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Can Online Learning Improve College Math Readiness? Randomized Trials Using Pearson’s MyFoundationsLab in Summer Bridge Programs

Ithaka S+R worked with five campuses in the University System of Maryland to explore whether an adaptive learning product provided by Pearson could be used to offer more accessible, lower-cost summer programs. The Pearson product, MyFoundationsLab, enhanced with Knewton’s adaptive learning engine, aims to personalize study paths for students. Adaptive technologies enable students to identify specific skill gaps and work independently online to address those gaps with interactive instructional materials and assessments. We tested the hypothesis that technology could replace some or all of the traditional instructor-led class time required to help students improve their college readiness while substantially reducing the costs of the intervention.

The study took place in two iterations: first, we conducted pilots using MyFoundationsLab in both blended and online-only formats in order to explore whether this technology could help improve outcomes and/or lower costs. Second, we carried out a field study in which we tested the effects of an online-only program involving access to MyFoundationsLab along with prescribed messaging from facilitators encouraging students to participate and engage with the system. Given findings from earlier studies of 2 summer bridge programs, we did not expect to see dramatic gains in academic performance; the question was whether this intervention could “move the needle” in helping more students enroll and succeed in college-level math.