Precalculus Mega Section: Efficiently Assisting Student Engagement and Completion with Communications and Information Technology

  • Rima Brusi
  • Arturo Portnoy
  • Nilsa Toro
Keywords: student persistence, student engagement, gate keeping courses


The Precalculus Mega Section project was developed with the main purpose of improving the overall performance of the student body in Precalculus, an important gatekeeper course that affects student engagement and completion, with typical drop/failure rates of over 50%. Strategies such as integration of technology and additional practice time with TA support, helped an experienced instructor significantly reduce the withdraw and failure rates that commonly prevail today in this course. Although it was carried out in a large group (150 students) format, the experimental sections had better outcomes that current, traditional sections in smaller groups taking the same tests as the experimental one. The design of the course assumed that current problems behind high failure rates were due not only to deficiencies in content (pre-requisite knowledge typically addressed through remediation) but also, perhaps mainly, due to inadequate study habits/discipline and insufficient student engagement. Results show these design choices and underlying assumptions to be promising and cost-effective, and recommendations include testing the model as a substitute for current remedial coursework on campus and beyond.