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

A new initiative is targeting failure rates in foundational courses–a major cause of college dropouts–by giving scalable, high-quality support to colleges and universities seeking to improve student retention.

Every Learner Everywhere is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and aims to increase the number of institutions using adaptive learning to improve course outcomes and graduation rates.

The initiative, which consists of a network of 12 higher-ed and digital learning groups, also hopes to eliminate the equity gap for low-income students, students of color, and first-generation students.

Read more: Adaptive learning helps students finish faster

Foundational courses (college credit-bearing and/or developmental education courses that enroll large numbers of students and have high rates of Ds, Fs, withdrawals, and incompletes) continue to be a barrier to entry for undergraduates.

Across all foundational courses, completion rates are 63 percent for community colleges and 75 percent for public four-year colleges. For foundational English and math courses, in particular, completion rates are 21 percent for two-year institutions and 51 percent for four-year institutions. What’s more, completion rates are 6 percent lower for low-income students, students of color, and first-generation students.

These failed courses put students further at risk by setting them on a path to leave school without a degree–all while having accumulated debt.

Every Learner Everywhere will directly address student success in these foundational courses by supporting the effective integration of adaptive learning systems, which offer a student-centric design, in an attempt to improve student retention.

Laura Ascione