Transitioning to
Online Introductory Math

Defining Quality and Efficiency in Online Math Instruction

The Importance of Quality and Efficiency

The aim of this resource guide is to help institutions accomplish two things at once: increase quality and increase efficiency for introductory math courses. These two aspects of introductory math courses are often seen as having an inverse relationship based on the assumption that increases in quality require a decrease in efficiency and vice versa. Fortunately, this relationship is not absolute and the dual priorities of quality and efficiency can be accomplished, even in the context of a rapidly changing instructional environment.

The aim of this resource guide is to help institutions accomplish two things at once: increase quality and increase efficiency.

In order to fully evaluate the possibilities and opportunities for providing a higher quality and more efficient introductory math experience for students online, it is important to establish the criteria on which to make that kind of evaluation. Articulating the specific indicators of both quality and efficiency can help ensure that changes to current practice are made with those elements in mind as well as provide guidance as to whether new practices are indeed meeting the dual goals of quality and efficiency. These dimensions reflect the principles described above.

It is worth noting that this paper does not address affordability, the perceived or actual cost to students for attending college or taking classes. While an important element of student success, issues of affordability are usually outside the direct control, or even general influence, of the academic administrators and faculty leaders for whom this report is primarily intended. In addition, the diverse nature of institutional funding patterns, budget formulae, and public vs. private control decouple affordability and the elements of quality and efficiency described here.

The following sections will define quality and efficiency for the purposes of this resource guide, including indicators and other criteria for evaluation. Dimensions of quality for introductory math courses and online/hybrid learning environments will be explored, with a particular emphasis on where previous literature has identified an intersection between the two. Efficiency can often be a loaded concept in higher education, with implications around workload, compensation, cost, class size, etc. This guide will describe multiple dimensions of efficiency for administrative, academic, and student stakeholders.