Case Studies: Assigning Online Homework

Kirk Trigsted, University of Idaho

Kirk Trigsted Course Set-up

“Students are placed in Math 143 according to ACT/SAT/COMPASS test scores. Students not scoring high enough for Math 143 are placed in Math 108. See for our Placement cut scores. The syllabus, course manual, and all homework assignments can be found online at

Our courses are considered to be hybrid courses. The students have two attendance requirements: They must attend Focus Group each week, and they must spend a minimum of 150 minutes in the Polya Center each week. The rest of the course work can be done from anywhere since all of our material, including all content lectures, can be accessed online.

In the one-hour Focus Group each week, the Focus Group Teacher gives the students guidance as to how to be successful for the upcoming week. The FG teacher gives study strategies, important announcements and explains exactly what to do in order to successfully learn the current material. During the 150 minutes in the Polya Mathematics Learning Center each week, students have the choice of completing an assignment from the text or completing an assignment online using MyMathLab. The lab is staffed by trained undergraduates, graduates, and faculty over 80 hours each week. As the semester progresses and students show success in mastery of the material, their time requirements decrease.”

How is MyMathLab used?

At the University of Idaho, we use MyMathLab for the sole purpose of assigning homework. There is a homework assignment each week for which the students choose to turn in problems from the textbook or complete a MyMathLab assignment.”

Student results using MyMathLab

During Fall 2004 I looked at the population of the students in Math 108 who finished the course (i.e,. took the final exam). Here were the ABC rates (pass rates):

Out of a total of 491 students who finished the course, 457 chose the MyMathLab option for homework, while only 34 students chose to do the textbook homework option. Therefore, 93% of our student population prefer working problems using MyMathLab over working traditional textbook homework.

I think that the students succeed using MML because they get immediate feedback and they are able to rework the problems as many times as they want. The reinforcement of working a problem over and over is key to success in entry-level mathematics courses. In the traditional setting, students often do not receive their homework back for a week. By this time, it is usually too late for the students to go back and correct their misconceptions. It was my experience that most students did not take the time to look at their mistakes. I often witnessed several students throwing their graded homework away as the left the classroom. Students need immediate feedback, and MML gives it to them.

So far, it seems that our students who choose the MML option comprehend the material better than the students who do the textbook homework. Last semester, the students who chose the MML option scored, on average, 13.5 points higher on the final exam than their textbook option counterparts.

Again, I think that the immediate feedback is the key. Students know in an instant if they understand the material or not. If they are in our lab, they can get the help exactly at the instant they need it.

More Case Studies

Traditional Classroom Environment (Youngstown State University)

Online Course (University of Toledo)

Lecture/Lab Setting (Delaware Technical & Community College)

See Also