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College Readiness: Preparing Students for the University Curriculum

College Readiness: Preparing Students for the University Curriculum

Helping students before Day One with on-line tutorials and peer mentors can help increase graduation rates and retention in science and math majors.

readiness_350.jpgIn the College of Natural Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin, there are plenty of examples of high school graduates that have breezed through school at the top of their class.

They may have taken advanced calculus or physics, and are confident and feel smart and ready to major in science or math in college. But sadly, when some of them get to the university, they hit the challenges of university-level curriculum. Some are even discouraged enough to choose a different major.

This is a problem, say experts in the college, because the U.S. is in dire need of more scientists, doctors, engineers and technology innovators. To get those, we need more smart graduates getting science and math degrees.

To remedy this problem, the College of Natural Sciences has embarked upon a comprehensive “college readiness program” in mathematics and chemistry to help under-prepared students get ready for their first year. The program uses online assessment and tutoring tools, but also relies on real-person peer mentoring and tutoring for students before they arrive on campus.

“The college readiness program is giving us a clear sense of where our incoming students need help,” says David Laude, senior associate dean for academic affairs. “It is also better preparing the students for their first year, even giving participating students the ability to skip a math prerequisite, which saves them both tuition dollars and time.”

In Summer 2010, the program helped 78 percent of students that weren’t yet calculus-ready increase their level of readiness and skip one course level. Half of the students moved from pre-calculus to calculus and about one quarter moved from college algebra straight to calculus, bypassing a semester of pre-calculus.

In fact, over a two year period, enrollment in pre-calculus has dropped by almost half, which means that the Math Department is now offering less pre-calculus and more calculus. It also means that students are better – and more equally – prepared on day one of the fall semester.

All of this is done through a combination of online videos and tutorials, pre-assessment tests, workbooks and practice problems, and advisors, peer mentors and tutors that incoming students can access via phone, email or Skype from their hometowns.

Sacha Kopp, associate dean of curriculum for the college, sees this as the beginning of a much broader program to increase the success of science and math students at the university by creating rich online curricula and support networks.

“We would like to see a curriculum from our college that spans the senior year of high school, the time when freshman are placing into courses at the university, and through their first year of courses here,” says Kopp. “We want to support students' success in what has been a very challenging transition from high school into STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] majors at UT. If you can make it through your first year of a STEM degree, you are probably going to be okay.”

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Comments 1

 
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Sunday, 19 November 2017

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