Theory to Practice: Reducing Student Attrition in Online Undergraduate Math

View the original Journal Publication Jacquelyn Kelly, Alex Edgcomb, Jim Bruno, Chelsea Gordon, Frank Vahid

Researchers have developed numerous effective theory-based practices for teaching undergraduate general education mathematics (UGEM); however, many universities have struggled for decades to close the gap from theory to practice. This gap contributes to the national lack of skilled STEM workers. Recently, an all-online university closed the gap by shifting their philosophical framework for UGEM from traditionalist methodology to a synthesis of seminal theories and practices. This paper disseminates the implementation of theory-based practices in UGEM toward reducing student attrition (withdraw or fail), including: Rationale for theory identification, construction of a philosophical framework, collection of stakeholder input, implementation, evaluation, post-implementation maintenance and communication, and institutional socialization of the new paradigmatic shift. These efforts yielded an attrition reduction from 17.5% to 4.7% in Quantitative Reasoning 1 (QR1) and from 13.9% to 4.0% in QR2. A key reported outcome is a blueprint for an institution to similarly close the gap.