The Math Emporium here at Virginia Tech offers basic level math courses for students to take as an online course. Although this center was built for students to come in to take their quizzes and also to receive help, I believe that the Math Emporium is not the best way for students to take their math courses.
Most students may recall the benefits of learning math from a high school teacher, as a majority of these in-person instructions were taught by working through problems step by step. In all of our classes here at Virginia Tech, we have educated professors teaching us their material and making time for questions. So, why does math have to be any different and be an online class?
The students taking a course at the emporium are not engineering majors, suggesting that most of these students don’t necessarily have strong math skills. Math is already one of the subjects most students struggle with because it is not a class of memorization but of understanding concepts. Having to learn calculus through an online textbook with no instructor makes it even more difficult than the subject already is for many students.
Each unit in courses offered at the Math Emporium has online text of about a page long, about five examples and one lesson problem. Then, there are optional practice problems available and practice quizzes to work through before taking the unit quiz. Usually, the questions in the online text are a lot less difficult than the actual problems in the practice quizzes, quizzes and exams. It sometimes even feels like learning the material over again when taking the practice quiz and not knowing how to approach the problem.
When an individual needs help at the emporium, there are tutors walking around, a room for individual tutoring, help sessions and also times to meet with the instructor. Most students sit on the computers and put their cups up once they need help from a tutor. However, when there are over 100 students at the emporium and only about 10 tutors, the wait time can be ridiculous. I personally have waited for about 45 minutes for a tutor to come to me, and I had one simple calculator question. A solution to this could be holding scheduled Math Emporium sessions with about 15 students and having one tutor assigned to this group to teach and help with the material.
The concept of the Math Emporium is understandable: not having to hold multiple scheduled classes for hundreds of students, and therefore not having to hire and schedule professors, may be a great benefit to the university. But, at a school with the word “tech” in its name, you would think there would be a plethora of math professors willing to hold classes to teach material step by step, answer questions and hold office hours.
Aside from having to choose a time out of your day to go, catching a bus over, sitting in that huge and colorless room, then having to wait a while to receive any help, the Math Emporium overall does not seem to sufficiently teach the subject of math due to it being an online course. Math is one of the core subject requirements and should be taught in a classroom similar to our other courses.