Drew University, a private four-year university in New Jersey, New York, specializes in providing a top-tier education to STEM students through its intimate environment and connection with its surrounding community.
Previously, while only offering calculus as its most introductory mathematics course for its quantitative programs, it was evident that some students were not ready to tackle this course. Some students would encounter roadblocks in their understanding, struggle to understand concepts and theory, and perform poorly on assessments and exams.
It was clear this wasn’t a one-time event but a trend happening each semester where students struggled with calculus. So, to remedy this problem, Drew University developed a for-credit precalculus course. But how does a student know whether to take precalculus or calculus?
Drew University adopted the Möbius MAA Placement Test Suite to deliver a calculus placement test that accurately assessed incoming students’ understanding of concepts needed to succeed in calculus. If students passed the determined cutoff score, they would register into calculus. If they didn’t pass the cutoff score, they would first need to pass the precalculus course before taking calculus.
Offered initially on-campus during orientation week, students would take this Möbius MAA Placement Test Suite placement test in a proctored environment; Drew University found immediate success. Students were no longer falling behind in calculus, those who needed to brush up on their mathematical skills were willing to take precalculus, and overall satisfaction from their student body was very apparent.
But with in-person proctored placement testing, there can be a few logistical hurdles you need to tackle related to scheduling, people resources, and computer labs. Drew University decided to completely switch their placement offering from an in-person proctored environment during orientation week to a fully online process that empowered students to complete their calculus placement test at home at any time before their semester starts.
The results have been fantastic. With 45 minutes to complete the online placement test, students are motivated to complete an honest assessment of their mathematical competency. To encourage academic integrity, Drew University also chose an algorithmic calculus placement test which provides each student with a unique placement test where variables and parameters are randomized with each attempt.
“At the end of the day, placement is a kindness to help students start on the path to success in quantitative programs to reach their goals and dreams.”
– Sarah Abramowitz, Chair of Mathematics and Computer Science and Chair of Business
Furthermore, the convenience factor is remarkable. Students can complete the calculus placement test at any time that fits into their schedule. The control that administration has at Drew University over these online placement tests is unparalleled. They can provide direction, customize the delivery, can easily assess results in the Möbius Gradebook, and control every aspect of the placement testing experience.
However, during the worldwide pandemic in 2020, Drew University pivoted to offering a majority of their academic programs online, including their quantitative programs that required calculus completion. But during this time period, some incoming students were not only unprepared for calculus, but they weren’t prepared for precalculus either. Because so many students who were finishing high school during the pandemic didn’t have the opportunity to finish with a quality experience in education, they had an immediate disadvantage when starting their post-secondary journey.
Because of this, Drew University is now considering how they can better prepare students who aren’t ready for either calculus or precalculus. One of the solutions they’re considering is developing a second cutoff score within their existing calculus placement test that would indicate additional just-in-time resources that are needed before entering precalculus and calculus.
To develop an MAA placement test, it’s first administered to students at select institutions to take the placement test before it officially becomes an MAA standard. The results undergo detailed analysis, with modifications and further trials as required. Hence, MAA placement tests have high credibility as they’ve been constructed by expert mathematics faculty members and piloted at various institutions over the last three decades.
The MAA then hand-selected Möbius as the premier tool for delivering MAA placement tests which come together as the Möbius MAA Placement Test Suite.
For more information on the Möbius MAA Placement Test Suite, read the eBook: Partnering with the MAA to Assess Mathematics with Precision.