Transitioning to
Online Introductory Math

Promising Strategies

In response to the growing concerns about the quality, cost, and price of higher education, institutional leaders have been actively experimenting with a variety of strategies over the past decade to achieve both quality and efficiency in core academic functions of their institutions. These efforts vary by focus, size, and scope, but the common threads include collaborative activities within and outside of institutions with an emphasis on de-siloing of institutions and functional areas to support innovative approaches to teaching and learning.

Examples of such efforts include supporting system-wide curation and adoption of Open Educational Resources (OERs) in programs and courses to increase access, affordability, and achievement for students;[1] expanding the scope of consortial activities to engage in deeper collaborations focused on developing shared digital educational systems and learning materials to reduce overall institutional development costs and promote student access and success;[2] partnering with businesses to leverage private capital to make infrastructure, program additions, and improvements to offer programs to students at an affordable rate;[3] and reconfiguring curricular approaches and faculty roles to improve student learning, reduce tuition, and shorten students’ time to degree.[4] While these efforts have potential both on the quality and efficiency side, they also require a high level of coordination and a significant shift in structures and models in which institutions have long been operating. Successfully implementing any of these strategies will require trust among the participants and the recognition that going it alone may not be a sustainable approach going forward. As the higher education industry remains under stress, it’s imperative that institutions develop capacities to continually develop and implement these strategies to provide quality education at an affordable rate to students.

In the following section, we highlight three promising strategies for achieving quality and efficiency in online introductory math instruction at the department or institutional level. It’s important to note that these strategies, though presented separately, are not mutually exclusive; there are various ways in which these strategies can intersect and interact in the real world. Each institution must find and tailor its own approach in line with its broader integrated strategy that best meets their visions and goals. Making smart decisions will depend on strong leadership and collaborations at all levels that are adaptive to the evolving circumstances of their idiosyncratic institutional context and the equally evolving higher education landscape.


  1. For example, see Maryland Open Source Textbook Initiative,
  2. For example, see Unizin,
  3. For example, see Georgia Tech’s Online Master’s Program in Computer Science,
  4. For example, see Western Governors University’s competency-based educational model,