UX Strategy and Vision: Impact & Implementation of Active & Adaptive Learning Environments at Portland State University

Concurrent Session 2
Streamed Session

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Portland State University (PSU) is experimenting with active learning and adaptive technology in high enrollment courses with engagement and retention challenges in an effort to enhance student learning by personalizing the learning experience and addressing individual learners’ needs.

In this session we will share the framework of PSU’s campus-wide initiative, with lessons learned from pilot projects with various course designs and adaptive systems, and a reflection on the User Experience (UX) strategy and vision used to scale-up and sustain implementations. 

We will look at how adaptive technology lays the foundation for a broader use of learning analytics and the creation of adaptive pathways to personalize learning by incorporating the student voice in the role of innovation at Portland State.



Kari is a UX designer with the Office of Academic Innovation at Portland State University and specializes in accessible UX online program & course design with additional product integration such as adaptive software. Her research interests incorporate student voice, usability and universal design for learning on a large project scale for a University student population of around 30,000 students. A designer by nature, she spends her free time photographing, crafting, hiking, exploring Portland, and baking gluten-free desserts.
Kevin Berg is the project portfolio manager at the Office of Academic Innovation at PSU supporting a portfolio of 20+ online and flexible degree projects, and the Active + Adaptive Learning initiative. In addition, he oversees the collection and presentation of research for the APLU adaptive grant, which includes student learning analytics, survey results, and demographic data. He is certified as a Project Management Professional and has degrees in Business, Law and Theatre.

Extended Abstract

The initial 30 minute presentation will include an introduction to PSU’s context, as follows. PSU’s undergraduate degree requirement classes are high enrollment courses that have engagement and retention challenges. At the same time its student body continues to diversify; requiring strategies that address individual learners’ needs. The Active and Adaptive (A+A) Program at PSU experiments with adaptive technology in those courses with challenges in an effort to improve student achievement. With grant support from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the Gates Foundation, PSU is testing various combinations of self-paced adaptive courseware with social, collaborative activities in the classrooms of Mathematics, Statistics, Chemistry, Biology, and Physics. In cases where adaptive courseware was integrated with active learning in class, PSU noticed a reduction in course withdrawals, improved grades, students reporting better preparedness before class, higher confidence, and deeper engagement with problem-based activities. PSU’s pilots include experiments with publisher-based and open content, both off the shelf and custom built.

In order to build momentum,our holistic integration and design process involved a high level of collaboration from various stakeholders including faculty, designers, vendors, support staff, and project managers. We outline a user-experience strategy and vision, building a deep understanding of user (faculty + student) behavior through research methods including interviews, surveys, and design-thinking sessions, to bring the student voice to the center of our design process. Our presentation includes student reflections and perspectives incorporated into the institutional narrative on innovative campus culture. 

We will look at quantitative and qualitative data from two active + adaptive terms from 2018 at Portland State and discuss our approach around the student experience, including agile team development, collaborative design-thinking on-boarding, and incorporating student feedback directly into the design process. To create a collaborative and valuable participant session, live polling of the audience (as recommended by the organizers) will be incorporated.

Five minutes are set aside for active reflection around how participants are incorporating the student voice into their own projects, classrooms, and workflow. Participants are encouraged to share their ideas in a live collaborative google Q&A poll and uptick ideas they want to try in their own work.

Ten minutes end the session with discussion around the top three to five topics form the live google Q&A poll for easy and inclusive strategies to begin to incorporate the student voice into conversations and processes around design, technology, and the learning process.