A new LACOL collaboration will develop Qbits to support students with quantitative skills and reasoning

M. Eblen-Zayas
Above: Physicist M. Eblen-Zayas, Carleton College

Top: Mathematician M. Stoicu, Williams College at the 2017 QS Hackathon

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.

The QLAB project will engage with faculty, instructional designers and technologists from all LACOL member schools.  The work will be guided by a core team, including Eblen-Zayas, Janet Russell (Director of Academic Technology, Carleton College), Laura Muller (Director of Quantitative Skills Programs and Peer Support, Williams College) and Adam Honig (Professor of Economics and Director of the Moss Quantitative Center, Amherst College.)

Specific aims of the project 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 a set of 25 instructional modules on high-priority QS/QR topics, drawing on high quality, curated instructional content in partnership with Yale ONEXYS and others.
  • assessing modules in three instructional contexts: as stand alone refreshers, as just-in-time instruction embedded in coursework, and as components of QS/QR support or bridge programs.
  • developing  shared data and asset management processes for module elements, wrappers, and templates.
  • gathering data to evaluate the impact of modules on student learning and confidence over three testing cycles
  • sharing findings across LACOL and with our colleagues in the liberal arts.

For more details see: