Plan for FrLv! May 24, 2019

Adaptive Courseware in Higher Education

Part II Narrower, Deeper: especially for Killer Gateway Courses May 24, 2019

Building on 3 BRIEF Useful Articles that we discussed May 10 (see below)

 + New Resources & Prompts for Discussion

  • Actual (not merely intended) successes? disappointments?
  • Adopt/Avoid/Adapt?  Why?  Who?  How?
  • (Especially: Math 101, English 101, Chemistry 101)

Event details follow these 2 amusing digressive questions:

Question 1:  In your opinion, is “mass personalization”

A.  Greatest hope for Adaptive Courseware in higher education

B.  Misleading term used mostly outside higher education

C.  Oxymoronic

D.  Onomotopoeatic

E.  None of the above

F.  All of the above, esp. E

Question 2:  What phrase has been redacted from this excerpt?

“I’m assuming most of…you’ve been 1. living under a rock or 2. putting off the dreaded ALEKS XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX that haunts incoming Penn State freshmen everywhere.”

A.  Late-night smart aleck[sic] Stephen Colbert 

B.  PSU Fencer Aleks Ochocki

C.  ALEKS Math Assessment

D.  Alec[sic] Baldwin

E.  ALEKS = All Learning Ensues from a Kindergarten Sandbox

[Excerpt above is from “Freshman 101: New Student Orientation,” in Student Life in Onward State,… PSU news by  Penn State’s student blog” by Rory Pelella, …freshman from Binghamton, New York…5/17/19 4:01 am
[Note:  This is the first time I’ve ever redacted in public.]

2:00pmET Introduction – Begin recording– Steve Gilbert

Why “Adaptive Courseware”?  Why “Killer” Gateway Courses?

Note:  We exclude issues that apply primarily to students who 

    • Confidently enroll in and successfully complete first undergraduate math course or a widely acceptable alternative on schedule.
    • Confidently decide they do not need to complete first undergraduate math course or a widely acceptable alternative.  [And who do not regret this decision some years later.]

Gateway courses — college credit–bearing and/or developmental education…. As long as there have been U.S. colleges and universities, there have been entry courses that pose difficulties for students — courses that have served more as weeding-out rather than gearing-up experiences for undergraduates. Perhaps the gateway-course weed-out function was more appropriate in the days when a college or university credential was reserved for a privileged few, or even during the era when a high school credential was more than adequate preparation for work and life in a democratic republic. But we no longer live in those times.”

-Excerpt from “Improving Teaching, Learning, Equity, and Success in Gateway Courses” by Andrew K. Koch (Editor);  New Directions for Higher Education, Number 180 (J-B HE Single Issue Higher Education) 1st Edition DOI: 10.1002/he

Specific example:  “Math 101” and Beginning, Developmental, Remedial [College] Math
Basic Algebra and/or Algebra I and/or College Algebra, … Not Algebra II, Statistics, Calculus

“Completion of Mathematics Remediation is the Single Largest Barrier to College Completion”

“Students Assessed as Needing Developmental (Remedial) Algebra Are More Likely to Graduate If They Take College-Level Statistics Instead,” Alexandra W. Logue, CASE, Graduate Center, CUNY;  Mari Watanabe-Rose, CUNY Central Office of Academic Affairs; Slide from presentation 2017 ASHE Conference, Houston, Texas, November 9, 2017

“One of the most striking findings is that all seven guides emphasized this point, in particular:  The status quo is unacceptable.” [Page 1]
” A Common Vision for Undergraduate Mathematical Sciences Programs in 2025″
Karen Saxe, Macalester College; Linda Braddy, MAA;  Published and Distributed by
The Mathematical Association of America; Copyright ©2015 The Mathematical Association of America, Inc.; ISBN 978-0-88385-840-0
“1 Introduction  [Page 3]
Freshman and sophomore mathematics and statistics courses function as gateways to many majors, and they are crucial for preparing mathematically- and scientifically-literate citizens. Yet:
Each year only about 50 percent of students earn a grade of A, B, or C in college algebra
(Ganter & Haver, 2011).
Women are almost twice as likely as men to choose not to continue beyond Calculus I,
even when Calculus II is a requirement for their intended major (Bressoud, 2011).
In 2012, 19.9 percent of all bachelor’s degrees were awarded to underrepresented minority students (9.5 percent to Blacks, 9.8 percent to Hispanics). However, only 11.6
percent of mathematics bachelor’s degrees were awarded to underrepresented minority students (4.9 percent to Blacks, 6.4 percent to Hispanics) (
Failure rates under traditional lecture are 55 percent higher than the rates observed under more active approaches to instruction (Freeman et al., 2014).”

I.  Recap and Discuss Previously Shared Articles [Excerpts below on this page]

II.  Discuss  New Resources & Prompts

(Suggested after May 10)

A.  Does this excerpted list of “features” include the elements of Adaptive Courseware most important to you?

Find courseware to meet your teaching and learning needs” in website “Find the right Edtech products… Use our search tools to explore products that support your learners….Search Courseware Products…Student Success Products” From EdSurge
Brief descriptions and links to approximately 60 “courseware products” organized by “REFINE BY FEATURE” and “YOUR REQUIREMENTS.  Site welcomes suggestions for additional items.

    The content can be adjusted in relation to a learner’s knowledge
    Educators and course designers can alter learning or assessment content
    Learners can impact or augment instruction based on their choices
    Use of feedback and interventions based on a learner’s social-emotional state
    Academic structures and the capacity to assess learning in relation to them
    Ability for learners and/or educators to engage with each other in the context of learning

B.  “Getting students to do the work”

Thoughtful comment from Doug Eder:

“As a ‘lumper’ more than a ‘splitter,’ I see various teaching interventions — programmed texts, adaptive software, technology-assisted teaching, flipped classrooms, and so on — merely as ways to get students to do the work. IMHO, there is no magic pedagogy, electronic or otherwise, to do this. I have learned from programmed texts and I have taught from programmed texts. I have also lectured, used Barbara Walvoord’s in-class homework long before the ‘flipped classroom’ became an item, and eventually adopted problem-based learning when Howard Barrows came from McMaster University to the SIU School of Medicine. I found that none of this matters a whit except for when students themselves study. In this, I concur with one of Tom Angelo’s workshop titles: ‘Doing Assessment as if Learning Matters Most.’
“In short, what professors do matters. What students do matters more.
“I’m looking forward to hearing what others think about all this on Friday. —-Doug”
— Email from Doug Eder to Steve Gilbert May 22, 2019;  forwarded with his permission.

III.  Discussion:  Examples and Factors

What might support or impede the effective integration of adaptive courseware into “Killer” Gateway Courses such as Math, English, Chem 101.

  • You are welcome to ask questions and to offer your own opinions, especially those based on your past experience and current activities at institutions you know.

IV.  Discussion:  Claims, Hopes, Disappointments

2:45pmET  Closing


  1. What was most useful today?
  2. What was not clear enough?
  3. What would be a useful follow-up?
    Requests and Recommendations?
  4. How might you contribute to the follow-up?

Next Week:  THEME:  ….

Identify Specific Activity, Date, People


Excerpts from: “Programmed instruction” Edutech Wiki

“Although Skinners [Skinner’s] initial programmed instruction format has undergone many transformations, most adaptations retain three essential features:
(1) an ordered sequence of items, either questions or statements to which the student is asked to respond;
(2) the student’s response, which may be in the form of filling in a blank, recalling the answer to a question, selecting from among a series of answers, or solving a problem; and
(3) provision for immediate response confirmation, somtimes [sometimes] within the program frame itself but usually in a different location, as on the next page in a programmed textbook or in a separate window in the teaching machine. (Joyce, Weil & Calhoun, 2000:332)”

Subtopic headings from article (selected excerpts available further below):

  1. Definitions
  2. Theory and history
  3. The architectures of programmed instruction
  4. Additional topics
    4.1 The role of the teachers in Skinner’s thoughts
    4.2 Technological progress
    4.3 Open-contents and programmed instructional texts
    See open educational resources.
  5. References and links

Excerpts from “New Frontiers of Adaptive Learning,

by David Raths, Education Trends, Campus Technology, 04/24/19,

“…use of adaptive courseware in the humanities.

” U. of Miss. …using adaptive learning to help first-year writing students grasp rhetorical concepts…used ..locally contextualized personalized learning courseware to address the readiness gap…in first-year composition,

“…working with adaptive learning is not intuitive to composition instructors.

“Collaborating for Student Success

“…effort to scale up the use of adaptive courseware to increase student retention and graduation rates. The eight universities have been guided by the APLU’s Personalized Learning Consortium and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  (In January 2017, Campus Technology interviewed university leaders involved about ramping up these efforts; see “Scaling Up with Adaptive Learning.”)

“Oregon State U. APLU project …college algebra, …the most commonly failed course in the country. ‘Our DFW [grades of D, F or withdrawals] rates have gone down significantly since we started, so we know that at least for the course we are using it in it is working.’  …uses a McGraw Hill courseware product called ALEKS…. ‘we started with it as our math placement test,…then ALEKS has learning modules they [students] can work on to improve their placement…students…were performing well in the courses they were placing into’,…

“Choosing the Right Courseware

“…some platforms created by publishers have proprietary content, while other digital learning platforms are content-agnostic, and faculty members can use open educational resources or their own content with them.
“…it might make sense to choose the courseware first and then the textbook.

“One of the biggest complaints from students about digital learning platforms, O’Sullivan added, is that the courseware may be attached to a textbook, but the professor is not using it. …It is best when everything aligns exactly and students are applying what they are learning in the courseware directly in class.’

“Adaptive Learning in the Humanities

“‘I would have thought before getting involved in adaptive learning that English composition might not apply, but they have applied it beautifully and I see other applications in the humanities where people are using it. I know the inclination is for STEM to use adaptive courseware, but I can’t think of a discipline that [it wouldn’t be useful for].’

“‘Students who are less prepared use them [“micro modules”] as a way to learn this content and strategies. Students who are well prepared use them as a way to refresh their understanding. If the courseware tells us they understand the strategy, but it is not showing up in their papers, as instructors we try to figure out how we can help them apply that. The courseware allows us to assess whether they have a basic understanding of the concepts, even if they can’t apply it in their papers.’

“Asked about how adaptive learning could be applied to other humanities courses, Forgette suggested that patience is going to be key. ‘Before we figured out how this could work with composition, we had a lot of failed projects…We had to step back and look at how we could use this locally and how it could benefit our students. That is when we got a project that we felt was successful.’…adaptive courseware can free up instructors to spend time on what they see as most valuable.”


EXCERPT from news release  Monday, May 6, 2019:

“John Wiley & Sons… to acquire the assets of Knewton, a provider of affordable courseware and adaptive learning technology

“…knewton… has developed an advanced learning system demonstrated to deliver highly-personalized learning experiences that drive superior outcomes. The Company’s Alta courseware platform delivers high-quality, Open Educational Resource (OER) content to more than 300 colleges and universities, with course offerings in key subject areas, including math, chemistry and economics.”

“Wiley Signs Agreement to Purchase the Assets of Knewton,” Monday, May 6, 2019 8:00 am EDT,