Nov 20 2018

6 Steps to Help Universities Implement Adaptive Courseware

Universities partnered with the APLU to offer a guide to assist higher education institutions in improving their online offerings.

As higher education institutions invest in new ways to teach their students, there can be anxiety about how to make new tools part of daily classroom practice. 

To help universities get on their way, the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities has created a six-step guide to implementing adaptive courseware. This spans everything from artificial intelligence to virtual reality to using data analytics.

“This guide provides institutions with a step-by-step guide for integrating adaptive courseware on their campus with a wide array of resources and tips for avoiding or minimizing the road bumps along the way,” said Karen Vignare, executive director of APLU’s Personalized Learning Consortium, in a statement. Vignare oversees the pilot program and helped develop its guidebook. “Our hope is that this guide will help more institutions utilize adaptive courseware and move along the implementation learning curve more quickly.”

APLU worked with Arizona State University, Colorado State University, Georgia State University, Northern Arizona University, Oregon State University, Portland State University, the University of Louisville and the University of Mississippi to create the guide.  Administrators at participating universities developed these steps based on their own experiences successfully integrating solutions to improve student outcomes, and now hope their contributions will give other universities the assistance they need. 

“The Adaptive Learning Initiative has helped OSU resource and coordinate course redesign in math and psychology, increasing active learning and improving student experience,” Julie Greenwood, associate provost for transformative learning at Oregon State University, says in a testimony on the APLU’s website. “Although early results show increases in pass rates, we would have benefitted immensely from an implementation guide such as this.”

MORE FROM EDTECH: Check out how universities are using adaptive learning and other tools to revamp the classroom in higher ed!

Six Steps to Implement Your Own Adaptive Courseware

Universities are ramping up the pace to adopt new learning platforms, as incoming data has shown a positive connection between adaptive learning software and student outcomes, retention and recruitment. In a survey from earlier this year, 92 percent of university chief academic officers believed adaptive learning courseware could improve student performance, and 90 percent wanted to integrate more of those solutions on campus. 

In order to see the results these CAOs agree they should see, the APLU recommends taking these six steps:

  1. Establish Support: In order to enact large changes on campus, it is crucial to bring on institutional stakeholders who can bring influence, insight and resources. Finding a project lead and executive sponsor will help create a leadership network to guide the decision process for which solutions would be best for a particular campus and the implementation of that program. APLU also suggests reaching out to professors to understand the campus culture toward digital learning. At St. Edward’s University, learning spaces manager Laura Lucas found having open lines of communication with professors will help lend support to bringing adaptive learning tools on campus.
  2. Decide and Discover: After bringing on key campus stakeholders to support adaptive courseware implementation, it is important to get a firm grasp on what kind of solution would be the best fit for the culture on campus. One of the best ways to achieve this is by interviewing campus stakeholders. A survey of professors and students on campus may find frustration with access to professors’ notes during class, and that incorporating Microsoft Office 365’s OneNote could be a viable solution. Research and analysis is also crucial. Using data analytics, Kennesaw State University was able to target high failure rates in a particular class and create an online program to decrease those rates by 48 percent. 
  3. Design: Once a specific problem has been found, it is time to start designing a pilot for the courseware that will best solve it and fit in with the campus culture. This includes creating incentive programs for professors and students as well as deciding how best to evaluate the course. New solutions can help make the evaluation easier. Using data collection and analytics software like IBM Watson may ensure a smooth analysis process. This step also includes talking with vendors to create partnerships concerning courseware design. There are plenty of opportunities to work with companies like Google who take a special interest in working with universities to develop adaptive learning programs. 
  4. Develop: This is where the design aspect comes to fruition. IT teams and project leaders will bring the pilot designs to life, using either a vendor product or creating their own. Objectives of the development stage should also include testing the courseware before it goes out into the public, as well as making sure all resources are put into effect to keep the program running for the duration of the pilot. In this stage, collaboration is key between the different teams involved in order to make sure everything is in place for the pilot.
  5. Pilot and Iterate: This is when the hard work and planning pays off, as teachers adopt the courseware in limited sections to test the effectiveness of the program. Project leaders should receive regular feedback and evaluation updates throughout the pilot, allowing for updates to the courseware or preparations to iterate, or conduct another cycle of, the pilot. 
  6. Scale: Finally, after the pilot has been completed and the courseware has been perfected, the solutions are expanded to the rest of the campus population. As the program continues to expand and evolve, universities will need to update policies, structures and cultures to maintain and improve the courseware’s effectiveness. Developing regular reports can be a good way to maintain communication and awareness about how the courseware is affecting student outcomes.

With these six steps, along with dedicated faculty, universities will be able to better plot a course toward modern learning techniques, according to the APLU authors.

“The process of designing and implementing adaptive courseware can initiate conversations about teaching and learning that may be long overdue at many institutions,” they write. “Adopting new technology and teaching methods requires vulnerability, curiosity, and an overwhelming amount of support. Faculty are at the forefront of this process.”


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