Teaching and Assessing Intermediate Algebra Students Online Using WebCTM

Alicia Giovinazzo
Assistant Professor
Math, Science, and Technology Department
Nova Southeastern University
3301 College Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33314
(954) 262-8308; giovinaz@nova.edu


The use of technology in the teaching and learning of mathematics has been explored by most educators for some time now. Technology in the mathematics classroom has undoubtedly grown as user-friendly technologies have been developed to assist the instructor in tracking multiple student progress. Through the use of technology, instructors are now able to provide feedback and guidance on an individual basis, monitor student progress, link students to other related learning resources, and provide an interactive learning experience.

The purpose of this paper is to illustrate some of the technologies available for the delivery of mathematics courses online. The demonstrations will focus on the use of a WebCT platform in the teaching and assessing of college students in an Intermediate Algebra online course.

Description of Course

The online sections of the course are taught completely online with a maximum of eighteen students per class. The students in the class log onto a WebCT platform where the course has been developed. The home page of the course consists of nine different icons labeled as Start Here, Pre-Class Info, Syllabus, Course Content, Study Tools, Communication, University Resources, Evaluations, and Search. The students are responsible to log on at least once a day just as they would be responsible to attend a live course everyday.

The Start Here icon contains a WebCT tutorial to get students accustomed to the WebCT tools of the course. Before students are provided access to the course, they need to complete and pass a mandatory WebCT quiz. The Pre- Class Info contains information similar to a first class assignment that live courses sometimes have posted on a bulletin board on campus. The Syllabus icon contains the same syllabus given in a live course on the first day of class. It consists of information about the instructor with office hours, required textbooks and materials, the objectives of the course, topics of the book covered, schedule of assignments throughout the term, number of tests and their weight in the course, the grading scale, and the last day to withdraw from the course. The Course Content consists of instructor's notes and links to related topics being covered, some of which consist of video clips of lectures. The Study Tools consist of a calendar, the university's library website access, a glossary, and other such resources. The Communication icon contains email, discussion, chat, and a whiteboard. The University Resource icon contains all of the university's important websites available to students, such as the library, the bookstore, the math lab, etc. The Evaluation icon contains all the exams of the term. The Search icon is provided to students as an easy access to some of the commonly used search engines.

Course Content and Student Assessment

Even though all of the components of the course are important, the course content and the evaluation are the essence of the course. These two are what make a course, whether it is live or online. In the online format, as it was briefly discussed above, the Course Content icon consists mainly of what the instructor would be presenting in a classroom setting. In an online course there is more of an active approach required since the student is responsible for the reading and viewing of the material provided by the instructor. The student is more of an independent learner in the online setting. An example of a lecture provided to students as part of the course content can be found by going to http://www.polaris.nova.edu/MST/online/math1030/unit3/u3s1. html

Students in the online class are assessed through their performance on tests. These tests are found via the Evaluation icon. Tests consist of twenty multiple-choice questions covering three or four sections at a time. Students in an intermediate algebra online course have a test every week. Tests are made available for three days, however, once a test is accessed, students have a limited time available to complete it. Tests are created with the maximum level of security in mind. In doing so, tests have been constructed so that no two students receive the same questions in the same order and questions appear one at a time where they need to be answered or skipped and if skipped will be counted wrong. Tests are graded instantly after they are submitted. Each test is made available to the students for review and discussion two to three days after the submission deadline. The following contains the information given to students about the tests.



Some of the issues that are still uncertain in the effective delivery of online mathematics courses are the quality of instruction provided to the students and the integrity and transparency of the entire testing process. When technologies are available that could make these two issues more comparable to those accessible in a live classroom setting, the online experience will be a complete one.