Transitioning to
Online Introductory Math

About the Resource Guide

This resource guide provides a conceptual framework and promising strategies that departments and institutions can employ to achieve the twin goals of quality and efficiency in online introductory math instruction. In support of those goals, the guide also provides a curated digital repository of resources to support the transition to hybrid or online learning in introductory math once decisions about the structure, delivery, and modality are made (see Appendix A for details about the resource curation process).

The guide is positioned within the broader paradigm shift spreading throughout higher education from being teaching-focused to learning-focused and from individualistic models to systems models.[1] In the new paradigm, course design is conceptualized as a collaborative endeavor that is integrated within a larger system, with a shared focus on equity in access, opportunity, and outcomes for all students. The institutional focus also becomes more student-centered, changing the conversation on readiness from whether students are ready for college to whether colleges and universities are ready for students.[2] Departments and institutions will need to navigate this paradigm shift at a time when resources are continually more difficult to generate.[3] To ensure financial stability while meeting the evolving needs of students and the labor market, they will need to strategically adapt their models to offer high-quality learning opportunities while simultaneously controlling costs.

Cultural and operational changes of this scale require much more than just an individual faculty effort. Campus leaders and other stakeholders must provide the leadership, organizational, and financial support, including sharing costs, resources, and knowledge to avoid duplication of effort, building on research-based experience and knowledge about remote teaching that leads to student success, while building system-wide coordination and success. Students also have a role to play in informing and adapting to this new model. As such, the guide targets broad audiences who can work as teams at various stages of implementation. These audiences may include academic leaders, department heads, faculty leaders, and instructional support staff, as well as others involved in decisions and subsequent actions around introductory math curricula, online instruction, academic resource allocation, and inter-institutional relationships.

Several general principles informed the development of this guide and the educational approaches it describes:

  • Incorporate evidence-based practice. Over the past several decades, the scholarship of teaching and learning has developed substantially. Despite these advances, the wide-spread adoption of evidence-based instructional practices has been limited. Students will ultimately benefit from instructor’s growing awareness of the existence of these practices in general and of specific practices that relate to introductory math instruction and online teaching and learning in particular. Although not elaborated on specifically in this guide, all courses transitioning online should follow evidence-based instructional practices.
  • Collectively be responsible for enabling student success. No single unit or individual at an institution can truly support student success on its own, given the incredible complexity of student experiences and needs in today’s higher education landscape. Participatory leadership that leverages extensive stakeholder engagement and participation at all levels and roles, based on trust and reciprocity, will be key to success in collective adaptation to new models of teaching and learning.
  • Think outside the box. As digitization, automation, and artificial intelligence continue to reshape industries and transform people’s lives in profound ways, it’s important to think beyond the status quo to develop strategies that truly prepare students for the remainder of their education. This may involve identifying innovative ways of imparting knowledge to students through problem-based, experiential, and constructional learning experiences, involving students directly in the knowledge construction process as active participants (not as passive recipients of knowledge), and restructuring how institutions operate and function in support of evolving needs of students and the society. It may also involve identifying creative technologies, possibly in collaboration with the students themselves, that support more innovative pedagogies.
  • Build a culture of continuous learning. It is important to integrate a continuous quality assurance process at the outset to continually refine strategies to support the collective endeavor of online teaching and learning, while regulating the workload and pace of development. The community of stakeholders must embrace a culture of learning for themselves, and strive to improve their practices through ongoing reflection and application of lessons learned.


  1. For example, see Robert B. Barr & John Tagg, “A New Paradigm for Undergraduate Education,” Change Magazine, 1995,; Jodi Rust, “Working Smarter Not Harder: Using a Pedagogical-Based Model in the Rapid Development of Quality Hybrid Courses, Doctoral Dissertation, 2010, Retrieved from ProQuest, AAT 3419236; and Julia Kampov-Polevoi, “Considerations for Supporting Faculty in Transitioning a Course to Online Format,” Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, Volume XIII, Number II, 2010,
  2. Tia Brown McNair, Susan Albertine, Michelle Asha Cooper, Nicole McDonald, and Thomas Major Jr., Becoming a Student-Ready College: A New Culture of Leadership for Student Success, John Wiley & Sons, 2016.
  3. Lucie Lapovsky, “The Changing Business Model for Colleges and Universities,” Forbes, February 6, 2018,