In order to access advanced courses in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), college students must first master math concepts in algebra, and many students enter college under-prepared for this subject. There are many reasons why students fail to master algebra by the time they enter college, including deficiencies in their educational experience, issues with language fluency, access to educational resources, psychiatric issues such as anxiety, and challenges associated with disabilities including physical, learning, and executive functioning challenges (such as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, AD/HD). Regardless of the reason, students who do not master secondary-level mathematics must typically take developmental (remedial) courses in college prior to enrolling in more advanced STEM studies.
In an effort to improve the learning outcomes for students with disabilities, especially those students with invisible disabilities such as learning disabilities and AD/HD, Landmark college developed a project entitled Universal Design in College Algebra: Customizing Learning Resources for Two Year Students with Learning Disabilities . This project, funded by the National Science Foundation's Research in Disabilities Education (RDE) program , engaged in a number of activities, including gathering input from faculty and students, to develop universally designed online math resources and incorporate them in developmental courses. Based on feedback from students and instructors, a number of products were developed and made available including:
- learning resources covering factoring and exponents,
- a set of design guidelines for developers of online learning resources,
- professional development materials highlighting math-related challenges experienced by students,
- a design rubric and a universal usability checklist for web-based math resources that can be used by students and instructors to evaluate the effectiveness of learning resources, and
- sample lesson plans for instructors.
This project is a promising practice because redesigning the online learning resources not only resulted in materials that were accessible to students with disabilities, but they were also more simple and intuitive, with clear information about the algebra-related learning goals, and opportunities to practice algebra skills with progressive feedback. Students who accessed these resources reported higher levels of math self-confidence as well as more positive attitudes toward math in general.
This article was developed through the RDE Collaborative Dissemination Project (National Science Foundation Research in Disabilities Education Award #HRD-0929006) and RDE-DEI: Universal Design in College Algebra: Customizing Learning Resources for Two Year Students with Learning Disabilities (National Science Foundation Research in Disabilities Education Award #HRD-0726252).
-  Universal Design in College Algebra: Customizing Learning Resources for Two Year Students with Learning Disabilities
-  Research in Disabilities Education (RDE) program