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BPCC’s Open Campus is scaling up student success

From Staff Reports

Bossier Parish Community College’s “Open Campus” free online courses have now helped significant numbers of students test up or out of remedial coursework, effectively decreasing their time to degree completion.

The College created its free courses to better prepare students for college-level placement testing and to support those struggling to complete first-year math and English course work.

Staff and faculty partnered to design quality, online math and English instruction for Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs). High school students and educators in LA and around the country have now adopted the free courses for ACT/SAT prep; others preparing for high-school equivalency as well as students bridging from community college to four-year universities have all reported the benefits of BPCC’s courses.

BPCC’s concept, Open Campus™, was founded upon the premise reflected in multiple studies which suggest that high-need students struggle in purely online courses, yet students are motivated to persist when technology is a function of how they engage outside the formal classroom (Nihalani & Mayrath, 2010; Xu & Jaggars, 2013).

Faculty worked hand-in-glove with BPCC’s Ed Tech team to produce videos, edit documents, and upload learning materials. Design? …All Open Campus™ courses function identically, requiring minimal navigation, and are structured within an intuitive template. Learning outcomes, written in everyday language, face outward at each module tab so that students can quickly target weak spots. Within each course, every module leads off with brief lecture videos and open-source learning content created by BPCC’s most sought-after developmental instructors, instructors who are most successful at connecting with underprepared students. Video instruction provides a foundation for the learning experience as most students have grown accustomed to seeking out information through YouTube® videos and other social media sites. Video lectures are compartmentalized into small components; as a result, students can easily find, rewind and review difficult concepts. Brief videos also play better on mobile devices as they cut down on buffering, so students can enjoy access to learning concepts anytime, anywhere, beyond the traditional classroom space.

BPCC funded its initiative completely in-house. Its first five developmental courses—three maths, one grammar, and one reading—cost the College <$23,000 to produce and roll out; 87% of that cost went directly to faculty salaries. BPCC leveraged the remainder by using existing campus equipment and staff corporate knowledge. Once the courses were built, expenditures were comparatively small: printing of flyers and travel costs to present at conferences. Several times per year, personnel delete inactive users, and the deletion process remains the most time-consuming aspect of course maintenance.

BPCC’s simplistic, replicable design is rooted in Cognitive science and underpinned by a triangulated set of learning theories which compartmentalizes the learning experience by offering, alongside learning videos, printable handouts and brief multiple-choice quizzes with auto feedback so that students can practice recalling new information for easy “wins.”

Impact: In April, 2013, after nine months planning and building, BPCC’s free course series premiered, and, to-date, 30,000+ students have received access to extended learning specifically targeting their needs and guiding them along unfamiliar paths. BPCC’s findings? …Completion can occur at higher rates when online adoption happens early and when students are given effective applications that fit into their everyday routines. For example, when compared with developmental algebra II, placement rates into college algebra, which averaged 50% from fall, 2011 through fall, 2013, have increased significantly to 59% in fall, 2014 and inched up to 60% by fall, 2015. Even more promising are pass rates for college algebra; two years ago, BPCC’s math instructors began embedding Open Campus™ learning materials directly into coursework, and pass rates—stagnated at 66%, 67%, and 66% respectively, over three consecutive fall semesters (2011-13)—rose at a statistically significant rate of 73% in fall 2014 and stabilized at 74% in fall, 2015. Other notable results over the same timeframe include an 11% increase in Beginning Algebra developmental course (equivalent to high school algebra 1) and a 5% increase in Intermediate Algebra developmental course (high school algebra II) pass rates. Finally, BPCC’s Basic Math, the lowest-level developmental math course offered by the College, realized a 5.5% increase in pass rates.

Open Campus™ course videos are also posted directly to YouTube® and have opened the same learning content to other users who’ve now logged on from all 50 states and 182 countries and territories on every continent; truly, a desire to learn knows no borders. YouTube® analytics features offer the College a highly scalable venue to gather engagement and retention data. To-date, users en masse have exceeded well over 1.8 million viewing minutes, with viewing time consistently overtopping 60 minutes per hour.

Statistically, every minute of every hour of every day, someone, somewhere around the globe is watching a BPCC-branded lecture video, an almost unimaginable reach and scalability for a small-town community college facing steep budget cuts over the past five years.

Early on, students began reporting they valued extended opportunities to review difficult concepts, supplement lecture notes and prepare for exams. High school students preparing for placement testing and nontraditional students returning to college reported through SENSE and CCSSE surveys that they valued opportunities to practice taking tests and that their scores improved. Positive student feedback spurred College personnel to pay attention. BPCC’s Learning Commons adopted the initiative to replace expensive tutorial software, saving the College $50,000 and serving thousands of students. BPCC’s TEM division mandated that entry-level math faculty review learning content to learn teaching techniques, modeled by successful instructors. From Recruiting, to Admissions, Advising, and Placement Testing, staff recommend Open Campus™ while onboarding some 7,000 students per semester. In partnership with higher ed around the state and nation, LED fast-start and TAACCCT grant consortium members now embed the learning content in accelerated workforce training programs.

High schools across Louisiana have adopted the courses for ACT prep. Louisiana’s Career Compass® organization, targeting first-generation college-bound students, makes sure all 11,000 seniors they serve receive Open Campus™ flyers. Louisiana’s community and technical college system (LCTCS) has embedded the courses directly into its Learning Management System (LMS), distributing content to 13 colleges statewide. BPCC partners closely with LSU Shreveport, Grambling State University, and Northwestern State University of LA where staff recommend the courses to recruits and to students struggling with math coursework.

BPCC’s simple, low-cost design is both scalable and easily replicable. High school and college staff and faculty across eight states: Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Illinois, Florida, Texas, Arizona and two international countries have either adopted Open Campus™ content, replicated the initiative’s design or used BPCC’s course templates and applied learning theories to provide remediation for their students. Most notably, Highbury College math faculty in Portsmouth, UK replicated the Open Campus™ design, while in Dangriga, Belize, Stann Creek Ecumenical College faculty assign the coursework for students lagging behind.

Evaluation: BPCC is now building upon its pilot program, using First in the World grant moneys to fully mobilize and gamify its concept in two developmental maths and one developmental English course. The College has recently taken possession of phase-one mobile applications software and will implement a Cluster Randomized Control Trial (RCT) in classrooms during spring of 2017. Mobile applications will be offered to students in the treatment group; in the control group, classes will be conducted under a business-as-usual scenario. The overarching research question guiding the impact evaluation can be stated as: What was the impact of access to mobile applications on the postsecondary outcomes of developmental education students?

Lessons Learned: During the three-year “desktop” pilot, the Open Campus™ Team has learned its own lessons that would inform future projects along the way: a shoe-string start-up budget and overworked staff left no resources to adequately drill down and measure student data on an individual level. FITW grant moneys will fund an integrated data platform (IDP) to disaggregate the Open Campus™ effect and more precisely measure what features work best and with which student demographics. The Team has also learned to identify and create content targeting “tipping point” concepts, concepts which can easily become barriers to course completion. Additionally, the Team has learned the value of prompting students beyond viewing lecture videos to consistently engage in practice recall through low-stakes assessments built in to each learning module.

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Sean Green is managing editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune.


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