Broward College is no stranger to adaptive learning courseware. After all, they’ve been using it since at least 2013, when it was implemented to provide supplemental support for students in their first college algebra courses.
But when the institution was approached by Achieving the Dream (ATD) to participate in a pilot to redesign courses to use adaptive learning, the administration realized they needed help shifting from its supplemental use of adaptive courseware to full integration. That’s when they reached out to Broward’s Center for Teaching Excellence and Learning for support.
It turned out to be a smart move. With a “can do” attitude, a strong relationship with faculty, and familiarity with adaptive courseware, the center was ready to help. Faculty development staff from the center quickly provided training on adaptive software, established a community of practice for pilot participants, and partnered with the Instructional Design Department to make it happen.
Now after three semesters of using adaptive courseware in math and English classes, the college is already scaling up the use of adaptive to other courses in the Fall 2020 semester.
More than just content
In 2013, when the Florida legislature mandated that its 28 state colleges in the Florida College System provide developmental education that is tailored to the needs of students, Broward College implemented ALEKS as its software for its math courses. ALEKS is a web-based learning system that supplies course content for several introductory college courses including math, chemistry, and business.
While most instructors were using ALEKS for course content and assignments, when ATD invited Broward to participate in its Lighthouse Institutions adaptive pilot with Every Learner Everywhere, it provided the college the opportunity to re-examine its use of the adaptive courseware. The challenge was how to shift from using it as a supplemental tool to fully integrating it into courses so that it personalizes the learning experience and improves learning outcomes.
Center for Teaching and Excellence
That’s when the administration called upon its Center for Teaching and Excellence to get involved in the pilot. Julia Philyaw, Associate Vice President, Center for Teaching Excellence and Learning, describes the center as a “three-legged stool” for the college.
One leg, Innovative Professional Learning Curriculum and Systems, provides training and support for any colleagues who focus on student services such as counselors, advisors and anyone who is supporting students in a non-instructional capacity.
The second leg, Workplace Learning, works with non-instructional staff on communication, technology, and team building.
And the third leg is Faculty Development. They provide classroom management, instructional technology, synchronous and asynchronous communication, remote learning, accessibility, design for universal learning, and when requested, adaptive software.
Philyaw says, “We recognize that we are very lucky that we have a staff of nine people, which is not common at other institutions.” With support from senior leadership, she says, “We have the human resources available to be able to try anything.”
To get the pilot started, the center took the following steps:
It provided training on what adaptive software is and what it is not. Although the college wasn’t new to adaptive courseware, Philyaw says it was time for faculty to revisit their use of the software. They asked, “How do we shift from the software being supplemental to fully integrating it into the courseware?” The team saw that as an opportunity with the ATD grant.
One of the Faculty Development team members who specializes in instructional technology taught courses on how to use the college’s learning management system (LMS) and how to integrate external tools into it, including the adaptive software. If faculty members hadn’t taught a blended or online course in a while, she worked with them on those.
Community of practice
Next the center established a community of practice to conduct these targeted discussions, consider which course or courses should be included in the pilot, and look at different software for different disciplines. They included faculty from math, science, and English.
Philyaw says the community is peer-to-peer driven. The Faculty Development staff established the community, organized the meetings, and prepared the agenda. But the faculty members provide the agenda topics and drive the discussion.
Philyaw says the center’s role was to provide a framework with context and suggestions on courseware to research. But it also provided faculty with the space they needed and stepped back in when asked.
Related reading: How The University of Texas at El Paso Used a Team Approach to Redesigning Gateway Courses
In April 2019, the center held a kickoff meeting including staff from the Learning Center, Office of Institutional Research, Department of Instructional Design, faculty from math, science, English, English for Academic Purposes (EAP), associate deans, and representatives from ATD.
Lastly, the center partnered with the Department of Instructional Design. Philyaw says, “The Center for Teaching Excellence and Learning call the instructional design team our cousins because we work very closely with them.”
She says by infusing the support of the two teams, faculty see the support as a seamless process.
In Fall 2019, the pilot kicked off with one section of Developmental Mathematics (MAT 0022) with an enrollment of 28 students and one section of English for Academic Purposes (EAP 1540) with 24 students. (The EAP instructor also taught one other section of EAP 1540 without adaptive for comparison purposes.) MAT 0022 was taught again in Spring 2020 with an enrollment of 30 students.
By Summer 2020, the program expanded to four sections of MAT 0022 with 28, 20, 23, and 24 students respectively. The adaptive version of EAP 1540 with 22 students was also offered again.
The center is working with its Office of Institutional Research to build dashboards for pre- and post-development course success. While it’s awaiting data about the pilot, the college is already expanding the adaptive initiative:
- For Fall 2020, it’s scaling up its adaptive program to include College Algebra and English Composition 1.
- The center is continuing its community of practice for instructors teaching or interested in teaching with adaptive courseware.
- The community of practice is building a “playbook” based on its experience. It will include suggestions for researching software options, converting courses, implementation, and continuous improvement.
For other teaching and learning centers providing support to adaptive courseware projects, Philyaw has this advice:
- Come prepared with different options when you’re meeting with the faculty.
- Listen to the needs of the faculty, build their trust, and keep the communication going.
- Be flexible. Observe how things are working, be willing to pivot and modify your approach.
- Understand what kind of training you need. If the intent is for the courseware to be integrated fully into your course, that training will look different than if the adaptive courseware is intended to be supplemental.
- Have a good combination of structured training versus the organic learning community. The pilot experienced success through structured training with clear outcomes and clear objectives, as well as organic, peer-to-peer contributions.