Case Study

Indiana Tech Improves Engagement and Outcomes in Math Courses After Switching from Textbooks to Möbius

Meg Tyler
Meg Tyler

Challenge

Indiana Tech wanted to make learning math online feel more relevant to students. Teaching math courses online was challenging because many students didn’t understand why they needed to learn the material. The faculty wanted students to see the “why” behind math. Math faculty wanted to improve engagement in online courses and offer interactive, visual elements and customized lessons with more context. The University was also working to shift from textbooks to a digital, one-stop place for students to access course materials.

Solution

Indiana Tech began using Möbius, DigitalEd’s platform for creating and deploying online STEM courses for key math courses. Associate Professor of Mathematics Jerome Heaven, who has taught at the school for over 18 years, recommended Möbius for its powerful math engine and the ability to use interactive and visual elements in online courses. Faculty chose four high-enrollment math courses to transition to Möbius, including Pre-Algebra, Basic Algebra, Mathematical Problem Solving, and Intro to Business Statistics, to improve academic outcomes in the courses.

Result

Switching to Möbius provided a one-stop place for students to access course materials, eliminating the need for textbooks. Faculty saw improved student engagement and academic outcomes after using Möbius. As part of a greater effort within the institution, Möbius helped increase student engagement and contributed to some of the reduction in the failure rate. Instructors have noticed that students are more engaged in the online courses delivered through Möbius. After its successful implementation at the undergraduate level, Indiana Tech is expanding the use of Möbius to graduate studies.

 

The Details

Providing a Convenient One-Stop Place for Students to Access Course Materials 

Indiana Tech has residential students, commuters, and a growing community of adult learners. The comprehensive University also offers certifications with industry partners. 

Indiana Tech had a long history of working with DigitalEd on placement testing and remediation. When the academic administration identified a university-wide goal of transitioning to digital materials, Associate Professor of Mathematics Jerome Heaven, who has taught for over 18 years, recommended using Möbius. The Mathematics faculty were already familiar with Möbius for assessment and liked the powerful math engine and the platform’s flexibility to offer more interactive and engaging content. They also wanted to find a solution to help students see real-world applications of math concepts.

The faculty started discussing using Möbius in Fall of 2020, and the rollout took about seven weeks. They identified four high-enrollment, accelerated six-week courses serving various majors and disciplines that wanted to improve academic outcomes and engagement of their students (Pre-Algebra, Basic Algebra, Mathematical Problem Solving, and Intro to Business Statistics). 

Indiana Tech used OpenStax OER content, available with Möbius, to replace the traditional textbook. Faculty had access to prebuilt course content and the ability to mix and match pieces from each to create courses as desired. This modular approach and the flexibility of Möbius content allowed faculty to edit, leave out, or add questions to fit their specific needs and teaching styles.      

“It took the place of traditional textbooks, so students didn’t need to wait for them to arrive to start their coursework,” said Heaven. 

Providing Context to Engage Students Online and Help Them See the “Why” Behind Math

Indiana Tech faculty want students from all majors to feel engaged with math courses and understand how math applies to their fields. 

“Teaching math online is a challenge,” said Heaven. “Many students don’t see the relevance of math to their lives and goals. They ask, ‘Why do I need to know this?’ They struggle with the why. I want my courses to put math in context for the students,” said Heaven. “I think Möbius does that.”

Möbius worked well to deliver engaging math courses for various types of students from different majors. With the platform, faculty can customize content to help students see the real-world applications of math. Using Möbius allowed for more interactive content that helped students become more comfortable with math.

For example, students can drag numbers around in the problem graphs and change numbers to see how these changes alter the result.      

With Möbius, faculty can meet students where they are and provide more targeted support. 

“They receive real-time feedback, so they know where they are,” said Heaven. “It’s easy to embed a lesson to refresh their memory. They can do a ‘try it’ practice problem as often as they want.”

“What Möbius allows us to do with the careful use of the lessons is to paint that bigger picture and get students to see the why behind math,” said Heaven. 

Faculty use options that allow students to manipulate numbers and figures in the problems, like putting numbers on a number line, moving them, and seeing the effects.

“When they can visualize it and paint their picture, it becomes more relevant,” said Heaven.

Increasing Engagement and Student Achievement in Math Courses

Indiana Tech faculty are using Möbius in a variety of courses because of the impact they’re seeing on student learning and achievement. 

“I use Möbius in every class,” said Heaven. “Students are coming out of high school with more exposure to technology, and I’m starting to see more competitors, but nothing has the power of Möbius.”

Instructors are noticing that students are responding positively to the platform. For example, attendance is up at live sessions in asynchronous courses that offer some live sessions. Faculty also see improved academic outcomes in online math courses. 

“From instructors, we’re getting feedback that students are more engaged in those online courses,” said Heaven. “For me, it’s the engagement piece; to change their mindset about math (and get students more engaged) is a big accomplishment.”

Faculty can adjust the course material based on feedback and student data. For example, when they added “Try It Now”/”Try Another” algorithmically generated practice questions to one of their courses, they saw an increase in pass rates.

One student who struggled with math her whole life sent in positive feedback. She shared how Möbius impacted her, expressing she wished she had something like Möbius earlier in her experiences with math. 

“It’s having a positive impact on students,” said Heaven. “They can look at the feedback, and it walks them through it. Their understanding of what they have to work on is clearer than before.”

Expanding the Use of Möbius to Improve Online Learning Experiences

The math courses that use Möbius serve students from various majors, from criminal justice to psychology to marketing. Möbius is now used by courses outside the math department—including a graduate-level psychology course. Faculty have found that the Möbius platform has been the right solution for improving student learning experiences and outcomes. The platform has allowed students to access course materials in one place without needing a textbook.

Most importantly, the platform has improved student engagement in online courses. Using Möbius, faculty have helped students achieve better results and feel better about learning and engaging with math.