As chair of the Ohio Faculty Council, vice president of Wright State University faculty and professor of biological sciences, Dr. Krane is taking the lead in Ohio to reduce costs of learning materials, support faculty teaching and improve student outcomes.
In addition to his teaching duties as Professor of Biological Sciences at Wright State University, Dr. Dan Krane has a resume that includes serving as Vice President of the school’s faculty, Chair of the Ohio Faculty Council and is also regularly called upon as a speaker and expert witness in the area of forensic DNA profiling. In this month’s My Point of View interview, Dr. Krane shares why he thinks higher education now needs to be more inclusive — in a more engaging and responsive way — and why it also needs to provide courseware that’s available to all.
As a first generation college graduate, Dr. Dan Krane is on a very personal mission. “I feel, to a large extent, that I’m something of an evangelist,” he confesses. “I’ve learned from that very personal perspective the kind of change the college experience can have, not just to the person receiving that degree, but to those around them — and even to the communities where they live and work,” he says.
But with that mission to get many more students to enjoy the benefits of a college education, he warns there are a number of challenges that can stand in the way of that opportunity. “High on the list is affordability, and deeply connected to that issue is the cost of textbooks,” he says.
Citing research that textbooks can account for a quarter of the expense associated with attending a state university, Krane is critical of the kind of apathy that has led to the current spiraling costs of learning materials. “The tragedy is that even where we’ve succeeded in winning the battle that can bring that student to college, we’re just not doing a good enough job to properly support him or her,” he says. “I think there’s been a lingering historical — almost cultural inertia that the college system should only provide a limited amount of opportunities — and that we need to weed perspective graduates out as opposed to develop more of them. But the world has changed, and now there’s a desperate need for more people with a college education. As institutions of higher education, we’ve not been particularly nimble or responsive in changing that mindset, and the rising cost of textbooks is just one of those things that’s preventing our students’ success. We can’t still be in the business of selling information. We need to be in the business of teaching students how to use that information.”
REMOVING THE BARRIERS
Spurred by the Ohio Task Force on Affordability & Efficiency in Higher Education, the state budget proposal that incentivizes higher education institutions to reduce the average textbook burden of $1,200 per student, Dr. Krane has been a driver and program leader in the Ohio Faculty Council, representing the faculty interests of all public four-year institutions in the state. On his own campus at Wright State University, Dr. Krane brought together a group of university administers, faculty, department chairs and students, meeting throughout the summer to develop a list of 16 different initiatives that might each reduce the cost of students’ course materials. “It was pretty clear to us that out of all those ideas, the largest impact could come from Inclusive Access — where we clearly understood there would be an opportunity to reduce the cost of textbooks for our students to the order of 50 percent,” he says.
Using a course fee model, students would pay a deeply discounted fee for all educational resources associated with their course. The course materials would then be made available, either directly through the LMS or the Wright State University Bookstore — before the first day of class. Utilizing four of the proposals, including the Inclusive Access pilot, Krane estimates the savings to Wright State students will be between $2-3 million per year. “If those same resolutions were instituted statewide in our 23 two-year schools and 14 four-year institutions, the annual savings to students in Ohio in as little as five years, would be in the order of $300 million a year,” he explains. That savings could annually provide college access to on the order of an additional 10-20,000 students who otherwise wouldn’t have the benefits of a college education.
NEW WAYS OF LEARNING
Making access to the classroom more affordable, Krane also wants to improve student course completion and graduation rates, and has also been working with the Barnes & Noble Education LoudCloud team on a pilot program that can improve student retention — even among his most at-risk students. “From my experience in teaching, I’ve realized I could predict, with 90 percent accuracy, the final grade of students in my class, based on the results of the first exam they took, but I also knew there was relatively little I could do to help those who were on a path to failure,” he says. Despite available initiatives such as additional tutoring or academic advisors, it became unacceptable to Krane that he would lose sometimes as much as a third of his class, and once a student withdrew from the course, he or she usually did not come back. “With the analytics we’ve been experimenting with LoudCloud, this year, we can for the first-time take steps to help students succeed even before they have a poor performance on an exam to drag down their grade and, even better, before they even start the course.”
Providing special recitation sessions with an extra two hours of instruction per week, Krane has been able to give his students “just-in-time” support and, as issues come up in class, he says he is now better placed to help students move past them. “It’s particularly important because they’re getting the support and insights they need as they need it,” he says, “and what’s remarkable is that those students participating in these special recitations are now performing at a level that is comparable to the very least at-risk students.”