3 Ways Colleges Are Adapting to Online Learning

Innovation in online education is redefining how, and where, students learn.

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Software randomly spits out problems in college algebra, calculus, linear algebra and geometry. Students can seek help when they need it from on-duty faculty or trained peer tutors. The computer software uses animation, online text, quizzes and supplementary lectures.

"We never leave a student until we're sure they can progress on their own," says Terri Bourdon, manager of Virginia Tech's lab, who adds that, while there is not clear data yet, "to the extent that there are trends, the movement is mostly in the direction of increasing student success over time."

This program concept has also been adopted by the University of Alabama's Mathematics Technology Learning Center, where about 10,000 students a year work on business calculus, finite math and college algebra.

At the University of Idaho's Polya Mathematics Center, 2,300 students a year use a variety of tools, including videos, animations and interactive electronic texts, to study and review math concepts before applying them to homework problems. Generally, students attend class once a week to hear Polya instructors introduce lessons and answer questions.

This story is excerpted from the U.S. News "Best Colleges 2014" guidebook, which features in-depth articles, rankings and data.