Step into the Mathematics Interactive Learning Environment (MILE) on any given day, and you are greeted with the muted hush of students’ pencils scratching on paper as they work to solve Algebra (Math 1111) and Pre-Calculus (1113) problems before entering their answers online. The MILE works hand in hand with a program that which allows professors to assign online homework and quizzes for students to complete by a set deadline. Student spend a mandatory three hours sitting in the lab and attend one 50-minute class per week, a combination that is meant to provide students with the ability to learn independently while maintaining the opportunity for one-on-one assistance. However, the question comes to mind whether the required hours are the most effective method of ensuring students grasp the material.

Math 1111 and 1113 are two of the earlier math courses that are used to set a solid foundation for upper-level math courses, and, understandably, the point of those three hours is that the same amount time would be spent (approximately) in class. However, the system leaves the teaching mainly to the computer. Oftentimes, students end up memorizing—but not understanding—the concepts, leaving them unprepared for more advanced math classes.

Furthermore, people have different learning styles. It doesn’t seem fair to force students to complete most of their work in a certain environment; just because it works well for some people does not mean it is the best choice for everyone. In fact, I prefer to do my work in the comfort of my own home, where I can concentrate on the task at hand and where no one breathes on my neck as I strive to complete the assignment at hand.

Others may find the lab atmosphere helpful, but the point remains that the MILE does not teach in a way conducive to learning. Instead, it creates a standard so that your ability to pass the class is based on the capability to learn in a specific way. Either way, students must complete the homework and quizzes given online, meaning that the only benefit of the MILE would be going in and asking questions about work given. Yet Math 1111 (Algebra) professor Nilay Manzagol refutes this point, explaining that “We have many different instructors in the lab, PhD and Masters students as well as professors, so it is easy for students to ask around for help from different teacher, all of whom has different learning styles. After a couple of times, you find someone whose teaching style works for you.”

While the online homework itself has options for you to view examples and how-to’s, making it easy to learn at home, or from any location, those who believe that taking online courses versus sitting in the MILE might want to think twice. According to Professor Manzagol, students taking the hybrid course end up with a higher average at the end of the semester: “Online students’ grades tend to drop after the first or second exam, because most of them fail to understand that online classes require a very strong sense of time management. They wait until the last day to turn in their assignments, and with some of the concepts being a little difficult to understand without an in-class instructor, students often end up falling behind.”

The good thing is that the Math Department at Georgia State is eager to hear feedback regarding the program, since they are still working out some of the kinks. As Professor Manzagol explained, “We are still in pilot mode, since we’ve only been working since 2008, and the Math Department is really trying to listen to their students.” This is shown by the few changes made this semester for certain courses, increasing lecture time and cutting down on the hours sitting in the lab. At this point, the best thing that students can do is to let their instructors know how they feel about the MILE and express what improvements they would like to see.