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Supporting Student Quantitative Skills Development across the Curriculum with Qbit Online Modules

We propose to develop “Qbits,” online modules designed to strengthen students’ quantitative skills in a “just-in-time” manner that could be used as modules tied to a course, as resources to assist peer tutors, or as standalone modules offered by an academic support center or integrated into a standalone program like Carleton’s online summer bridge program on QS.

Carleton will test these Qbits in various contexts (and evaluate their impact on student learning, then share them with ACM (and other) colleagues to use in their courses or programs with the goal of increasing efficiency and enhancing data collection about student learning through consortial sharing.

Note: Content adapted from original project proposal

We intend to develop Qbits that can be used in at least three different contexts.

Qbit is assigned as a part of the requirements for a specific course

Qbits used in a specific course will form part of the scaffolding of that course’s learning goals, serving to both reinforce the other elements of the course and to be reinforced by them. We foresee this course context as being the likeliest and, at least initially, the most robust, as our development of the first set of Qbits will be deeply grounded in the perspectives of Carleton faculty and then tested against the needs and wishes of faculty at St. Olaf and Macalester.

Qbits as stand-alone resources for students receiving peer tutor assistance

A peer tutor in a STEM course or in a drop-in math homework clinic could use a particular Qbit to help a student master difficult course material. Faculty, staff, or student tutors would here facilitate the use of Qbits by student users, guiding them to and through the Qbit modules and ensuring that the Qbit supports and is supported by the rest of the course scaffolding.

Qbit as an online summer bridge program (e.g. Carleton’s CUBE program)

As already demonstrated through Carleton’s CUBE program, Qbits offers content that instructors can tailor to both institutional/curricular and student needs and that students can effectively use over the web. As in the course-based context sketched above, a summer bridge program would offer excellent scaffolding for the use of Qbits, enabling students to understand the connection between the material in the Qbits and, say, the bridge program’s goal of preparing students for calculus.


Project Goals

Online resources like Qbits can help students strengthen their quantitative skills in multiple contexts, which yields two gains:

  1. By seeing how these skills are relevant in various disciplinary contexts, students learn to view quantitative skills as fundamental and transferable abilities that they can use in many areas of their liberal arts experience. Students may find themselves referred to the same Qbit from multiple classes, encouraging skill transfer.
  2. Qbits’ online structure allows faculty and staff to collect meaningful data about the effectiveness of the various modules, facilitating ongoing assessment of their value for supporting student learning. The base of Qbit assessment data will expand as the number of student users grows, guiding the refinement of the Qbits and their use.

Campus Goals

This project is aimed at exploring one possible way to support students who have weaker quantitative skills, a means to ensure that all students have the opportunity to be successful in courses that demand quantitative skills. Although Qbit modules require an initial investment to design and build, they can then be used repeatedly with little or no further cost. In addition, collective efforts can study their effectiveness in various contexts and undertake revisions to maximize student learning, allowing every faculty member using the Qbits to benefit from improved student learning outcomes.


This Hybrid and Online project will involve conversations with interested faculty to better understand a) how these particular quantitative skills are used in their disciplines and b) the challenges faced in their classes as they try to support students with diverse preparation. These faculty will be asked to contribute disciplinarily-relevant application problems to incorporate into Qbits.

The core team will develop Qbits, identify a sub-group of colleagues to test Qbits in their classes, and collect data on Qbit effectiveness and implementation.



Building on the experience and materials from Carleton’s “CUBE” online summer QS bridge program, Carleton faculty will develop Qbits that review basic quantitative topics and provide practice applying them in disciplinary contexts. The goal of this project is to harvest material used for CUBE on topics such as linear, exponential, and logarithmic functions; to package the material into a more self-contained and modular format that can be used in more contexts; and then to assess the effectiveness of these modules when deployed in different contexts.

Carleton’s team has already identified – through a faculty poll in spring 2017 – the highest-priority topics. The project team will develop Qbits on these topics by curating existing video lectures, developing application problems for student practice, and packaging the materials into the common Qbit structure, including a pre- and post-knowledge check.

June 2017

  • Talk with Carleton faculty members to understand the courses and contexts for possible Qbit use and to gather discipline-specific example problems that make use of particular quantitative skills.
  • Prioritize 4-6 topics for initial Qbit development, probably based on the poll results noted above.

Summer 2017

  • Develop 4-6 Qbit modules by editing existing videos that review the quantitative topics
  • Make brief videos with Carleton faculty discussing a particular application of the quantitative topic in their discipline
  • Develop application problems that allow students to practice the quantitative skill in various disciplinary contexts, developing pre- and post-knowledge checks, integrating the Qbits into Moodle.
  • Develop a plan for assessing Qbit implementation.
  • Identify faculty to test these modules.

Fall 2017

  • Pilot the Qbits in several contexts.
  • Get feedback from instructors and students who use the Qbits about the design of the modules, suggestions for improvement, etc.
  • Evaluate student learning based on pre-/post-knowledge checks (with confidence measures) and considering factors such as whether the Qbits were optional, strongly encouraged, required, etc.
  • If used in a course, correlate usage of Qbit modules with student performance in particular course activities.

Winter 2017-2018

  • Revise Qbits based on feedback, and host a meeting for local ACM schools (St Olaf, Macalester, Carleton) to share results and identify additional faculty to test and develop Qbits.
  • If the Qbits are effective and well-received, share more broadly with ACM and other organizations (e.g., the Liberal Arts Consortium for Online Learning) and identify additional topics for future Qbit development.

Resources & Materials

“Rough draft” of  a Qbit on linear functions

Access the rough draft through the “log in as guest” feature.

Outcomes and Significance

The initial product will be 4-6 Qbit modules reviewing quantitative topics that are used in a variety of disciplinary contexts. Although Qbits will be designed for implementation within the Moodle LMS, the core content will be shared in an online repository in a format that allows any ACM school to adapt Qbits to their own learning management systems, or to use them outside a LMS (i.e., through the web). The consortial approach to deploying these modules will allow us to obtain more data on student learning in a shorter period of time than any one faculty member or campus could collect.

After the Qbits have been tested in fall 2017, Carleton will host a one-day workshop for local ACM faculty (St. Olaf, Macalester, Carleton) to share the Qbits, obtain wider feedback on their content and use, and encourage others to adopt the modules, using them in other institutional contexts and gathering additional data about their effectiveness via the shared assessment framework. The final outcome will be online QS modules, available for all ACM faculty to use, and effectiveness data tied to the context of deployment (e.g., standing alone versus integrated with a course). At the end of the 2017-2018 academic year, we will host a webinar for ACM faculty to publicize the Qbits and describe the effectiveness of these resources both when they have been deployed by faculty in particular courses or when they have been available as stand alone resources.

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