Learning Technology Initiatives

Students collaborating

Adaptive Courseware

In the summer of 2016, Northern Arizona University was one of eight institutions selected by the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU) to participate in a three-year project designed to improve undergraduate education through the use of adaptive courseware. APLU’s Personalized Learning Consortium is overseeing the grants, which are funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In addition to NAU, grants were awarded to Arizona State University, Colorado State University, Georgia State University, Oregon State University, Portland State University, University of Louisville, and the University of Mississippi.

Adaptive courseware personalizes learning by dynamically adjusting the path and the pace of content delivery according to the performance of the student. The software moves past areas where the student has achieved mastery and focuses on areas where the student needs to develop a deeper understanding. Such tools can help with the appropriate placement of students into courses for which they are academically prepared to be successful, and can identify areas of weakness that can be remediated while the student is taking the course.

Adaptive courseware doesn’t replace the instructor but can act as an effective diagnostic tool and self-study component of a face-to-face course, and therefore represents a form of blended learning, where some percentage of classroom seat time can be replaced by online work conducted at the student’s personal pace and at the appropriate degree of difficulty.

NAU has begun work on seven of the originally identified fourteen candidate courses and on several others new to our list. The courses come from a broad spectrum across the natural, social, and health sciences as well as the humanities and business. The e-Learning Center (ELC) working with the First Year Learning Initiative (FYLI), a faculty-created program designed to ensure that key lower-division courses are coordinated across sections and utilize evidence-based pedagogy, is redesigning these courses to maintain the coordination and the standards embodied in the FYLI program, while also effectively applying adaptive learning strategies, tools and techniques. For Fall 2017, we anticipate full implementation across all sections of BIO 181, BIO 182, CHM 151, and PSY 240, with selected sections using partial deployment in GLG 112, and PHI 150. In Spring 2018 we will add CHM 152 to the fully deployed list and NTS 135, PHY 262, and PSY 101 to the partial list.

If you’re interested in learning more about adaptive courseware at NAU, contact the e-Learning Center.

 

Course

Description

Discipline

Deployed

Vendor

Enrolled Annually

BIO 181

Unity of Life: Cell Life

Biology

Fall 2017

Learn Smart

2593

BIO 182

Unity of Life: Multicellular Organisms

Biology

Fall 2017

Learn Smart

1304

CHM 151

General Chemistry I

Chemistry

Fall 2017

ALEKS

1847

CHM 152

General Chemistry II

Chemistry

Spring 2018

ALEKS

981

GLG 112

Geologic Disasters

Geology

Spring 2018

Smart Sparrow

1797

ISM 120

Intro to Computer Information Systems

Business

Fall 2017

Pearson

1865

PHI 150

Philosophies of the World

Philosophy

Fall 2017

Smart Sparrow

772

PHY 111

General Physics I

Physics

Spring 2018

Pearson

662

PHY 161

University Physics I

Physics

Spring 2018

Pearson

518

PHY 262

University Physics II

Physics

Fall 2017

Pearson

520

PSY 101

Introduction to Psychology

Psychology

Spring 2018

Open

2331

PSY 240

Developmental Psychology

Psychology

Fall 2017

Learn Smart

951

NTS 135

Applied Nutrition and Food Selection

Health Sciences

Spring 2018

Learn Smart

216

A Definition of Blended Learning

The term blended learning has many definitions and can encompass many forms of course delivery. In the fall of 2013 the Blended Learning Leadership Team (BLLT), a group of faculty who teach using a blended approach, met to define what blended learning means on the NAU campus. The BLLT also identified core principles that are found in well-designed blended courses. In addition, the team explicated the role of students and faculty in blended courses.

NAU defines blended learning as an approach that combines the best elements of face-to-face teaching with a variety of technologies, resulting in increased learning effectiveness and improved efficiency. Ideally, a blended course at NAU replaces 50% of the conventional class time with out-of-class activities. However, a course that replaces as little as 25% of the seat time with out-of-class activities can still be considered blended.

Examples of effectiveness include

  • greater student engagement
  • increased student learning

Examples of efficiency include

  • reallocation of faculty time toward high-value activities such as research or intensive interaction with students
  • differentiated instructional roles, which allow collaborative faculty members to contribute their greatest strengths to courses
  • reduced Carnegie seat time
  • coordination across multisection courses to eliminate duplication of effort 

This definition of blended learning is a cornerstone of the two programs available for faculty to get funding for converting their courses to blended learning.

Roles of faculty and students in blended learning

In successful blended courses, faculty are expected to

  • apply academic rigor
  • intentionally design learning activities and assessments that are well aligned with the intended learning outcomes
  • create opportunities for students to have meaningful interactions with content, with other students, and with faculty

Students are expected to

  • take responsibility for their own learning
  • demonstrate appropriate motivation
  • participate in active inquiry

Characteristics of successful blended courses

A blended course is deemed a success when it leads to these results:

  • students achieve the intended learning outcomes
  • students are actively engaged in the learning process
  • classroom interactions are dynamic rather than passive
  • face-to-face instruction is carefully integrated with appropriately used technology
  • efficiency is achieved