Gateway courses remain one of the greatest barriers to student success and a major contributor to students stopping out of college, with students from underrepresented or low-income backgrounds disproportionately affected. A growing evidence base indicates that adaptive courseware, when integrated with quality pedagogy and course design, can increase student success in gateway courses, improve retention, and reduce equity gaps because the courseware responds to each students’ individual learning pace and needs. And because gateway courses are foundational, increased learning and student success can pay learning dividends for the remainder of students’ education.
Yet overhauling gateway courses is a daunting task for any institution. Working through the Every Learner Everywhere network, APLU’s Office of Digital Transformation for Student Success and its partners recently completed work with six public research universities to spearhead adaptive courseware redesigns and scale the use of the courseware in gateway classes such as chemistry, biology, engineering, math, and foreign languages. Every Learner Everywhere released six case studies on the challenges the institutions faced in redesigning a set of courses and the value the effort provided to students, faculty, staff, and administrators.
The case studies reveal a number of significant takeaways:
Engaging faculty in the design process is critical to success. Though faculty interest in course redesign varied across department and institutions, and in some cases there was faculty skepticism or reluctance, faculty engagement in the design process was key to the success of the design and willing adoption of redesigned courses.
Adaptive courseware enables faculty to self-reflect and personalize learning. Thanks to robust, routinely updated student learning data, faculty reported being more self-reflective about their teaching approaches and their impact on student learning outcomes – and reported being more likely to use learning analytics to address learning gaps.
Collaborative course redesign projects break down silos. Institutions reported that adaptive courseware redesign efforts broke down silos across departments and administrative functions, building institutional capacity for later institutional change efforts.
Resources and support advance the work. As expected, institutions that provided critical resources, support, and leadership buy-in reported the greatest success in redesigning gateway courses with adaptive courseware.
Momentum matters. Institutions where faculty had already pioneered the use of adaptive courseware in some courses, even without significant prior institutional support, were able to draw on institutional knowledge to more effectively lead adaptive courseware redesigns across entire programs. This allowed pockets of innovation to cross-pollinate other departments.
Dive deeper and download the adaptive courseware case studies:
If your institution is interested in learning more about adaptive courseware redesign in gateway courses, please contact Dr. Megan Tesene, Assistant Vice President of Digital Transformation for Student Success at APLU.