Remedial placement meets adaptive learning

Only 22.3 percent of remedial students complete remediation classes and graduate with associate degree programs in two years, according to the organization Complete College America.

The price tag for remedial education sits at $3.6 billion annually.

More than half of students at two-year colleges are placed in the wrong remedial courses, according to a 2012 report by the organization.

McGraw-Hill Education announced on Oct. 16 at the 2013 EDUCAUSE conference in Anaheim, Cal., that it found a new way of dealing with the problem – and it’s using adaptive learning technology that has been decades in the making.

The learning company acquired the software corporation ALEKS in June, but its artificially intelligent education software has been mining data for twenty years.

All that information, usually used to advance students through specific math courses, will now be used to support ALEKS Placement, Preparation and Learning.

It is the first original product to come from the acquisition, and the first open-response remediation tool in higher education, said Buzz Waterhouse, the CEO of McGraw-Hill Education.

“A majority of kids that go into community colleges drop out,” Waterhouse said. “Most students that go into community colleges need remediation, and there are studies that show the vast majority of them, up to 90 percent, are placed in the wrong remedial classes, courses that are more advanced than they are ready for.”

See Page 2 for details on how colleges are struggling to provide remedial courses for students.

With the price tag for remedial education sitting at $3.6 billion a year, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education, remedial courses are increasingly losing their place on college campuses.

Last year, the state of Ohio said it will begin to phase remediation completely out of its budget for four-year universities starting in 2014.

The gap between the skills with which students graduate from high school and what colleges expect them to be able to do has come under increased scrutiny, as federal policy makers push states to increase college graduation rates.

At least 13 other states, including Florida, Missouri, and South Carolina, have tried to slow the spiral of spending on remedial education, typically by restricting funding to colleges and universities that provide a lot of it.

More advanced placement techniques, like ALEKS Placement, could demonstrate to college and state officials that there is a need for funding remedial courses.

Some colleges, like the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, have already turned to online methods to help students deal with their lack of math skills.

ALEKS Placement will also be fully online, and, according to Brian Belardi, McGraw-Hill Education’s director of media relations, it is designed to move students through a remedial course in just six weeks.

“ALEKS has been an adaptive learning product that helps you learn math,” Waterhouse said. “Now we’re using its engine to figure out what you’re ready to learn and what classes you’re ready to take. If we can improve that equation, it could move the needle in terms of this horrendous issue we have at community colleges today.”

Follow Jake New on Twitter at @eCN_Jake. Join the conversation with #eCNBigData.

Latest posts by Jake New (see all)