Improving the Transfer Process

This course offering is an excellent example of efforts underway to strengthen the pathways from community colleges to 4-year institutions. It also illustrates the commitment of our faculty, and those at BRCC, to provide effective, accessible and relevant learning opportunities for our future teachers.

The Department of Mathematics and Statistics is very pleased with the success of the 4-VA supported online version of Math 107 offered to BRCC students, along with plans to offer the course again and to more students across VCCS. This opportunity is strengthening our partnership with VCCS while at the same time helping prospective K-8 teachers develop and enhance their conceptual understanding of the mathematics they will be licensed to teach.

Headshot of Rich Busi

Dr. Rich Busi
Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education

Annette Williams
Education Faculty and Advisor to Future Educators

Imagine that your dream is to become an elementary education teacher, but while transferring from a community college, you find out that your 4-year university doesn’t accept transfer credit for your math class. Because course content varies between community colleges, the university requires students to take the class during their first year. This means that you will likely start off behind your peers in math content courses when you arrive at the 4-year school.

This is precisely the situation in which many transfer students find themselves, and JMU Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education Rich Busi wanted to do something about it. What if JMU offered an online version of the course, making it available to community college students? If it was taught by a JMU professor and designed to cover the necessary content, the credit would transfer smoothly to JMU, and it would allow transfer students to start off their JMU education in sync with their peers.

“Ideally, students would take Math 107 during the first semester of their freshman year,” Busi said, “but by offering an online version of the course, JMU would be able to provide an opportunity for community college students to begin their mathematics content courses before officially transferring and thus helping them stay on track to graduate on time.”

The plan was to redesign JMU’s existing Math 107 course during the summer of 2020 and offer it in a synchronous online format to make it accessible to community college students. To accomplish this, Busi reached out to Education Faculty and Advisor to Future Educators Annette Williams and established a partnership with Blue Ridge Community College for a pilot course in the fall. He applied for a 4-VA grant, and their project was off and running.

The pilot proved to be a success, and after BRCC received positive feedback from their students, they asked Busi to run another section of the class for them in the spring. They also want to scale up the course by making it a Shared Services Distance Learning course, which would allow students to take online versions of courses at other community colleges around the state, and they would be able to actively recruit students from other Virginia community colleges.

“The online version of the course allows it to be easily accessible to BRCC students who are still completing degree requirements to receive their associates degree,” said Williams. “They are able to take the course as a BRCC course and use the course credits toward the completion of associate degree requirements. We can also make the course available to students from other community colleges through SSDL format – Shared Distance Learning.”

It has been a great experience seeing these students begin the semester a bit timid — I’m guessing because they are taking a university course for the first time — and then become more comfortable and confident as the semester has gone on. The students are performing well in the course.

When I learned this summer that I had to take a math class as a prereq for admission into the graduate education program, I was nervous. High school and college were more than a couple of years ago!

I can say with full confidence that [the class] taught by Dr. Busi, has really helped to redeem my own math education and has helped me to gain some understanding into what I was taught (and what I wasn’t taught) all those years ago. I feel more confident going into the Praxis now than I did several months ago. As a first year elementary SPED teacher in a contained classroom, I am able to take some of the strategies I am learning and use them to help my students understand math a little better, right where they currently are. I am thankful for the opportunity to take this course through BRCC!

I am excited about this partnership and look forward to its expansion to other students across the VCCS who are seeking to transfer to JMU to pursue a degree in Elementary Education.