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Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Helping Courseware Achieve Its Potential in Higher Education | EDUCAUSE Review


"Despite motivation and incentives to succeed academically, many students struggle to balance education with work, family, and other demands, and they lack the confidence and resilience to stick with their educational paths when adversity arises." writes


These "nontraditional" students drive a growing proportion of enrollments even as institutions face new financial and regulatory pressures, making it vitally important to solve the problems hindering their success.

Digital courseware's greatest potential lies in serving these students, asserts Karen Vignare, a higher education executive and founder of KV Consulting. Her experience, including leadership roles at institutions like University of Maryland University College and Michigan State University, lead her to believe that the biggest promise of courseware is providing improved support to students unprepared for college, not just through remediation but also by bringing immediacy to their learning experience:
"There are students that are unprepared and uncertain about how they are doing in their education. While many faculty are overwhelmed and struggle to respond to every student's individual needs, they can use tools like courseware to help students understand their own progress whenever they would like."
Courseware Defined In this article courseware is defined as instructional content scoped and sequenced to support delivery of an entire course through purpose-built software. It includes assessment to inform personalization of instruction and facilitates adoption across a range of institutional types and learning environments. Examples of courseware include Pearson MyLabs and Smart Sparrow. An example of solutions not considered courseware on a standalone basis is Blackboard LMS.

Despite its promise, digital courseware has lagged in realizing and scaling its potential in higher education. According to Nielsen Pubtrack, a resource that captures sales of postsecondary course materials through college bookstores nationwide, in 2011 digital course materials comprised only about eight percent of unit sales across a selection of high-enrollment introductory courses, where these nontraditional students are most likely to enroll — and struggle. By 2014, that proportion had grown to about  20 percent of unit sales for the same courses.1 The growth of digital courseware in higher education has occurred slowly and inconsistently, leading us at Tyton Partners and many others to wonder, "What's the holdup?"

Over the past two years, we've analyzed barriers to adoption and levels of satisfaction with digital courseware. Findings from Tyton Partners' 2014 survey of 2,700 postsecondary faculty and administrators point to a disconnect between the courseware user experience and the control and ease of use that faculty and administrators expect in the classroom. In addition, the survey revealed concern over courseware's efficacy — faculty and administrators do not see a clear reward in terms of improved student outcomes from adopting courseware. With these issues in mind, it's easy to see how courseware has not lived up to its promise.
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Source: EDUCAUSE Review


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