Adventures in Personalized Learning: Design to Delivery to Efficacy and Beyond

Concurrent Session 7
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

Building on its trailblazing use of open educational resources (OER), Tidewater Community College collaborated with Lumen Learning to co-design and teach using OER-based personalized learning courseware in online, blended and face-to-face course sections. This session explores course design, delivery and decision-making about the value of investing in personalized learning. 


Kim Thanos is the CEO of Lumen Learning. Lumen provides well-designed, low-cost digital course materials that help colleges and universities offer the best education to all students, regardless of socioeconomic status. Core to its approach, Lumen guides institutions to use open educational resources (OER) to their full benefit. Kim has spent the past ten years focused on the challenge of how to move OER from a concept that is philosophically interesting, to a practical tool that is changing success rates for at-risk students. Through that journey she has worked with hundreds of institutions to explore content creation and adaptation models, student and faculty engagement approaches, economic impacts, institutional strategy and policy, faculty collaboration, and the possibilities that open education provides to create to a more personalized learning experience.

Extended Abstract

At a time when “personalized learning” and “open educational resources” (OER) seem to be vying for most touted topic of the year, this session provides insight into how these promising developments in higher education came together in a project involving course redesign, flexible delivery across modalities, continuous course improvement and efficacy measurement. 


Tidewater Community College (TCC) Professor Linda Williams opens the session by making a case for combining OER with personalized learning tools to overcome common obstacles to learner engagement, thereby increasing student persistence and success. She discusses her experience as a subject matter expert for OER course redesign efforts, and how the personalized learning methodology impacts the redesign process and student learning at TCC.

Lumen Learning CEO Kim Thanos outlines the vision and research basis for the collaborative project that combined OER with personalized learning strategies to create Waymaker digital courseware. A brief show-and-tell of Waymaker courses in TCC’s learning management system demonstrates how the courseware facilitates mapping open educational content to learning outcomes and personalized study recommendations; the use of assessments as learning tools that provide individualized feedback to students and instructors; the role of learner agency and metacognition to strengthen student success; and efficient, just-in-time personalized instruction.

Following the demonstration of the courseware, Professor Williams reflects on her experience as a faculty member working to implement the personalized learning strategies and courseware in the Introduction to Business course across multiple campuses and faculty.  She discusses how the use of the courseware altered according to delivery modality (online, face-to-face, blended), to optimize the learning experience for students in each setting. She also discusses the experience of teaching with courseware that applies a continuous improvement process to solicit input from instructors and make timely improvements to OER content, assessments, features and functionality.

The session concludes by framing the decision about the value of investing in personalized learning. What are the up-front costs in terms of budget dollars, labor, and faculty time. How do institutions create a receptive environment for innovation and change? What are the costs and benefits to students, and what can institutions do to ensure that trade-off is worthwhile? What scale of investment and effort to deliver personalized learning make sense, relative to the impact achieved? What is the relative value of investing in personalized learning versus other interventions aimed at improving student success? What role might personalized learning play in how institutions differentiate themselves with the type and quality of learning experiences they provide? 

Session attendees are invited to join this dialogue with questions, comments and their own experiences exploring the value and impact of personalized learning. This thought-provoking dialogue is useful at a moment in higher education when institutions have many compelling alternatives when working to improve teaching and learning.