Students study in Triton College’s new iLaunch lab, which opened at the start of the spring 2018 semester

Collaboration is Key in Triton’s New iLaunch Math Readiness Program

An innovative new program at Triton College is addressing the issue of college readiness in the subject that incoming students struggle with more than any other – mathematics.

Triton College’s iLaunch Lab opened at the start of the spring 2018 semester, allowing students who place into developmental math courses to move away from the traditional lecture-based classroom and into a collaborative learning environment. 

Instructors and tutors are available in the iLaunch Lab to provide one-on-one help to students, helping them to master specific topics. This program will prepare students to accelerate quickly into higher level math courses at multiple points during the semester. That means they’ll be ready for credit courses sooner, saving them time and money in the process.

“It allows individualization of learning. The students will only work on the items that they have not mastered,” said Kevin Li, Triton College dean of Arts and Sciences.”

The lab, located in the M Building on the west side of Triton’s campus, features a comfortable and attractive environment that allows students to collaborate with one another as well as instructors while they learn.

“The first thing we want to do is make the room appealing for when people walk in,” said Richard Zelenka, iLaunch Program coordinator. “They’ll have a nice room to look at, some soothing music, and a collaborative seating arrangement that allows students to talk and do math at the same time.”

The technology utilized in the iLaunch Lab is central to the program, containing diagnostic features that allow for individualized teaching and learning. Instructors are able to assess the progress of each student in real time and tailor assistance based on their strengths, weaknesses, needs and goals.

“The faculty role is very different in the iLaunch Lab. In a lecture, the instructor is the authority in the classroom. In the iLaunch program they are no longer a knowledge dispenser, but rather a helper and collaborator. It’s a very different kind of pedagogy,” said Li.

In addition to helping students improve the math skills required to succeed in college-level courses, the iLaunch Lab setting also allows instructors to help prepare students for academic success in other ways.

“We also provide a lot of non-cognitive skills training, which is the hallmark of this program. We talk about what a work ethic is for a college student, we talk about study habits, we talk about career goals,” Zelenka said. 

The iLaunch Program was created thanks to institutional support and a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant is designed to allow Hispanic-serving Institutions to provide extensive academic support, particularly in mathematics, to Hispanic and low-income students that major in STEM fields of study.

The funds are part of a $5.6 million multi-year grant received in partnership with Northeastern Illinois University to form the Exit on Time in STEM Project. The partnership between Triton and NEIU includes an articulation process that aligns introductory courses taught at both campuses that will be replicable across Northeastern’s appropriate STEM majors. The project is expected to increase the number of Hispanic and low-income students who transfer into STEM fields of study and increase completion rates.

For more information on Triton’s iLaunch Program, contact richardzelenka@triton.edu.