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My department has eliminated its remedial mathematics courses and implemented a corequisite system.

I did not participate in the original design, so I found myself unable to understand the new system.

The design goals appear to vary across courses. In some courses, the corequisite course seems to be a review or practice course for the main course. In others, it appears to be a compressed version of relevant remedial content.

What is the defining characteristic of a true corequisite course?

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    $\begingroup$ Consider this Inside Higher Ed article on the corequisite course trend: insidehighered.com/news/tech-innovation/teaching-learning/2023/… $\endgroup$ Commented May 1 at 1:27
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    $\begingroup$ And here's an academic article analyzing structures and effects: journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/23328584221086664 $\endgroup$ Commented May 1 at 1:36
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    $\begingroup$ Is the country USA and jargon from there? $\endgroup$
    – Tommi
    Commented May 1 at 5:23
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    $\begingroup$ Note that corequisite is also used to mean any course to be taken as a requirement alongside (at the latest) another course. Compare with a prerequisite, to be passed prior to taking another course. This terminology has been around for decades and in this, more general, context does not have to concern courses of a remedial nature. $\endgroup$
    – J W
    Commented May 1 at 6:00
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    $\begingroup$ "My department has eliminated its remedial mathematics courses and implemented a corequisite system." -- Have you considered just asking folks in your department, particularly those who were involved in creating the coreqs? As others have said, there's not just one way these courses can work, so either your department made some local decisions or a definition was handed down from above (e.g. your state legislature). $\endgroup$
    – Nick C
    Commented May 1 at 12:22

3 Answers 3

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Corequisite remediation is a trend where remedial courses (which do not grant "college level" credit) are eliminated in favor of offering a college credit bearing course with supplemental remediation. The argument is that remedial courses do not seem to improve performance in follow-up courses and that they present a barrier to degree progression: the student effectively starts a "year behind".

One version is to create a new "coreq" version of the course. It has a different course number, for example MTH101 might have coreq version MTH101c. It carries the same number of "college level" credits, but has a few additional "non-college level credits". For instance if MTH101 was 3 credit hours, MTH101c might be 5, of which only 3 count towards graduation requirements.

MTH101c would have 5 contact hours while MTH101 only has 3. There is a further "suboption" of front-loading the remedial work or using "just in time" remediation.

Front-loading would look like having a compressed remedial course the first few weeks, and then progressing through the normal course content in the remaining time.

"Just in time" remediation would progress through the material in the coreq version of the course at roughly the same rate as the original course, but use the two extra contact hours to shore up remedial content as it is needed. This seems to be the most popular option. For instance properties of exponents (the remedial content) might be reviewed immediately prior to discussing compound interest (the "college level" content).

Instead of creating a new course, another variant is to have everyone register for MTH101 but create corequisite support sections. These would be scheduled similar to labs or TA sessions. The only way to make this work is to use the "just in time" suboption.

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    $\begingroup$ This is very informative. So in the just-in-time version, what does the extra 2 contact hour cover? Based on the exponent example, it sounds like it's preparation for the main topics. Is it right? In our department, it looks like we separated these two extra hour out and made it a different but companion course. $\endgroup$
    – Timmy
    Commented Apr 30 at 23:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Timmy yes, preparation for the main topics. Generally the same topics which would have been covered in a remedial prerequisite, but "steamlined" and targeted to each topic in the main course. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 30 at 23:54
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It sounds like you're trying to get at a single underlying reason for why a course might be listed as a corequisite -- but I don't think it simplifies that far.

There are many reasons why a course might be listed as a corequisite. For example:

  • Maybe it's a supplement to the main course, like a lab or recitation, that is listed as a separate course.

  • Maybe it's a solid course on its own, and it could in some sense be viewed as a prerequisite, except that the prerequisite material is covered in time if you take it along with the main course. (For instance, Multivariable Calculus requires basic skills with matrices, which are covered in Linear Algebra -- but students sometimes take Multivariable Calculus and Linear Algebra concurrently and learn the matrix skills in Linear Algebra just in time for their use in Multivariable.)

  • (Edit) There is a third category, as Daniel Collins points out in a comment: it might be a remedial course that covers foundational material before topics are taught in the primary course.

So, I don't think there is a defining characteristic of a true corequisite course other than the fact that it should be taken simultaneously along with the other course.

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  • $\begingroup$ Neither describe what I'm seeing. To us, a lab course is just called a lab course, and a recitation course is just called a recitation course. Those form their own categories. The second bullet point is closer. But not that particular example. $\endgroup$
    – Timmy
    Commented Apr 30 at 20:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Timmy can you elaborate more about what you're seeing, then? Perhaps it's just a third bullet point that I haven't thought of. It's hard to tell as you haven't included any specific details in your question. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 30 at 20:29
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    $\begingroup$ "Corequisite course" is a specific term of art that this answer doesn't address. See this Inside Higher Ed article for a foundation: insidehighered.com/news/tech-innovation/teaching-learning/2023/… $\endgroup$ Commented May 1 at 1:27
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    $\begingroup$ @DanielR.Collins, that should probably be made clearer in the question itself, as the term corequisite in a more general sense has been around for a long time. $\endgroup$
    – J W
    Commented May 1 at 6:10
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    $\begingroup$ The sense that @J W mentions (in several comments) and which your example of linear algebra and multivariable calculus was definitely a well-known notion when I began taking undergraduate college courses (1976, in the U.S.). Also, back then a better example was multivariable calculus and differential equations -- most every college catalogue I looked over in my high school's guidance counselor's office (what one did back then to learn about colleges and universities) or were mailed to me when I requested a catalogue had multivariable calculus and diff. eqs. listed as corequisite courses. $\endgroup$ Commented May 1 at 12:03
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It can mean more than one thing. At the community college in California where I taught until I retired, it could mean two different things:

(1) Class A and B have to be taken the same semester. However, they have different course numbers, and students may have multiple options for when to take A and B, so they can mix and match sections to suit their schedule. A typical example in the music department would be harmony and musicianship. They didn't want you to take one of those classes and then take the other a couple of years later.

(2) Class A has to be taken either before class B or the same semester as class B. A typical example was that A would be first-semester calculus and B would be first-semester physics.

This caused a lot of confusion because the people setting up the computer database wouldn't always get categories #1 and #2 straight, so, e.g., a student who was in linear algebra would be forbidden from taking freshman physics, they would freak out and show up in the dean's office, and then dean would then check with the physics faculty about the intended meaning in that case -- then they would reprogram it for that course and we would hope the fix would stick for later semesters.

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  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, I'm only asking in the context of mathematics. I understand that co-req means different things in different field. I'm curious what it means in undergraduate-level math courses. $\endgroup$
    – Timmy
    Commented Apr 30 at 20:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Timmy, this answer also applies to undergraduate mathematics, just not in the narrower, more recent sense of corequisite course in a remedial sense. Perhaps you could make this clearer on your question title. $\endgroup$
    – J W
    Commented May 1 at 6:22

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