reasoning across the disciplines. In addition, the group is exploring ways our network may enrich opportunities for advanced study and collaborative faculty-student research.
Activities and Interests of this group include:
Study group for ongoing dialogue about emerging pedagogies for liberal arts teaching and learning for the quantitative disciplines; comparing campus data
Collecting and sharing of online and adaptive tools and resources to support student learning
Experiment with online communities and peer networks to support students and peer tutors
Opportunities to connect faculty and students for upper level learning through online exchange
A major initiative of the QS group is the QLAB Project, an initiative to develop a set of online Q-bit modules to support students with quantitative skills and reasoning across the disciplines.
To assist our students with readiness for their quantitative work across the curriculum, and to investigate the role that online resources may play in this, the Liberal Arts Consortium for Online Learning (LACOL) has kicked off a multi-campus development and educational research initiative, nicknamed QLAB. The QLAB project provides a framework for creating a series of modules called Q-bits. Each online Q-bit module focuses on a particular quantitative skill or concepts and provides instructional and review content that is “wrapped” by pre/post knowledge and confidence checks, contextual guides, and applications problems in several disciplines.
In developing Q-bits, the instructional content is hand-selected by our faculty in order to achieve of an appropriate scope and level for students. In many cases, faculty are able to draw on existing high-quality materials, especially on a set of polished instructional videos shared by our collaborators at Yale University through their ONEXYS program. In some cases, faculty are adding custom introductory or instructional components to provide cues for students so they see how each Q-bit relates to their studies in different disciplinary contexts.
In testing Q-bits, LACOL faculty and instructors are well positioned to assess the effectiveness of the online modules in the context of in-class assignments, as refreshers alongside a class, or in the context of mentoring by academic support staff or peer tutors.
Melissa Eblen-Zayas, Assoc. Professor Physics, Carleton College
Adam Honig, Professor of Economics, Amherst College
Laura Muller, Director Peer Instruction, Williams College
Janet Russell, Director Academic Technology, Carleton College
This summer and fall, teams of faculty and technologists collaborated intensively to launch QLAB, a shared framework for curating, implementing and assessing online instructional modules for quantitative skills (QS) and reasoning for just-in-time review and skill-building across disciplines. The goal of the QLAB project is to assist faculty teaching quantitative subjects who find they need methods to support students with gaps in preparation. The strategy draws on a body of research in higher education and experience at our institutions showing that online modules can be a beneficial component of an overall QS support program.
The individual modules, known as Qbits, review quantitative topics and demonstrate the topic’s applications in different disciplinary contexts. For example, a module might review logarithms and then consider the application to decibels and sound perception in psychology, the Richter scale in geology, the concept of pH in chemistry, etc. In Fall 2017, Qbits are being implemented through a combination of videos and quizzing, and consist of an initial knowledge check, short videos to review specific quantitative skills, structured application problems that give students practice applying the quantitative skill in disciplinary contexts, and a final knowledge check.
Developing online resources that can be used in multiple contexts to help students strengthen their quantitative skills serves two purposes. First, by demonstrating the relevance of specific QS in various disciplinary contexts, students learn to view quantitative skills as fundamental and transferable skills that they can draw on in many areas of their liberal arts experience. Second, the consortial effort allows us to collect meaningful data about the effectiveness of the various modules for a greater number of students in a wider variety of contexts. Using what we learn in this pilot, we plan to expand the collection of useful modules.
Aims of the pilot include:
Developing a collaborative framework for design, implement and assessment of online modules for QS/QR instruction and review at residential liberal arts institutions.
Crafting an initial set of instructional modules on high-priority QS topics, drawing on high quality instructional content, developed in partnership with Yale ONEXYS and others.
Assessing module effectiveness as refreshers for tutoring and as just-in-time instruction embedded in coursework.
Gathering data to evaluate the impact of modules on student learning and confidence in each phase of the project and beyond.
Event: Webinar – Update on Q-bits Testing in the Fall 2017 Pilot / What’s Next? Location: ZOOM (details below) Date: Wednesday, November 15 Time: 12:00 noon – 1PM Eastern Presenter: Prof. Melissa Eblen-Zayas & QLAB Core Team
You are invited to join a webinar update and discussion about QLAB, the multi-campus collaboration to develop a shared framework for curating, implementing and assessing online instructional modules to assist students with quantitative skills and reasoning across disciplines.
NB: A recording of the webinar will be shared for those who cannot join in person.
Webinar Agenda: The goal of this session is to bring those who are interested up-to-speed with where the QLAB project stands, what we have learned so far, and what our next steps might be. We will be looking for input on approaches to revising the existing Q-bits, choosing topics for the next several Q-bits to be developed, and lowering barriers to contributing to the project.
