NEXT: Degree Planning Platform to Improve Student Retention and Graduation Rates

Submitted by BNCAdmin on Fri,03/30/2018-10:33

For many students, the path to earning a two- or four-year degree has never been more complicated or convoluted. They’re juggling academic and career considerations with financial realities. They’re managing more responsibilities on and off campus and they’re often leaning on overstretched resources for support. Put simply, they have a tough time making — and adapting — a plan that’s right for them.


Unfortunately, that means many students don’t graduate, or do so only after spending more time and money than intended. The numbers are staggering: nationwide, only 19 percent of four-year public university students and 5 percent of community college students graduate on time and on budget, according to data from Complete College America. And according to recent research from the Community College Research Center (CCRC), only about 60 percent of community college students can successfully transfer most credits when transferring to a four-year school, and 15 percent are able to transfer few credits.


Students and school advisors need help — and more effective solutions.


Schools like Portland State University (PSU) are centering student insights and analytics in their approach to improving student outcomes and graduation rates. PSU is building a degree planning solution from the ground up in partnership with BNED LoudCloud. The final product will help students understand their academic and financial options and chart a path to graduation. It also will help schools better serve students and leverage valuable, limited resources to improve retention and graduation rates.



Since 2012, the reTHINK PSU initiative has sought to improve student success and academic engagement through more efficient use of technology. The school has engaged more than 1,000 students and faculty in the process. “It was through the insights from the reTHINK initiative that the need for a graduation planning tool emerged,” explains Hans VanDerSchaaf, Director, Projects, Office of Student Success for PSU.


PSU knew that they needed a partner invested in the success of the initiative – and their students. In 2017, they chose BNED LoudCloud, a digital learning platform and analytics provider that helps colleges and universities deliver personalized learning and support to their students, driving positive student outcomes. They chose BNED LoudCloud, and the collaboration began in 2017. “BNED LoudCloud’s willingness to take this approach, and tackle the financial component, was a real differentiator,” VanDerSchaaf says.


Inspired by PSU’s design thinking approach, the teams built out a discovery process focused on user needs – not technology. “For the first nine weeks, we didn’t write a single line of code,” recalls Dominic Fried-Booth, Director of Product Development for BNED LoudCloud. “Instead, we understood the need to observe, listen, learn, sketch, test and refine — and that the time we invested in discovery would be key to the project’s outcome and success.”


The development team learned that students find it extremely challenging to put together a plan that ensures all degree requirements are met. In fact, during student-advisor meetings, just figuring out where students are on their current degree path absorbs most of their limited time. Topics such as alternative degree paths, career goals and financial planning are often short-changed. For students lacking financial literacy, it only increases the risk they will encounter difficulties that might prevent them from graduating.



The CCRC findings highlight the importance of early advising and other kinds of support that focus on helping students choose a program of study and select academic courses needed to graduate. This is especially important for low-income or non-traditional students who may be the least able to afford the time or expense of taking unnecessary credits.


To counter those challenges, the degree-planning tool will allow students and advisors to compare different paths by program, credit pace, time to graduation and cost. Each plan will be tailored to the individual student and his or her lifestyle. The tool is being designed from the user point of view and will be integrated into the suite of PSU tools, and easy to access and navigate. Testing will begin soon, and deployment is estimated to begin in time for the next academic year.


The solution will not automate the graduation process. Instead, it will provide better direction and enable college advisors to be more effective in supporting students. “It will greatly alleviate the workload,” Fried-Booth predicts. “That means that the conversations students and advisors can have with each other will focus less on the mechanical side of creating a plan and more on the human side — understanding where they want to go and the individual path that will work best for them.”

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NEXT: Access and Achievement: The Growing Momentum of OER

Submitted by BNCAdmin on Thu,03/22/2018-09:45

While many in higher education have long seen the potential of open educational resources (OER), the process of acceptance and integration into the academic mainstream has been slow. However, the movement is growing. More schools and systems are making investments in OER, and faculty are starting to see its value — both in terms of students purchasing their assigned course materials and the success they see in the classroom.


Ensuring that students get the course materials they need is an ever-increasing challenge. In a recent survey by the Babson Research Group, only one third of faculty members said that 90 percent or more of their students purchase all the necessary materials for their course. Other research from the student perspective backs that up: about 67 percent of new college or university students have not bought their course materials by the first day of class, according to the Florida State Textbook survey.



Unsurprisingly, more than 90 percent of these students cited costs as the reason they had not purchased their course materials yet. They’re not alone in their concerns: only 22 percent of faculty in the Babson survey were very satisfied with the cost of the course materials they adopted. These numbers point to a difficult and unsustainable situation — and help explain the changing attitudes around OER. The survey also indicated that a majority of faculty (71 percent) preferred or were neutral about digital course materials. Moreover, they consistently referred to OER as a means of reducing costs to students.


84 percent of faculty members reported that students using OER in the courses they taught demonstrated the same or higher level of engagement as students using traditional course materials.


Cost is a key part of the OER equation — and one already delivering results. A recent SRI Education survey indicated that students using OER materials saved between 5-22 percent of annual student textbook costs. But another part of the equation is student success. OER offers greater opportunities to keep students engaged and help them learn in different and more effective ways. In the same survey, 84 percent of faculty members reported that students using OER in the courses they taught demonstrated the same or higher level of engagement as students using traditional course materials.


Barnes & Noble Education’s LoudCloud OER Courseware solution addresses these issues by providing faculty with accessible and affordable learning solutions that empower student success. Faculty using OER Courseware share similar feedback from their experiences with the platform, which offers digital course content, including videos, activities and auto-graded practice assessments that make it simple for faculty to customize and align with class objectives.



At Penn State Altoona, pupils demonstrated significant improvement when Lynn Nagle introduced OER Courseware to her Psych 100 course. In a recent exam, the 30 students who were completely up to date with the Courseware program, emerged as the highest performers in the class. “Of that group, 63 percent of them scored an A on the exam, 20 percent earned a B and 17 percent earned a C — no student fully utilizing the Courseware scored below a C,” she notes. To compare, Nagel looked at students who used the Courseware the least, and found they completed a quarter of the expected content or less. “That’s 17 of my 76 students; and only four of them, very regular with class attendance and participation, scored in the B range on the exam,” she says. “There were two Cs among them, and the rest were Ds or Fs.”


In a recent interview with NEXT, Dr. Dan Krane, Vice President of Faculty at Wright State University and Professor of Biological Sciences, found the LoudCloud OER Courseware platform easy to adopt, and the additional capabilities that it offers, key to his students’ engagement with the course. “The weekly on-line quizzes have allowed me to seriously engage students from the very start of the course, rather than have them just check in a few days before each of the exams,” he says.


As OER continues to show measurable improvements in student savings and performance in the classroom, acceptance will continue to grow on campuses across the nation — among students and faculty. Through partnerships with companies, such as Barnes and Noble Education, OER and other digital learning tools will allow colleges and universities to recognize and respond to the rapid evolution of student learning. Over time, this ability to adapt could become a matter of success or failure both for students and for schools.


Article reposted from Barnes & Noble College NEXT.

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