Professor flips the classroom for student success
Mathematics Professor Kamal Hennayake piloted a project this year to help students learn while easing their financial strains.
Keenly aware of the financial challenges many students face, the professor says the price of a $150 textbook can stand in the way of learning. Each year Dr. Hennayake sees students come to class without books and unprepared for class work.
"We would see students fall behind during the first week of class because they could not afford to buy the textbook at the start of the semester,’ Dr. Hennayake said. "Math is foundational, so these students would fail to learn the basics for the class and then never catch up. That is frustrating for the student and the instructor."
After attending conference on open source education, Dr. Hennayake decided to tackle this problem on a small scale with his Differential Equation class. He reviewed collections of open source materials to put together a customized online textbook for the class.
"There are things we can do to both help our students learn and allow them to save money, so we should try them, " Dr. Hennayake said. "The students were relieved they did not have to buy books for the class, and they are happy with the accessibility."
Students can access the readings and lessons through the college’s digital online learning management system.
As a graduate teaching assistant, Dr. Hennayake learned early in his career that instructors should use the goals of the course in selecting a textbook.
"Look at the learning goals first, and then find the materials that will work best with your lessons. That’s my approach, so no textbook was ever the perfect fit. With these online, open source materials, an instructor can create a customized text for the class," Dr. Hennayake. "With standard textbooks, we were requiring students to buy a book with material they would not use. Now, the students have just what they need for that specific class."
Dr. Hennayake is also using open source video lectures from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to re- enforce the concepts he teaches in class.
His open source project was so successful, that Dr. Hennayake recently applied for a grant from the University System of Maryland to develop the popular College Algebra course using open source materials.