Closing the Gap: First Year Success in College Mathematics at an HBCU

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Melissa A Harrington
Andrew Lloyd
Tomasz Smolinski
Mazen Shahin


At our Historically-Black University, about 89% of first-year students place into developmental mathematics, negatively impacting retention and degree completion. In 2012, an NSF-funded learning enrichment project began offering the introductory and developmental mathematics courses on-line over the summer to incoming science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors at no cost. Passing rates for the summer on-line classes were around 80%, and students in the on-line classes scored equivalently on the common departmental final exams as students taking the classes in the traditional format. For students who passed the on-line classes, their performance in the following classes (College Algebra and Trigonometry) exceeded that of students who progressed to those courses by taking the traditional series of in-person courses. Three years of data show that students who started college with an on-line mathematics course in a summer bridge program had a higher first year GPA, a better first year retention rate and earned significantly more credits in their first year than the overall population of STEM students. These results suggest that offering introductory mathematics courses on-line as part of a freshman bridge program is an effective, scalable intervention to increase the academic success of students who enter college under-prepared in mathematics. The positive results are particularly exciting since the students in our project were 87% minority.


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How to Cite
Harrington, M. A., Lloyd, A., Smolinski, T., & Shahin, M. (2016). Closing the Gap: First Year Success in College Mathematics at an HBCU. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 16(5), 92–106.
Case Studies
Author Biographies

Melissa A Harrington, Delaware State University

Professor, Department of Biology

Andrew Lloyd, Delaware State University

Associate Professor, Department of Biology

Tomasz Smolinski, Delaware State University

Associate Professor, Department of Computer and Information Sciences

Mazen Shahin, Delaware State University

Professor, Department of Mathematical Sciences


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