Community Colleges and the “Online Learning Continuum”

Fulcrum Labs
138 posts

Online education, once a hallmark of for-profit institutions, is becoming more and more widespread in public and private 4-year and 2-year colleges. In fact, more than 6 million students took at least one online course in 2015. As the demand for online college programs increases, institutions must rise to this challenge or risk losing their competitive advantage.

This is especially true for community colleges as they struggle to attract and retain students who:

  • Are more likely to work while in school, and thus need flexible, part-time educational opportunities
  • Rely on public or variable means of transportation, and thus require either geographic proximity or distance learning options
  • Value an open admissions policy and low tuition rates

Online learning can play a significant role in attracting AND retaining community college students, because it’s flexible, accessible and low cost. That’s why most community colleges either already have online programs or are exploring how to build them. But, while a lot of solutions fall under the umbrella of “online learning,” they are not all equally effective.

The “online learning continuum”

It turns out that online learning has a variety of interpretations that fall on a continuum of effectiveness. On one end of the continuum, we have the “technologize-ation” of traditional learning. For example, putting lectures into PowerPoint and delivering them through an LMS, making a full-length video of an hour-long lecture, and so on. Scientific studies have consistently shown that these are ineffective methods of learning and they do little to engage students.

As we move up the continuum, we begin to see more thoughtful applications of technology. Examples include, incorporating short, interactive videos, online assessments or adaptive flashcards into the curriculum. This is also where we see the majority of MOOCs and Microlearning courses. While these methods are more engaging to students, they still do not maximize the full potential of technology – automating the instructor-student interaction to deliver personalized learning at scale.

At the far end of the continuum, we encounter technologies that leverage A.I., machine learning and cognitive science to deliver learning in a fully automated, adaptive format. These technologies improve student outcomes, including:

  • Better grades
  • Higher course completion
  • Improved student retention

Where community colleges fall on this spectrum is often directly related to budget, technical leadership and/or availability of resources. Luckily, philanthropies, like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, are making it easier, and more economical, for schools to embrace the far end of the continuum. Since 2013, the Gates Foundation has provided millions in grants for institutions to incorporate adaptive learning technologies.

In fact, NC State chose our technology for a three-term Gates Foundation grant study. Our fully adaptive learning platform works just like a dedicated tutor. It personalizes learning and helps students achieve mastery of the content at their own pace. As a result of our approach, we were the only solution (out of five of the leading adaptive learning technologies) that delivered better student outcomes AND positive student satisfaction.

How to Start Using Adaptive

About now we bet you’re thinking… adaptive learning seems like a great solution, but it sounds like it would be hard to incorporate.

Nothing could be further from the truth,

If you’re a community college  looking to improve your online learning programs, and you want to capitalize on the opportunities and efficiencies of online learning at the far end of the online learning continuum, here are three ways you can easily get started with our adaptive learning platform:

1 – Take a demo of our college readiness course

We developed our College Success content to help community colleges increase retention and graduation rates by preparing incoming freshmen with the skills and confidence they need to succeed. The content covers fundamentals like goal setting, time management, reading/writing strategies and test-taking best practices. If you want to see how our platform works, a demo of this content is a great starting place. Contact us directly for access.

2 – Try some of our pre-existing content within your classroom

The easiest way to begin using our platform is to incorporate one of our 12 ready-to-use college courses. Crafted by subject matter experts, this content is easy to edit and easy to implement. It can be a stand-alone solution or combined within a blended approach. Regardless of how you use it, this content allows you to witness the power of our platform first hand with minimal fuss. Available content is listed here.

3 – Convert your existing content into our platform

If you already have digital content, we can work together to quickly and efficiently convert it into our adaptive framework. For example, if you already have learning videos, all you need to do is upload them and create adaptive assessments. Our team of instructional designers can help you flush out other content as needed.

While the technology at the far end of the “online learning continuum” is complex, using it doesn’t have to be. Contact us for more information about our adaptive platform or how to get started using it in your school.