How Arizona State University Increased its College Algebra Pass Rate by 12 Percentage Points in Just Two Years

Published December 17, 2018


Students also saved over $1 million in tuition and fees

People using technology with ALEKS logo

In 2015, the staff of the Arizona State University (ASU) School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences looked at the pass rate in its remedial math course and decided they wanted to do better. With a course completion rate of just 62 percent (still higher than the national average), the school’s developmental math course had become a hurdle that tripped up hundreds of students who enrolled in it annually. For too many of these students, failure to pass the course had become an end point in their academic journeys at ASU.

To address the underlying causes of student failure in their developmental math course, ASU faculty partnered with the school’s EdPlus technology experts to conduct a deep analysis of the academic challenges facing students. The results of this analysis revealed three significant opportunities to improve the university’s approach to entry-level mathematics.

ASU first made the decision to eliminate the existing developmental mathematics course due to the high drop-out rate for students who had failed it. Those students would be placed directly into the college-level math course, College Algebra. Next, to support the students who needed remedial help, they turned to technology to provide more efficient personalized learning pathways. For this, they choose McGraw-Hill ALEKS, an adaptive learning platform that uses artificial intelligence to deliver highly efficient and personalized digital learning pathways for each individual student.

“The adaptive courseware enabled the math faculty to realize their dream of providing more personalized instruction at scale by delivering the right lesson to each student, helping them master the material at their own pace,” said Dale Johnson, adaptive program manager for EdPlus at ASU.

To complete the transformation of their entry-level math program, ASU introduced the concept of a “flex semester” that gives students the option to complete course curricula if they are not able to finish it in a single semester.

ASU’s new College Algebra course using McGraw-Hill ALEKS launched in the fall of 2016, and the results have been impressive. The school saw single-semester completion increase from just 62 percent to 67 percent in the fall of 2016, and by fall of 2017 it had increased to 74 percent. This translated into 800 more students passing the course in the first year, adding up to $1,000,000 in savings on tuition and course materials in one semester alone. ASU’s successful transformation of its entry-level math offering was recognized with a 2018 Digital Learning Innovation Award by the Online Learning Consortium.

We’re thrilled to see how this university is closing the achievement gap in math and making a high-quality education more affordable for thousands of students, and we’re proud to have McGraw-Hill ALEKS as a part of the solution!