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Our Work

Scaling Educational Technology for Student Success 

Through nearly a decade of field-based work, APLU’s Office of Digital Transformation for Student Success focus on achieving improved equitable student success, intentional use of educational technology and evidence-based teaching practices should be expanded across an institution. This process involves cross-collaboration across departments that we can facilitate and support. 

We have extensive experience in supporting the scaling of educational technology in academic spaces, specifically adaptive and other digital courseware. 

Why Adaptive Courseware?

A great challenge confronting university educators, especially instructors teaching 100- and 200-level general education courses, lies in understanding what individual students already know and what they need to learning, then modifying instruction to meet those diverse needs effectively and efficiently while achieving the stated learning outcomes. Post-pandemic learner variability has only widened. Adaptive courseware collects student data through assessment, analyzes that data and uses it to offer personalized learning paths to each student and recommendations to instructors which students need academic help sooner.  

By integrating adaptive courseware, instructors are able to collect, access and utilize the data they need to deliver quality learning experiences to individual students at scale. The combination of personalized student practice, more data sooner for faculty, provide a better foundation for faculty to maximize impact of all the other teaching interventions used during a course. 

To be effective, adaptive courseware must include dynamic, culturally relevant, and meaningful embedded assessment to scaffold and grow learner mastery of content in course- and program- specific contexts. Equally crucial is the role that instructors and pedagogical experts play in the design of instructional and assessment strategies for comprehensive learning environments. The availability of adaptive courseware products that are usable, affordable, equity-centered and effective to instructors equipped to adopt new products and course strategies has the potential to improve outcomes for hundreds of thousands of postsecondary students. 

APLU’s Personalized Learning Consortium (PLC) oversaw the grant program which was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. We worked to speed postsecondary educators towards effective use of high-quality adaptive courseware and ensure that public universities personalize learning for students in ways that promote completion while containing costs.  

We partnered with eight public universities to promote the use and share lessons on scaling adaptive courseware in support of equitable student success within universities. Our aim was to increase the use of adaptive courseware to scale it across 15% of general education courses at each institution, with a particular focus on critical gateway courses with high DFWI rates and equity gaps. In targeting these courses, our goal was to increase pass rates and retention for low-income, underrepresented and first-generation students, and therefore reduce time to graduation and cost to these students. The eight participating institutions were: 

  • Arizona State University 
  • Colorado State University 
  • Georgia State University 
  • Northern Arizona University 
  • Oregon State University 
  • Portland State University 
  • University of Louisville 
  • University of Mississippi 
  • Concentration on general education (100- and 200-level) courses for credit 
  • Primary delivery in in-person or blended learning environments 
  • Inclusion of multiple high-enrollment courses and/or high DFW courses 
  • Connection to other institution-wide improvement initiatives with chancellor-level and provost-level leadership and engagement and some matching costs covered by the institution to commit a full-time program manager to the project 
  • Commitment to faculty development and sustained engagement with serious review of teaching and learning in the general education curriculum and, as part of this effort, scaled deployment of high-quality adaptive courseware from approved suppliers 
  • Engagement of multiple disciplines and departments including physical sciences, life sciences, social sciences and the humanities 
  • Targeted adaptive courseware use in a minimum of 15-20% general education course enrollments within the three-year program term (Fall 2016-Spring 2020) 
  • Student tuition savings of $16 million from not repeating courses 
  • Year over year increases in student average grades 
  • Equity gaps for Black, Indigenous, and Asian were reduced when compared to White students 
  • Latinx/Hispanic students also had year over year gains, but equity gaps were not reduced as much as the subpopulations above 
  • Fifty percent of all (225) courses participating were able to integrate and scale adaptive courseware to all sections in three years 
  • Student records from six institutions numbered 383,425* (two institutions did not provide student level data) 

The grant project through Every Learner Everywhere supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation sought to improve learning outcomes for Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and poverty-impacted undergraduate students by redesigning courses to better align adaptive courseware technology with improved pedagogical practices to increase pass rates. The collaborative course redesign process occurred by bringing faculty teams together across departments to align gateway courses across sections within academic programs and to connect these teams with mentor faculty with demonstrated expertise and success in the use of adaptive courseware.  

If you are interested in learning more about the ACES initiative or participating in a future project focused on redesigning gateway courses leveraging adaptive courseware, please contact Dr. Megan Tesene, Assistant Vice President in the Office of Digital Transformation for Student Success. 

This initiative worked with cross-functional university teams across six four-year public institutions located in Ohio, Texas, and Florida:  

  • Cleveland State University 
  • University of Toledo 
  • University of Texas El Paso 
  • University of Texas Rio Grande Valley 
  • University of Central Florida 
  • Florida International University 

While each institution committed to the overarching goals, they also had their own individualized needs and goals for participating in this project. Those goals included:  

  • Adopting or increasing existing adoptions of adaptive courseware in key high-impact courses 
  • Improving existing use of courseware by faculty/academic programs and scaling good/effective practices 
  • Increasing faculty engagement and growing internal community building 
  • Increasing student engagement with course materials 
  • Learning from others’ initiatives and participating in a broader community of practitioners 
  • Multiple site visits with APLU, network partners, and exemplar mentors 
  • Planning and scoping of adaptive courseware implementation projects 
  • Courseware selection continuous improvement coaching for faculty and academic team members 
  • Impact study analyses for target courses with guidance on continuous improvement 
  • One-on-one coaching sessions with APLU and network partners 
  • Course design coaching with expert IDs, virtual programming, and community convenings such as the ATD teaching and learning summit 
  • Participation in regular cohort convenings for project leadership 
  • Access to and participation in learning events and professional development opportunities 
  • Faculty engagement in moderated online communities of practice (Faculty Guild and later, APLU disciplinary communities of practice) 
  • Student records from five institutions numbered 15,177* (one institution did not provide student level data) 
  • Each institution reported documented successes and signs of improvement that they believe were transformative for participating faculty and cross-functional representatives.   
  • Institutional leads acknowledged actual changes in beliefs and practices on their campuses 

APLU serves as the intermediary between universities and Lumen Learning, the developer of an exemplar adaptive product designed to increase success rates for students from underserved backgrounds in Introduction to Statistics courses. This grant is provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

We are creating peer networks and providing opportunities for participating faculty to share knowledge with each other and integrate their immediate feedback into the courseware design. We are currently partnering with the following institutions: 

  • Georgia State University 
  • Perimeter College 
  • Florida International University 
  • University of Texas Rio Grande Valley 
  • South Texas College