With the latest wave of digital education initiatives from Every Learner Everywhere to the APLU’s guidelines for implementing adaptive courseware, 2019 is likely to find even more institutions seeking to increase student success through adaptive learning. What better way to forge a path forward than to follow in the footsteps of those who’ve paved the way?
With that in mind, below we outline three core success drivers behind the adaptive courses recognized in the Online Learning Consortium’s latest Digital Learning Innovation Awards. Whether you’re starting with a single-course pilot or preparing to scale, these lessons can provide valuable guideposts for your efforts in the year ahead.
1. Combine OER with Adaptive Learning
It’s not news that open educational resources (OER) help address a critical need in higher education: greater affordability. But forward-thinking educators also have discovered another significant benefit of combining OER with adaptive initiatives: the open-source content provides a higher degree of flexibility than publisher textbooks, enabling them to tailor learning to their own courses and students. The content can be curated, re-sequenced and edited to focus specifically on what instructors want to teach. Just as importantly, it can be broken down into the finely grained lessons and assessments that fuel adaptivity and personalization for students.
Making OER the foundation of its OLC award-winning adaptive program allowed Bay Path University to not only lower students’ costs but also build lessons tailored to their student body comprised largely of adult women. Similarly, at Portland State University, creating her own OER textbook and using existing OER materials helped Senior Instructor Rachel Webb redesign her lecture course into an active, adaptive learning experience built for the needs of her introductory statistics students.
2. Take a Big-Picture View from the Start
Every educator and institution should tailor their adaptive learning initiatives to best serve their unique goals and students. That said, the most successful approaches have one critical element in common: defining the path forward from the start – albeit in different ways. This is essential because while many implementations start as a single course, few aim to stay there.
At the University of Central Florida (UCF), for example, a diverse collection of courses integrate adaptive learning in a variety of approaches. However, a shared goal ties these efforts together: a focus on positively impacting student success in critical and often challenging general education courses.
For Bay Path University, planning for the future of its adaptive initiative meant putting a framework in place that would allow it to grow quickly while maintaining quality course development. The institution created a centralized course management model in which each course section uses the same department-approved content and consistent learning outcomes to support students. With this process in place, Bay Path developed and/or redesigned more than 50 courses over two academic years.
3. Put Support Structures in Place
Many institutions encourage faculty to employ digital learning to improve student outcomes, but the real difference is shoring up that encouragement with direct support. Not every campus has a digital learning resource team or Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning to play this role, but help for educators and course designers can come in many forms.
Georgia State University Senior Lecturers Dr. Chris Brown and Dr. Jeannie Grussendorf teamed up to share the duties of redesigning their introductory political science course. The pair also leveraged student interns to assist with proofreading, testing and other aspects of the project. At Portland State, instructor Rachel Webb worked with an instructional designer and a user experience designer from the university’s Office of Academic Innovation to help plan, design, and improve her course, including finding the right platform and evaluating results. Similarly, UCF math instructors collaborated with instructional designers and digital courseware providers on design and implementation. All three also chose a service provider (Realizeit) that could provide additional support in areas such as course design, faculty training and student support.