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High Intensity Camp Boots Students Ahead in Math

A community college in central Pennsylvania has seen great success with a blended model boot camp for developmental math. Harrisburg Area Community College, with five campuses and 22,000 students, began the boot camp program in 2011 with a grant issued by the college president to help accelerate students through their early math.

According to a case study on the program written by Jason Rosenberry, an associate professor of mathematics, the community college has four levels of developmental math: "Building Confidence and Skills in Math" (covering arithmetic, whole numbers, decimals, and fractions), "Pre-Algebra," "Beginning Algebra" and "Intermediate Algebra."

Students take placement tests prior to enrollment in a math class. The colleges use Accuplacer, an online assessment program delivered by the College Board. Students who were within five points of a cut score for testing into pre-algebra or beginning algebra received a message inviting them to a "free, one-week boot camp program." Other students found out about the boot camp from instructors.

A fall 2012 boot camp was delivered before the start of the spring semester at three of the five campuses. A summer 2013 boot camp was offered at all five locations.

The boot camp consisted of instructor lecture and time to work through online courses that used Pearson Education's MyFoundationsLab Learning Path modules. They attended three hours of class each day for five days in a row. On the fifth day students reviewed what they'd learned and retested on the Accuplacer placement exam.

The results: 80 percent of students who participated advanced at least one course level. Some — 15 percent in the fall and 21 percent in the summer — jumped two levels.

The math instructors worked with a Pearson learning technology specialist to select what content would make up the online courses. "The flexibility of MyFoundationsLab enabled us to modify the learning modules to do exactly what we wanted them to do," wrote Rosenberry. "The success of the boot camps stems from face-to-face instruction combined with MyFoundationsLab activity."

Rosenberry noted that those students who didn't advance failed to attend one or more days of boot camps. "Because the program was so short, 100 percent attendance was vital to student success."

He added that the college is "committed" to continuing the boot camp offering if additional funding can be found. Organizers would like to increase enrollment and consider a version of the intensive instruction on four consecutive Mondays instead of in a single week.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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