Pathways to Student Success: Adaptive Courseware to Support Students in Gateway Courses

Concurrent Session 3

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Brief Abstract

This showcase of design techniques for utilizing digital courseware will spotlight approaches and applications that you can use to ensure that all learners are college-ready, particularly those within at-risk environments who face challenges within gateway and general education courses.


Angela Gunder serves as Director of Instructional Design and Curriculum Development for the Office of Digital Learning at The University of Arizona. Angela came into instructional design rather circuitously, helming large-scale site designs as webmaster for The City College of New York, the honors college at ASU, and Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA).  Her over fifteen year career as a designer for higher education informs her instructional design practice, where she leverages her expertise in usability, visual communication, programming, and standards-based online learning. Angela holds a B.S. in Computer Science and Fine Art from Fordham University, and a M.Ed. in Education Technology from Arizona State University.  Prior to her position at UA, she was a member of NOVA’s instructional design team, supporting over 23,000 students in 550 unique courses.   Angela is an Associate Editor for the Teacher Education Board of MERLOT, and a Quality Matters certified peer reviewer and online facilitator.  Her research interests include technology for second language acquisition, open educational resources, and emerging technology to promote digital literacy. A voracious culinary nerd, Angela spends her free time composing, cooking and photographing original recipes for her food blog.
Joshua Steele is the Senior Director of University of Arizona Online, partnering with centralized student services to ensure that students who attend 100% online have the necessary resources and guidance to be successful.
Asst. Director for instructional design in support of the University of Arizona's fully online campus. Oversees the general education academy and UA Online's instructional design team. Currently pursuing an Ed.D. in Leadership and Innovation. Areas of research interest include instructor presence and its impact of a sense of community and student success in online learning.

Extended Abstract

Creating a population of college-ready learners within an at-risk environment requires a significant level of collaboration amongst many stakeholders and rich applications of digital courseware to personalize learning. As a means of serving populations of non-traditional learners in The University of Arizona’s fully-online campus, a group of colleagues leveraged cross-division collaborations and emerging technology to create a series of effective practices to support onboarding, community building and personalization of learning in the online environment. This showcase of design techniques and cutting edge tools will spotlight approaches and applications that you can use to create interactive, hands-on e-learning for workshops, training, and instructional content. The presenters will share their process in creating adaptive courseware to support online students in gateway and general education courses, to include utilizing design thinking to highlight themes and shared goals across varied curricular experiences.

This session will highlight the efforts of several members of UA Online in creating new pathways for students to progress within the online environment, to include the creation of:

  • Inquiry-based, student-centered online courses that are academically rigorous;
  • A personalized, high-touch learning environment appropriate to our students’ unique needs; and
  • An effective practice for answering the challenge of affordability, the “science gap” and retention.

Participants will leave with meaningful applications of digital tools for differentiated, technology-enhanced learning that can be translated to a variety of student engagement initiatives. The presentation will demonstrate to participants ways to address the following challenges:

  • Utilizing OER (MERLOT, Cool4Ed) to answer questions of affordability of education as a formidable barrier to student success
  • Leveraging digital courseware that aligns content to real-world practice and is agnostic of discipline or modality
  • Creating an implementation plan for adaptive courseware that fosters personalized, inquiry-based learning woven seamlessly into the learning environment

The presenters will conclude with an open conversation on ways to reach unique populations of learners, particularly those who might find it difficult to persist within higher education without targeted support. It is the hope of the presenters to create a rich dialogue around the topic of increasing access and impact to a quality, academically rigorous education, and how practitioners might leverage digital courseware in order to better support all learners.