A move away from the textbook and to online courseware proved beneficial for student engagement at this university.

Here’s how online courseware boosts student engagement

A move away from the textbook and to online courseware proved beneficial for student engagement at this university

Universities nationwide are facing the same challenge: how to make textbooks more relevant, meaningful and engaging for students. This problem has grown as the lack of student engagement—especially among general education classes—continues to be a contributing factor to today’s rapidly declining RPG (retention, progression, and graduation) rates.

For Kennesaw State University (KSU) in Georgia, educators were working to overcome this same obstacle while experiencing rather high DWFI (D, fail, withdraw, incomplete) rates in one of its institutional requirements, WELL 1000L Foundations for Healthy Living. Students were not successfully completing this required course, which could jeopardize their college careers.

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With a desire to lower the DFWI rate without compromising the academic integrity of the course, KSU faculty and staff decided to alter the WELL 1000 objectives while also replacing the textbook with online courseware that equipped students with more emerging technologies to help boost student engagement.

The implementation process

In the redesigned WELL 1000 course, KSU desired to offer a more holistic approach focused on goal-setting and building self-assessments and reflections to establish long-term health behaviors. This required a number of content progressions as well as a process to better identify and support at-risk students.

To make this happen, KSU partnered with Perceivant to house course materials as well as leverage their innovative tools, which included predictive analytics to identify struggling students and meaningful editorial support. The goal was to work together to boost student engagement by making course content more relevant and meaningful while still aligning it with the university’s general education standards.

First, KSU and Perceivant collaborated to ensure the WELL 100 courseware materials reflected this new progressive method of teaching while focusing on more modern health behavioral topics that contribute to the leading risk behaviors of college students in the United States. Thanks to Perceivant’s editorial process, KSU instructors were heavily supported in the creation of customized content that aligned specifically with course objectives.

In addition, the two partners worked simultaneously to ensure consistency across more than 35 instructors and 70 course sections while allowing each instructor to easily add content such as assignments and extra-credit opportunities.

Since recent studies show that more than 60 percent of teachers nationwide feel inadequately prepared to use education technology, Perceivant team members also came on-site to train WELL 100 instructors on the platform once the content was finalized. This process efficiently armed educators with the knowledge to leverage the platform properly to ensure the most optimal learning experience for students.

On the first day of school, course materials were delivered digitally to provide students with a more cost-effective approach than competing solutions. Thanks to Perceivant’s business model, students could access the online course on the first day of class—even if the textbook hadn’t been paid for yet—which assists those who cannot purchase books right away due to cost or delays in financial aid. Given that 50 percent of students who have postponed buying textbooks see their grades suffer as a result, this process heavily contributes to the early success of course enrollees.

Throughout the semester, educators had access to unique analytics that demonstrated the effectiveness of student learning. The courseware, for instance, allowed for unlimited tracking of data to find gaps in students’ performance. This allowed educators to check on students who were struggling early on and further engage them to maintain progress throughout the semester. In addition, part-time faculty members were able to more easily identify struggling students, so they could focus more on giving timely and beneficial feedback on assignments.

After each semester, KSU and Perceivant would gather feedback and re-engineer the entire platform to make changes, improvements, and revisions to the course to fit the needs of students. Together, we were able to provide students with a more tailored learning experience designed to increase engagement each year.

The results

Over a two-year period, the partnership between KSU faculty and Perceivant supported a 48 percent reduction in DFWI rates, falling from 25 percent to 13 percent in 2017. Most notably, the online section of WELL 1000—which traditionally carried the highest DFWI rates—saw a 55 percent reduction over the same time period. It dropped from an all-time high of 35 percent to only 16 percent.

Ultimately, using interactive and engaging educational technology in conjunction with customizable content, ease of use, and accessibility proved to be highly effective in lowering the DFWI rate in WELL 1000 without compromising the course’s academic integrity. The reduction also suggests this was able to successfully increase the level of student engagement throughout the course, establishing a new benchmark for measurement in future academic years.

As more than 88 percent of students feel they could earn better grades using interactive digital courseware compared to traditional materials, it is evident that more universities will implement this type of technology in the future. Doing so will ensure students receive a more dynamic learning experience while educators enjoy an easier, more efficient way to analyze course efficacy.

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