‘A sea of endless opportunities’: Adaptive courseware in English composition

Katie Cisneros returned to Amarillo College for the first time in more than a decade to seek a new career in computer information systems. However, the 31-year-old was most worried about passing English courses on her way to an associate degree. “I could read, but I didn’t really comprehend,” she says. “I needed a little bit more help.”

To get up to speed, she and her peers in an Amarillo College English composition course would go to a corequisite support class immediately after each daily lesson ended, where they would discuss the finer points of grammar and other writing mechanics, followed by an adaptive courseware homework assignment that built on the skills they had just learned. For Cisneros, the connection of in-person support and adaptive homework was critical to passing the course. “I think I was successful in freshman comp because of that,” she says.

Gateway courses in English challenge students to strengthen skills in critical thinking, reading, grammar, and writing structure and strategies — skills that also help build competency in comprehension and composition. They can also prove to be a particular challenge to many community college students.

However, colleges participating in the Every Learner Everywhere Network found that adaptive courseware engaged students, supported their learning, and for many students like Katie, helped them succeed. Their experience, captured in the case study "‘A Sea of Endless Opportunities’: Applying Adaptive Courseware in English Composition," suggests that adaptive courseware helped students make connections between mastering discrete skills and their overall progress in writing.

The case study, which is being released today, is part of a series of 12 case studies examining the use of adaptive courseware in gateway courses that ATD is producing as a partner in the Every Learner network. Three of the seven ATD network colleges in Florida, Ohio, and Texas that took part in this pilot work as part of the Every Learner adaptive learning initiative focused on gateway English courses and are highlighted in this case study.

Key Takeaways:

  • Participating faculty focused on adaptive courseware that supported building discrete skills in areas such as grammar and structure to support broader learning objectives in courses focused on composition.
  • Institutions focused on supporting students with the greatest needs, integrating adaptive courseware into corequisite support classes, programs for non-native English learners, and for adult learners seeking GEDs.
  • Faculty at times struggled to connect discrete skills data from work in adaptive courseware with broader course objectives.
  • Students and faculty valued adaptive courseware most when it was intentionally integrated into class activities.

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