A checkmark over a laptop screen indicates college course completion and ways to improve student retention.

Can adaptive tools improve student retention?


A new initiative targets ways to improve student retention and course success with digital courseware

Innovative edtech tools such as adaptive courseware can tailor the learning experience to the individual and, when implemented effectively, contribute toward increases in student success. This is particularly helpful for students who may otherwise struggle in a traditional learning format.

The network will help colleges and universities target course completion and improve student retention with a variety of options, ranging from webinars and implementation guidebooks to technical assistance and extended site visits. Work will begin in Texas, Ohio, and Florida, and then will expand nationwide with plans to reach approximately 200 institutions.

As the four-year initiative proceeds, the network will strive to raise awareness about how adaptive courseware and personalized learning can be effective and, by improving course completion rates, can improve student retention as a result.

Some of the network partners, including the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, plan to leverage the investment in their direct work with institutions.

“While most colleges and universities are aware of the benefits that adaptive learning can offer students and instructors, many institutions are unsure of the process for effectively implementing adaptive courseware on their campus,” says Karen Vignare, executive director of the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities Personalized Learning Consortium, which is currently overseeing work among eight public universities that have scaled adaptive courseware to nearly 75,000 course enrollments across 16 disciplines. “The resources and support of this network will allow this work to scale across a broader range of institutions and promote success to an even greater number of students.”

The groups also will focus on analyzing data and making sure the lessons gleaned from the initiative are leveraged by institutions.

“Experience tells us that closing equity gaps in course outcomes requires thoughtful use of data on student learning processes and outcomes,” says Barbara Means, executive director of Learning Sciences Research at Digital Promise, a nonprofit organization devoted to closing the Digital Learning Gap and part of Every Learner Everywhere. “Digital Promise is committed to helping educational institutions design and implement data collection and analysis processes that indicate whether their use of digital learning is helping a broader group of students succeed. We’ll also synthesize findings across institutions to identify how to best use adaptive learning with different kinds of students and for different learning goals.”

Laura Ascione