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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Drive for Diploma May Leave Books Behind

Under pressure from state and federal legislators to graduate more students in a shorter period of time, colleges and universities are searching for ways to remove barriers to student success. Some of their efforts might have an impact on course materials.

Coordinated by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Transformational Planning Grant project gave money to seven urban universities for new initiatives to bump up grad rates. The University of Akron in Ohio is using its grant to explore how to award credits to students for their personal experience or knowledge, possibly by testing out of course content. In Oregon, part of Portland State University’s project also involves giving credit for previous learning.

“These different approaches to credentialing knowledge could theoretically speed up students’ time to graduation and knock off semesters of tuition,” noted Government Technology magazine. With fewer courses to take, students could also knock off a number of textbooks.

Georgia State University is looking to build off its successful mathematics program, which uses online adaptive-learning software to engage students and help them complete the course. Using only traditional textbooks, as many as 40% of enrollees failed or dropped out of introductory math. The school wants to try using adaptive-learning software with accounting and introductory chemistry classes, which also have high withdrawal rates.

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