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Changing Culture, Not Just Adapting Courses

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Changing Culture, Not Just Adapting Courses


Annie Schultz.jpgAnnie Schultz was tired of being in the dark about what her online students were doing in the math classes she was teaching. “I was looking for a tool that would enable me to be a more informed instructor,” she said in a recent interview.

At the same time, her institution, Herzing University, was looking to make a transformational change to the way faculty taught and students learned. It turns out there was one tool that could help solve both problems: Realizeit’s personalized learning and adaptive teaching platform. As Director of Instructional Support, Annie decided to take the plunge.

Opening the Black Box of Student Knowledge

“What first attracted me to Realizeit was the real-time data gathering and analytics, which gave me hope that I might get the insights into student behavior I was looking for,” Annie explained. As she began her pilot term in 2016 with a college algebra course, that hope bore fruit. Realizeit’s continuous data-gathering on student activity within the system offered her the ability to make targeted interventions with students—and offer further enrichment to those who were finding the material easy.

“Instead of reaching out and saying, ‘Hey, are you struggling?’,” says Annie, “I can now approach students with ‘Hey, I see you’re struggling with this specific topic—what can I do to help you?’” With Realizeit, Annie can meet her students wherever they are, armed with the information she needs to help them succeed.

A Platform that Powers All Subjects and Courses

While Annie was looking for a way to engage with her students more productively, her provost was putting into motion Herzing University’s plans for a new, transformational teaching model. One of the major changes planned was standardizing the curriculum across the institution, including online and on-ground.

In addition to teaching mathematics courses, Annie also has experience with instructional design and curriculum development. She immediately saw a place for Realizeit within the standardized curriculum implementation. “I had some experience with other adaptive platforms, but they were really only for math content. One of the things I liked about Realizeit was that it wasn’t just for math, it could be used for the humanities, for business, for nursing—for any subject.”

The Realizeit platform also held out the promise of a unified experience across the university. “Having a platform that can be rolled out across every subject means that students and faculty both have a more consistent experience across the university,” explains Annie, “Students know what to expect in each class in terms of the format, and faculty can share data about student performance.”

Not a Realizeit Course - A Herzing Course, Powered by Realizeit

In addition to its versatility across subject domains, Realizeit also appealed to Annie and Herzing University because it can be tailored and personalized to a high degree.

“Previous adaptive platforms we’ve used were based on a specific textbook,” Annie says. “We could pick and choose which sections to use, but we couldn’t add our own material or otherwise personalize the course. It was out of the box. Realizeit lets us make each course our own, personalize it and change it, in a way that fit our students and our goals.”

A Change Management Challenge – But Worth the Effort

When asked what kind of advice she would give to other institutions that want to implement Realizeit in a big way, Annie Schultz has four main ideas. “First, content strategy is key. If you know what content you’re going to be using ahead of time, the process will flow more smoothly. Next, be prepared to invest time up front. Realizeit as a platform isn’t an out-of-the-box solution, which is a good thing, because you’re actually designing and building whole courses and programs that fit your goals and strategies. I have to admit that at first the platform seemed a bit overwhelming: there were so many options. But now that we’re past that, I’m comfortable with Realizeit and excited because I can see so many new possibilities open to us.”

Her third piece of advice focuses on acknowledging the cultural change that happens when an institution commits to transformational change. “Change is scary, no matter what you’re changing,” Annie says. “Here at Herzing we’re transforming our entire teaching process, and Realizeit is just one part of that. We essentially flipped our faculty’s world upside down, but we kept the change process as open as possible. Openness and listening are both critical when making change to this degree.”
Finally, Annie suggests taking a gradual, incremental approach to change when possible: for example, converting part of a course to Realizeit while maintaining a previous textbook or keeping writing assignments may be a perfectly good way to start in some circumstances. “The less you change all at once,” Annie says, “The easier it is for faculty to get comfortable.”

Progress in Process with Realizeit

Herzing University has been running Realizeit-powered courses university-wide for three terms now. Faculty committees will begin to meet regularly to review the platform’s performance, determine what refinements can be made, and examine how to scale the implementation further.
Annie is excited. “I’m talking to my provost about new ideas on a regular basis; new ways we can implement Realizeit for things like placement testing. There are so many ways to use this platform to make our overall student experience better.”

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Discover how Realizeit’s personalized learning and adaptive teaching system can help you reimagine how you teach your courses in a way that respects your domain expertise and teaching style while powering student success – schedule a demonstration today!

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