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Adaptive Learning

Updated Guide Tackles Equity and Racial Justice in Use of Adaptive Courseware

A group of organizations focused on student success in college have released a new version of a guide to help instructors and course designers implement adaptive curriculum to better support minority students. Intended for use in gateway courses, the "Adaptive Courseware Implementation Guide" was developed by Every Learner Everywhere.

Every Learner is a network of 12 organizations with expertise in evaluating, implementing, scaling and measuring the efficacy of education technologies; curriculum and course design; teaching practices; and support services that personalize instruction for students in blended and online learning environments. It includes Intentional Futures, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and Achieving the Dream, all of which contributed to the guide.

As the guide explained, adaptive courseware modifies the learning path based on a student's interaction with the tool, "to maximize mastery of learning objectives and course content." The report is an update of one released a couple of years ago, with a bigger emphasis on equity and racial justice; digital courseware, learning technology and sustainability; and evidence-based teaching. The guidance is based on feedback from faculty, course designers and project leads who have been successful in using adaptive courseware. While the guide is written to faculty, the contents take into account that successful adaptive courseware implementation calls for thinking about the work as a long-term project that will require collaboration. The transition follows three phases — design, pilot and optimize — each with its own workstream to steer an institution forward and toward scalability.

The new edition includes:

  • A more detailed description of the design process with an emphasis on equity;
  • A self-assessment tool to help educators determine where their institution is in the process (along with knowledge checks to guide them);
  • Quotes from students;
  • Case studies based on faculty experience and data collection;
  • Links to external resources; and
  • An expanded glossary of terms.

The design section of the book strongly recommends use of "backward design," also known as "understanding by design," and features a step-by-step process. That section has included a link to a workbook produced by Achieving the Dream Instructional Designer Susan Adams, with input from instructional designers and technologists at Cuyahoga Community College, an Achieving the Dream school.

"We have learned a tremendous amount more since the original guide launched two years ago," said Jessica Rowland Williams, director of Every Learner Everywhere, in a statement. "Our learnings, coupled with a higher education landscape ripe for quality resources, made this the perfect time to release a second version of the [guide]."

"When combined with quality curriculum redesign, integrating educational technologies such as adaptive courseware has the potential to transform the classroom experience, improve student success and reduce student costs," added Megan Tesene, associate director of APLU's Personalized Learning Consortium. "This updated guide reflects the lessons learned by faculty, instructional designers, faculty support staff and academic administrators in classrooms and across campuses."

The new guide follows on a report recently released by Every Learner in collaboration with GlobalMindED and the Equity Project. "Student Speak 2020" identified the "New Majority": including students with BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) identities; first-generation college students; students living with disabilities; rural audiences; white and poverty-affected students; and non-traditional students. The report shared viewpoints of students to illustrate that while the college model was not created with them in mind, they can succeed when given the right resources.

"Adaptive Courseware Implementation Guide" is openly available on the Every Learner Everywhere website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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