The 2018 Award Winners
Faculty-Led Team Recognition
The following faculty-led team was awarded $10,000 for its innovative and creative program, dedicated to accelerating the adoption of digital courseware for general education or gateway courses.
Bay Path University
Scaling Adaptive Learning for a Predominantly Low-Income and Diverse Population of Adult Women Undergraduates in a Centralized Course Management Model: Capitalizing on OER Adoptions to Lower Costs and Improve Learning
Maura Devlin has been working in support of adult women’s education since she joined Bay Path in 2006. Her initial role at the University was as a Resource Advisor, a part-time grant-funded position. She held that position until 2009 when she became Director of Student Services in the One Day A Week College Saturday Program. When The American Women’s College was formed in August 2013, Maura moved to its new Springfield, MA office and continued as a Director. While enrolled in a doctoral program in Higher Education at UMass, she transitioned from student affairs to academic affairs as the Academic Program Director of Liberal Studies in 2014.
Maura completed her PhD in Education in April 2016 with a dissertation entitled, “When Mom Goes to School: Maternal Education and Intergenerational Mobility.” Her dissertation topic was inspired by Bay Path’s adult women students, and it is dedicated to the 3.4 million college student mothers in the United States. She has also served on the Executive Board of the Massachusetts ACE Network of Women Leaders for six years and is currently the Treasurer.
Bay Path University is a private nonprofit women’s university, located in western Massachusetts, whose mission is to “empower undergraduate women and graduate women and men to become leaders in their careers and communities with an innovative approach to learning that prepares students to flourish in a constantly changing world.”
In 2013, Bay Path University launched The American Women’s College to deploy a revolutionary model, called Social Online Universal Learning (SOUL), for delivering online accelerated baccalaureate degree programs exclusively for women, the first of its kind in the nation. By adapting its innovative on-ground accelerated model to the online environment through SOUL and taking it to scale nationally, The American Women’s College aspires to make a far greater impact on improving degree attainment and earnings for adult women.
The American Women’s College serves adult women students who are diverse, predominantly first generation college goers, and on average, 34 years old. TAWC’s adult students often walk a tightrope in balancing work and family responsibilities and compelling financial need to attend college, but they are succeeding.
These students are highly motivated, investing in a college education to advance their career or to pursue new career opportunities with greater earnings potential for themselves and their families. By creating a more flexible and affordable way for adult women to achieve their degree through its online accelerated adaptive learning model, The American Women’s College also impacts the educational attainment of their children and future generations.
In the final two years of a U.S. Department of Education Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) grant to develop, implement and research adaptive learning courseware through a randomized control trial, academic program directors, instructional designers and course builders at The American Women’s College (TAWC) of Bay Path University increased the number of adaptive courses using OER content in order to enhance student learning and lower costs.
Capitalizing on a centralized course management model whereby each course section utilizes the same content, consistent outcomes, and business rules to support students, the TAWC team successfully scaled adaptive learning via OER adoptions, developing and/or redesigning 51 courses over two academic years (AY16-17, AY17-18).
Recognizing that adaptive courses are costly and time-consuming to develop, and their benefits are best realized with a critical mass of adaptive courses, TAWC academic and academic technology staff developed and implemented a centralized course development and management model to scale up its processes for cost-effectively designing adaptive courses. These processes required buy-in and behavioral changes from academic program directors, adjunct instructors, subject matter experts, course builders, and instructional designers, as well as collaboration with OER content and adaptive providers. Systematic processes drove down the cost of course design, and the widespread selection of OER content during course redesign drove down student textbook costs. Because TAWC’s course development and delivery model is centralized, a course design has institution-wide impacts.
To support project teams and ensure success, TAWC created a series training courses which all project team members must complete; topics include concept listing and mapping, curating content, project management tools, content rights, adaptive learning, ADA, OER, and fair use. TAWC created a course development project life cycle for each academic year that includes seven phases: a mapping phase (4-5 weeks), followed by two cycles of three phases of development for master online, hybrid, and UDL courses (7-8 weeks). Development of master adaptive courses stretch for each of the three phases (21 – 24 weeks). To ensure future student success, ongoing assessment of TAWC’s adaptive courses will be undertaken by academic and academic technology staff who will review course-level data and reports on student success to determine course design and redesign priorities.
TAWC facilitated many conversations in the past two years with vendors in order to access OER content. TAWC recently signed a partnership agreement with FlatWorld for unlimited access to its list of courses. TAWC academic program directors have identified OER content from Lumen, Boundless, OpenStax, Saylor, Open Genetics, Libre Texts, Open Yale Courses, UMass Boston Open, and American YAWP.
Through the 4-year FIPSE grant, which concluded in September 2018, TAWC developed and currently offers its 51 adaptive courses to all students, while ensuring it can sustain the development and implementation of adaptive courses in a way that will allow TAWC to remain a low-cost tuition option for adult women undergraduates. Future content upgrades will carry reduced costs, since granular-level content can be more easily exchanged than replacing each course’s entire content.
Switching from textbooks to OER during course design projects in AY17-18 resulted in $176,000 in savings to students. Operational efficiencies in TAWC’s course development process enabled it to bring up adaptive courses for approximately $10,000 per course, significantly lower than the $50,000+ of some institutions. OER and adaptive course content embedded in TAWC’s Canvas LMS ensures that students have all of their learning materials at the course start, ten days before students’ first assignments are due. In AY18-19, TAWC has added a low-cost Day One Access fee ($40) to its adaptive courses. TAWC’s streamlined course development model, along with this modest fee, make the implementation of adaptive courses sustainable while providing affordable content to students.
TAWC’s delivery model and commitment to adaptive learning technology has been successful, with a 93% overall satisfaction rate from graduates. Additionally, students have indicated that their adaptive courses have helped them learn the course material better (82%) and that feedback from their instructor and the adaptive course helped them stay on track with the learning outcomes (75%). Overall, via TAWC’s automated outreach plans and alert rules, as well as by selective course redesigns identified via data from its adaptive platform, all of which are powered by its data warehouse, TAWC’s approach has yielded rates for retention (75%), course completion (93%), and student satisfaction (95%) that surpass national averages in the non-traditional, online space.