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Heard: At Virginia Tech, Computers Help Solve a Math Class Problem

By on April 26, 2012
Domestic, Math, Required, STEM, Technology, Universities & Colleges

 

Apple iMac made with Photoshop CS3
I’m here to teach you math. Apple iMac made with Photoshop CS3 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For many students at Virginia Tech, math class means going to a massive computer lab called The Emporium, where the primary teaching comes through the glow of  computer screens — over 500 of them. The Washington Post reports that the math labs rose out of economic necessity as a response to budget cuts. Low and behold, the computer software is very effective, cheaper than actual professors and saves space. The computers will happily work with students whether at 8 pm or 3 a.m. — and won’t complain if they reek like a party.  Daniel de Vise reports:

 

The Emporium is the Wal-Mart of higher education, a triumph in economy of scale and a glimpse at a possible future of computer-led learning. Eight thousand students a year take introductory math in a space that once housed a discount department store. Four math instructors, none of them professors, lead seven courses with enrollments of 200 to 2,000. Students walk to class through a shopping mall, past a health club and a tanning salon, as ambient Muzak plays.

The lab now accommodates 5,000 students in fall and 3,000 in spring, freeing up dozens of Virginia Tech classrooms.

“You don’t have to have a big lab to do what we do,” said Terri Bourdon, the senior math instructor who runs the Emporium. “You don’t have to have the big staff that we have. You just have to have the philosophy that we have, which is that you learn math by doing math.”

Students click their way through courses that unfold in a series of modules. Each lesson typically starts with an online lecture or reading passage, then leads to a series of problems. Students receive instant feedback; hints are dispensed and wrong answers explained. The module ends in a quiz. Faculty design every course and have added modest improvements over the years, such as interactive animation and embedded links that hark back to previous lessons.

via At Virginia Tech, computers help solve a math class problem – The Washington Post.



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