Building Adaptive Coursework at Scale: Fostering Student Success through an Open Faculty Development Framework

Concurrent Session 2

Brief Abstract

In an effort to improve student success in high-enrollment courses, the University of Central Florida has developed a faculty development program to support instructors who desire to build and deliver adaptive coursework. In this session, participants will learn about the program framework and how to implement it at their institutions.


Joseph Lloyd is an Instructional Designer at the University of Central Florida’s Center for Distributed Learning (CDL). Joseph earned a B.S. degree in Information Technology from the University of Cincinnati in 2003. After completing his B.S. degree, his love of teaching led him to move to Florida in 2006 to begin his career in Education. While teaching, he pursued an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus in Middle Childhood Mathematics, which he earned from UC in 2009. Prior to joining the CDL team, Joseph taught in both Volusia and Seminole County Public Schools for twelve years. He spent most of those years as an Educational Technology Facilitator, and he also taught 4th, 5th & 6th Grades Math & Science. His love of the blending of Education and Technology, especially in the STEM disciplines led him to UCF where he joined the team that specializes in Personalized Adaptive Learning software and strategies.
Thomas Cavanagh, Ph.D. is Vice Provost for Digital Learning at the University of Central Florida. In this role he oversees all classroom technology and the distance learning strategy, policies, and practices of one of the nation’s largest universities, serving 68,000 students, where online learning represents more than 47% of the university's annual credit hours. In his career, Tom has administered e-learning development for both academic (public and private) and industrial (Fortune 500, government/military) audiences. He has been recognized with a number of awards including the WCET Richard Jonsen Award, the USDLA Outstanding Leadership Award, and been named an Online Learning Consortium Fellow. He is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and serves on a number of national advisory boards. He is also an award-winning author of several mystery novels.
Dr. Baiyun Chen is an Instructional Designer at the Center for Distributed Learning at the University of Central Florida. She leads the Personalized Adaptive Learning team, designs and delivers faculty professional development programs, and teaches graduate courses on Instructional Systems Design. Her research interests focus on using instructional strategies in online and blended teaching and learning, professional development for teaching online, and application of emerging technologies in education. On related topics of online instruction, she has published 19 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters and delivered more than 50 presentations at international and local conferences and events. She has also served as the Co-Managing Editor of the Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository. In 2016 and 2017, Dr. Chen co-facilitated BlendKit, a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) on Becoming a Blended Learning Designer. As an Online Learning Consortium Institute faculty, she has designed, developed and taught the Blended Learning Mastery Series: Research into Practice.
James (Jim) is the Program Coordinator of UCF's Affordable Instructional Materials (AIM) initiative and an instructional designer on UCF's Personalized Adaptive Learning (PAL) team. He manages UCF's Pressbooks network and runs a multi-institutional Realizeit (adaptive learning) workgroup. A good portion of his day-to-day duties involves collaborating with faculty and other supporting entities around campus to bring open and/or adaptive projects to fruition.

Extended Abstract

The University of Central Florida (UCF) is strategically implementing adaptive learning to improve student success in large-enrollment gateway courses and courses that have traditionally had unacceptably high levels of D and F grades and course withdrawals (DFW). To date, UCF instructors in a wide variety of disciplines have adopted adaptive learning systems (e.g. Realizeit, ALEKS from McGraw-Hill, Knewton Alta, and others), and the Center for Distributed Learning (CDL) is committed to providing pedagogical and technical resources to help faculty successfully integrate the adaptive system that fits best with their teaching approach and classroom dynamic.


In a Personalized Adaptive Learning (PAL) course at UCF, a portion of the overall instruction is delivered via an online adaptive learning system that customizes objective-driven content and assessments to create a personalized learning path for each student according to their knowledge, skills, and learning needs. These course must provide a minimum of three adaptive features, with two other features listed as preferred. These features (Author, 2019) are, in order:

  1. The course consists of objective-based learning bits.

  2. It presents adaptive content and assessments with timely feedback.

  3. The personalized path includes prerequisite learning materials, an accelerate or remediate-system that adapts to students’ knowledge, provides analytics, and recommends personalized interventions.

  4. It presents alternative adaptive content presentation (video, text, etc.) based on learning performance and learning characteristics (optional but preferred criterion).

  5. It procedurally generates questions and content using variable and conditions (optional but preferred criterion).

These five adaptive learning features guide PAL course design and evaluation of existing adaptive courseware.


To support the development, delivery, and evaluation of its adaptive learning initiative, UCF established the PAL team. Consisting primarily of credentialed instructional designers, with assistance from technical and content experts, the PAL team is responsible for working with faculty to design and construct adaptive courses in all modalities, as well as support course delivery and the evaluation of adaptive course efficacy. In addition to direct faculty support through one-on-one consultations, the PAL team may also assist faculty with course authoring within an adaptive platform. Key to the success of the university’s adaptive learning initiative has been the PAL team’s focus on faculty development and preparation.


To further enhance the onboarding experience of faculty interested in designing and teaching an adaptive course, The PAL team has also developed a training course called PAL 6000. This self-paced course involves meeting with an assigned instructional designer, perusing online course readings, and completing a ‘Build Your Course Project’. In PAL6000, participants learn about: pedagogy for adaptive courses; technical and logistical issues; course delivery strategies; course building in Realizeit and Canvas; and information unique to teaching adaptive courses at UCF. The ‘PAL6000 Certificate of Completion’ grants PAL credentials to further design and teach using the Realizeit adaptive learning system. In addition to designing PAL courses from scratch, some UCF instructors directly adopt a publisher’s existing adaptive courseware. In these cases, the PAL team also partners with adaptive course vendors to conduct workshops and ad hoc training for faculty to maximize the benefits of the system’s analytics and its ability to personalize the student learning experience across an adaptive lesson path.


Since the start of the PAL initiative at UCF we have 33 faculty members who are PAL credentialed and 13 are currently enrolled in PAL6000. As part of UCF’s Course Redesign Initiative we also have 20 more potential faculty that will be enrolled in PAL6000. Including the courses in development as part of our Course Redesign Initiative, we have created 33 adaptive courses that impact 11 of the 13 colleges at UCF. In just a few short years, and with a specialized team of instructional designers, we have trained faculty to design and develop courses that have the possibility of touching a substantial portion of UCF’s student population.


Session Goals:

Attendees of this session will learn about our framework for faculty development for the design and delivery of adaptive learning courses. In particular, they will achieve three goals for this session: 1) Participants will engage in a conversation with colleagues about the complexities of the adaptive learning technology and discuss their experiences (if any) with various adaptive platforms. 2) Participants will evaluate the importance of the five adaptive learning features and discuss the roles of faculty and instructional designers in adaptive course design. 3) Participants will receive access to our faculty development framework and related content to develop ideas for implementation at their own institutions.


Level of Participation:

Participant discussions will be facilitated around the above three goals throughout the session. At the beginning of the session, participants will share their own experiences with various adaptive platforms and engage in a conversation about the complexities of adaptive learning. After we present about the five adaptive learning features that are key in our course design and related best practices, participants will engage in small-group discussions to evaluate the importance of the adaptive learning features on student learning. At the end of the session, after we share our faculty development offerings for adaptive learning, participants will be encouraged to reflect on their own institutional contexts and develop ideas for their own implementation.