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Virginia Tech Popularizes Computer-Based Math Courses



By Catherine Groux
Posted April 24, 2012 08:19 AM

At Virginia Tech, students study math in a large computer lab.
At Virginia Tech, students study math in a large computer lab.

Hybrid and online education are becoming popular at schools across the country, but Virginia Tech has put a unique spin on the trend.

At the school's Math Emporium, students build their math skills through self-paced lessons in a computer lab that is open 24/7, The Washington Post reports. There are no professors, only four instructors who give individuals assistance as they need it.

The Emporium, built on the site of a former department store, houses 537 Apple computers, a large meeting area with a computer projection system and smaller conference areas, Virginia Tech's website states. There are also tables and sofas where students can use their laptops with the area's wireless internet.

Although some faculty, students and parents were hesitant to accept the new approach to mathematics, studies show more students pass introductory math classes now than they did before the Emporium was built, the Post states.

So far, the Emporium model has spread to schools like Louisiana State University, Montgomery College and Northern Virginia Community College. Virginia Tech faculty say they are not surprised that their computer-based learning style has caught on so quickly.

"How could computers not change mathematics?" Peter Haskell, the school's math department chairman, told the Post. "How could they not change higher education? They've changed everything else." 

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