Status of the Q-bit project — goals, what makes this project different, overview of what we have done
This video presents a half-hour webinar training with Prof. Melissa Eblen-Zayas of Carleton College and members of the QLAB Project core team. Melissa provides an overview of Q-bits and answers questions about testing in the upcoming term.
Please feel free to forward this post to colleagues who may be interested in Q-bits! The webinar is an great way preview a Q-bit and learn more about our multi-campus collaboration to develop and test ways these modules may help to support students with their quantitative work in different disciplinary contexts.
Q-bit Training Outline:
What are Q-bits? (a brief tour)
Our pilot study – research goals
Options and steps for testing Q-bits with your students
This blog channel is your gateway to Q-bits, online modules designed by our faculty to support students with quantitative skills and reasoning across the disciplines. In the posts below, you can find information and links to each Q-bit that is hosted in your campuses learning management system (LMS) for easy access.
⇒ Students, please leave us a comment about your experience using any of the Q-bits in the posts below. We invite your suggestions on how to improve current modules, or what other topics might be useful to you!
⇒ Faculty, for more information about using Q-bits with your students, we invite you to watch this short video: Q-bits Tutorial.
To assist our students with readiness for their quantitative work across the curriculum, LACOL’s Quantitative Skills working group is launching a multi-campus initiative, nicknamed QLAB. Through this collaboration, faculty and technologists are teaming up to build a shared framework for curating, implementing and assessing instructional modules for quantitative skills (QS) and quantitative reasoning (QR). The strategy draws on a body of research in higher education and experience at our institutions showing that online modules can be a beneficial component of an overall QS/QR support program.
According to project co-lead Melissa Eblen-Zayas, Associate Professor of Physics and Director of the Perlman Center for Learning and Teaching, Carleton College:
The QLAB project addresses a challenge that many of us are facing — we want all students to be successful regardless of their high school math preparation. Currently, each faculty member teaching a course that makes use of basic quantitative skills (QS) must find ways to support students with weak QS preparation. Rather than having faculty members develop all of their own support resources, this project will develop shared online modules – Qbits – that can be deployed for just-in-time review and skill-building in a number of disciplines.
Developing online resources that can be used in multiple contexts to help students strengthen their quantitative skills serves two purposes. First, by showing how these skills are relevant in various disciplinary contexts, students learn to view quantitative skills as fundamental and transferable skills that they can draw on in many areas of their liberal arts experience. Second, as a consortial effort, we will have more students using these modules in a variety of contexts so that we can collect meaningful data about the effectiveness of the various modules, and improve them accordingly.
Groundwork for the project was laid during the QS Framework Hack-a-thon held at Carleton College in January 2017. At that workshop, faculty and technologists created module prototypes and explored research questions based on the common needs and challenges the partner schools experience as small, residential liberal arts institutions. (more…)
On April 7, LACOL QS members are cordially invited to join a one-hour web conference with the leads of the Math Fundamentals (FIPSE) Program, Faculty PI and Professor of Physics Elizabeth McCormack and project management lead Jennifer Spohrer, Manager of Educational Technology Services, both at Bryn Mawr College.
Math Fundamentals is a multi-year, multi-campus initiative investigating the use of blended, just-in-time “sandwich” modules for math review in STEM. The research partners (including LACOL members Bryn Mawr College and Vassar College) are currently field testing several faculty-authored modules in calculus, chemistry and physics. (more…)
This January, LACOL’s Quantitative Skills working group held a 3-day intensive workshop (also known as a hack-a-thon) to explore a shared framework for review of online modules designed to strengthen students’ quantitative skills (QS) and quantitative reasoning (QR). The face-to-face event was designed by a core team of faculty and technologists from the QS group. The workshop was hosted at Carleton College, with support from the Office of the President, Perlman Center for Learning and Teaching, and Office of Academic Technology.
Goals for the LACOL QS hack-a-thon:
Identify aspects of existing QS/QR curricula, frameworks, and methods to be adapted as an online module/program by participating colleges. The goal for the collaboration is to enhance, not replace, local offerings.
Plan for participating campuses to pilot one of the frameworks and agree to a process for assessment and sharing results among campuses.
Document workshop outcomes and recommendations to share with colleagues across the liberal arts.
Throughout the year, the QS working group has been exploring ideas for a collaborative framework to curate or build online tools and resources – including metadata on related pedagogical practices – to support students with QS/QR. Earlier this year, QS group members contributed to a joint exercise informally titled “What do we mean by quantitative skills?” to generate a shared list of key skills across the quantitative disciplines that students will need to have or acquire early in their academic careers. This common skills list provides input into strategies for helping students identify and close gaps. (more…)
Colleagues with wide-ranging expertise and disciplinary interests from seven LACOL schools spent three days sharing, working and learning side-by-side at the hack-a-thon. Together, the team developed an initial draft and prototypes of a collaborative framework for creating/curating and evaluating online QS/QR modules that can boost students success and improve access. With inspiration from special guest Jim Rolf from Yale ONEXYS, we delved deeply into collaborative strategies for design, implementation and measuring effectiveness. A grand time was had by all … and more to come! (Read more about the project.)
