OPTIMIZING COMPUTER-BASED DEVELOPMENTAL MATH LEARNING AT AN ARABIC WOMEN’S UNIVERSITY
Developmental math courses give university students a chance to reestablish basic skills and knowledge needed in college algebra courses. Computer assisted learning can be an integral part of these developmental math courses. Colleges and universities implement computer-based courses in various ways (e.g., self-paced or supervised schedules; computer laboratory or online access; with or without lecture). This paper describes a computer-based developmental math course taught at Zayed University. Discussion of computer-based learning environments is presented in three sections: 1) computer use—access and social use of computers as a tool for learning, 2) individual learning—effects of the computer environment such as software interactivity and feedback, and 3) course design—optimal course structure and assessment methods. Additionally, results of a questionnaire about students’ experience in the computer-based math course indicate students’ positive attitudes about interacting with and doing work on their laptop computers.
Higher educational institutions throughout the world have seen an extraordinary increase in students who enter college with minimal mathematics skills and negative emotions about mathematics (e.g., math phobia). To meet the needs of this increasing population, many colleges and universities purchase tutorial software or acquire more comprehensive computer-based courseware (i.e., educational software that serves as the main vehicle for teaching a course). However, most educators familiar with the evolution of educational software are aware of the slow progress in development of good quality computer-based learning environments. In fact, much of the early “educational” software was inferior to an average textbook about the same topic—especially when the software merely replicates the contents and pedagogical design of a textbook. Second, just as teaching techniques and learning modalities vary according to age and ability level, even good quality software may not be appropriate for some populations. Third, even when computer-based learning environments could be a significant enhancement to traditional course delivery, barriers to integrating computers in the learning process may come from institutional constraints, ill-informed administrators, inflexible or unskilled teachers, or resistant students.