The University of Vermont (UVM) and National Louis University of Chicago (NLU) have both recently adopted Acrobatiq’s adaptive courseware at their institutions. In-depth case studies of these implementations, featuring interviews with key project leaders, including instructors and administrators, provide valuable insights about implementing this tool and designing effective programs.
Below is a sneak peek at some of the key insights from those case studies, particularly on the question of readiness.
1. You’re seeking strategic cost savings
A switch to adaptive courseware cuts down on students’ need to purchase costly print textbooks. For UVM, the transition away from a traditional print textbook was practically seamless. The book’s content was already licensed as part of the adaptive courseware module adopted.
NLU sought to expand access by offering a program with zero out-of-pocket costs for low-income and first-generation college students (after federal/state aid is applied). In its new Harrison Professional Pathways Program (HP3), adaptive courseware became an important element in its toolkit to achieve such affordability.
2. You want real-time gap analysis
Adaptive learning software offers students many practice opportunities, generating a wealth of observations of student learning. That means students get timely feedback, and, because the practice is measured against clearly defined learning outcomes, they get targeted feedback and tailored follow-up practices.
UVM, for example, previously used a home-grown, instructor-developed database to analyze how well students did on each question of “high stakes” exams. The problem was that by the time the instructor found out that students were performing poorly on a given question, it was too late to do something about it.
The real-time tracking of adaptive learning replaces these previously time-consuming, time-delayed, and, significantly, “static” analyses of student outcomes.
3. You “see” the value of visualizing progress in real time
The online prompts of adaptive learning software have proven to be very effective tools for student engagement, especially for digital native learners who enjoy and tend to fully immerse into interactive environments.
NLU, for example, has seen that students are often amazed when shown the correlation between how active they are on the software and how well they do in class. That visual, the university says, has been an inspiring, ongoing “push” in promoting and encouraging student success.
4. You yearn to reenergize classroom time
With adaptive courseware, instructors gain a different vantage point, a sneak peek into what’s going on with their students and are thus able to use classroom time in new ways.
At NLU, students now get an introduction to course material through the adaptive courseware, with instructors reviewing data from student practice before class, finding gaps in student knowledge, and customizing class time based on those needs, including using success coaching.
Similarly, UVM students are given a deadline to work through the courseware so that instructors can thoughtfully analyze learning analytics and then refine the activities they intend for the next class meeting.
While receiving real-time data to inform upcoming class time has its challenges – UVM warns that faculty should be ready to adjust lecture plans on short notice – the new dynamics afforded by adaptive learning are ultimately energizing. NLU instructors, for example, relish having time to focus on the learning science and improve their teaching practices in a way they wouldn’t have been able to before. They are experiencing a process of discovery where they see themselves having new and expanded capacity inside the classroom.
5. You need a critical, effective core base for blended/hybrid course models
Like many higher education organizations, UVM and NLU are increasingly adding online components to their curriculum. In NLU’s HP3 program, for example, students meet in class twice a week and the remainder of their work is done online.
NLU intentionally chose adaptive courseware to avoid the common problem of using online learning uncritically, where students would have had the same problems with persistence and completion as in more traditional educational delivery models. For UVM, adaptive courseware has been so engaging and successful that more courses are now being transitioned to a hybrid format, replacing some class time with adaptive learning online work.
Judy Quinn is an education-beat journalist who has also served as a community college instructor and university student media adviser.