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Community College Improves Retention With Digital Curriculum

An "inclusive access" program at a community college was recently recognized by the Online Learning Consortium. Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in North Carolina received an OLC Digital Learning Innovation Faculty-led award for its e-Text Initiative, intended to help all of the school's students have course materials on the first day of class. The digital resources are made available through Blackboard Learn, the college's learning management system. The institution has worked on the program with Cengage, which provides much of the digital content.

Under the program, initially launched in fall 2014, the college deployed e-texts in all sections of 11 courses in its liberal arts division. According to project lead Jenny Billings Beaver, who chairs Curriculum English, Developmental Reading and English, and Study Skills, only 21 students of 4,212 initial users required tech support during the transition.

The digital textbooks were purchased directly from Cengage at a discount of 25 to 50 percent and given to students as part of their course registration. By fall 2015 the program had expanded to 14 courses. Now in its third year, the program has grown to 30 courses.

Since the launch, said Billings Beaver in a prepared statement, the college's retention rate specifically for the Developmental Reading and English III course has grown by 18 percentage points, from 77 percent to 95 percent. Similarly, the pass rate has risen from 69 percent to 77 percent.

Satisfaction with digital resources has also grown among students from 78 percent in fall 2015 to 85 percent in fall 2016. A "loose-leaf" option made available in the college bookstore has shrunk in usage from 53 percent to 45 percent over the same period.

"This initiative has made all the difference at our institution; our students are saving money, they are more successful in their coursework, and they are seeing the same, streamlined technology in their course sequence," said Billings. "We have seen improvements in retention and significant increases in confidence in technology, especially in developmental students."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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