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Starting in the fall of 2016, faculty at Bryn Mawr and seven partner liberal arts colleges (including LACOL member Vassar College) are field-testing faculty-authored online learning modules they have developed and refined over the past two years as part of the Blended, Just-in-Time Math Fundamentals program. Led by Bryn Mawr professor of physics, Elizabeth McCormack, the Math Fundamentals program tackles math review for students enrolled in introductory STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) courses. It is designed as a scalable, affordable method for helping students who are interested in STEM fields and generally college-ready in math, but who have areas of weakness or lack experience with applied mathematics, to build skills and confidence needed to thrive in introductory STEM courses.
For example, a student taking introductory physics will need to draw on trigonometry in order to solve certain types of vector problems. While most students encounter trigonometry at some point in high school math courses, the timing, breadth and depth of that exposure can vary considerably. To help these students, physics, chemistry and calculus professors at Allegheny, Bryn Mawr, Franklin & Marshall, Grinnell, Lafayette, Mills, Smith, St. Olaf, and Vassar colleges have worked with instructional designers to develop a “sandwich” approach to math review. Each module starts with a worked example of a canonical course problem — such as resolving vectors in introductory physics. This example identifies the fundamental math skills needed to solve the problem and provides links to online, interactive self-assessment and practice resources. According to the project manager Jennifer Spohrer, Manager of Educational Technology Services at Bryn Mawr:
These resources give students individualized feedback on their mastery of math fundamentals. Meanwhile, faculty, academic support staff, and peer tutors can review students’ work to provide additional assistance to those who need it. Students then solve a “do-it-yourself” version of the original problem to practice applying those skills in context.
Debrief on Carleton’s CUBE pilot (online summer bridge program for quantitative skills)
On October 19, LACOL held a webinar with special guests Melissa Eblen-Zayas and Janet Russell from Carleton College. In this one-hour session, Melissa and Janet shared their experiences running the first iteration ofthe ‘Carleton Undergraduate Bridge Experience’ or CUBE, a new online summer bridge program designed to support entering students with quantitative skills and reasoning. Carleton’s creative approach to developing CUBE riveted the audience at the June LACOL workshop as the pilot was just getting underway. Now in this “debrief” session, you can hear all about what went into running the program in the first round, how students responded, and the lessons that were learned. The meeting was held in Zoom with ample opportunity for Q&A and discussion. Contact Liz Evans (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
Melissa Eblen-Zayas, Associate Professor of Physics and Director of the Perlman Center for Learning and Teaching, Carleton College
Janet Russell, Director of Academic Technology, Carleton College
A major highlight of Saturday’s plenary session at the June LACOL workshop was a presentation from Carleton College on their new online/hybrid bridge program called ‘Carleton Undergraduate Bridge Experience’ or CUBE. Associate Dean and Professor of English George Shuffelton opened the session with some background on the motivations for designing the new program to support incoming students with their quantitative skills and reasoning which pilots this summer. Director of Academic Technology Janet Russell has worked closely with the program’s director, Physicist Melissa Eblen-Zayas, and the Carleton IT team to guide the learning design for the first cohort of ~24 students. Janet described various elements of the program, including on-campus and online mentoring, videos and connections through social media. Workshop participants, especially those involved with the Quantitative Skills working group, applauded this excellent presentation and are excited to learn from Carleton’s initial experiences this summer. The QS group is exploring various ways the colleges might collaborate to support students with quantitative skills and reasoning as they arrive on campus and progress with their studies.
Carleton’s G. Shuffelton and J. Russell share a look at the CUBE for QS/QR.
On Monday, Feb 29, members of LACOL’s Quantitative Skills working group met with Yale’s ONEXYS team for a discussion of online/hybrid approaches to supporting students with quantitative skills and reasoning.
Areas of common interest include:
Yale’s experience with ONEXYS
Measuring program impact and student success
Online module design/content for summer bridge
Training of peer coaches/mentors for effective tutoring (blended and online)
Envisioning a virtual community/social network for students and/or coaches
Online Bridge Programs for QS/QR Preparedness
Yale ONEXYS / LACOL QS web conference
Monday, Feb 29, 2016
Jim Rolf (Yale Math Department)
Edward O’Neill (Yale Teaching and Learning Center) (more…)