How Top Hat Pages Helped This Math Professor Chart an 82% Course Pass Rate
students taught per semester
average pass rate for Pre-Calculus course using Top Hat
average pass rate for subsequent Calculus courses
OER that was light on quality and student engagement
Teaching mathematical functions and derivatives is only one slice of the pi(e) for math professor Blake Regan. What he sees as his primary role? Helping students become active and engaged learners who are inspired to attend class. Regan, Associate Professor of Instruction in the College of Engineering and Technology at Ohio University, teaches Pre-Calculus—the precursor to upper-year Calculus courses. His Pre-Calculus course consists of roughly 70 freshman engineering students, many of whom participated in Ohio’s College Credit Plus program for Calculus throughout secondary school, but didn’t earn a passing grade.
Regan struggled to maintain student engagement beyond the lecture hall, finding that students weren’t completing their homework readings or coming to class ready to participate. Ultimately, he found that the open educational resources (OER) he was using weren’t up to par when it came to quality. He then turned to Wolfram CDF Player that would let students engage with long-form mathematics worksheets. But still, Regan struggled to bring in complex equations and present calculations in a visually appealing way. The fact that he had to send students to three different platforms for homework and quizzes wasn’t helping.
Frustrated and looking for an interactive platform that could engage students while housing all materials in a single place, he turned to Top Hat Pages. In doing so, he was easily able to co-author a brand new custom textbook, packed with interactive diagrams, polls, discussions and even integrations with mathematical software. This gave him a long-term solution to keep his students engaged—and he’s got the data to prove it.
A textbook that lets students watch lectures, review and graph equations, and quiz themselves
Using a flipped classroom layout, Regan asks students to view lecture videos in advance of class. Embedded directly in his textbook, these bite-sized lectures are based on topics likely to trip students up, such as function transformations and trigonometric identities. His visual learners especially enjoy being able to watch Regan break down complex concepts into smaller chunks. “With Top Hat Pages, students can jump directly to lecture videos, or read examples on their own, however they want to learn,” he says. Regan is also able to integrate Desmos—an online graphing calculator that lets students see functions and find derivatives—into his textbook, no longer sending students to a separate platform. At the end of each chapter, ‘Are you prepared for class?’ quizzes gauge whether students have absorbed the necessary information from both the lecture videos and reading.
It’s not lost on Regan that his students enter class with mixed attitudes towards math. It’s why he takes an empathy-first approach with his assessments, also supported by Pages. Automatically generated data in his textbook, including poll results, gives Regan a chance to spot struggling students early. “In my Gradebook, I can look at if a student answers, but also when they answer: right before deadlines, at three in the morning, or immediately after assigned. This data can help me predict whether a student passes or fails,” he says.
Regan also ensures that poor exam performance doesn’t impact student persistence. Offered to students who score less than 58 percent on their midterm, reflection papers within Pages account for four percent bonus points and let students examine where they went wrong and how they might improve. “Instead of dropping the course because they failed the midterm, I’m trying to instill in them the idea that they can improve and get better,” Regan shares.
“With Top Hat Pages, students can jump directly to lecture videos, or read examples on their own, however they want to learn.”
Re-calculating course pass rates and upper-year preparedness
Regan is proud of the impact his interactive textbook has had on student success. Not only are students completing their assigned chapters, they are now incentivized to prepare for and attend class ready to engage in lively discussions. “Attendance is optional in my course, yet I have one of the highest attendance scores at Ohio,” Regan states.
Just as impressive, Top Hat has helped students become active participants in their own learning, which has led to improved pass rates. Across all Pre-Calculus courses at Ohio, the average pass rate hovers around 64 percent. In Regan’s case, he’s charted an average pass rate of 82 percent. The impact of his teaching can be felt as students transition into upper-year Calculus courses. Just as encouraging is the fact that 92 percent of students pass his Calculus II course. “My students aren’t given second chances. What they’re given is a chance, with Top Hat,” he says. Top Hat Pages has helped Regan ensure every freshman engineer leaves his course feeling confident and prepared for what’s ahead. And just as important, students are given a reminder that constructive class discussions, paired with a visual-heavy textbook, can make a world of difference on their learning journey.