Every institution of higher education is unique. From Alaska to Florida, colleges and universities in the ATD Network serve diverse communities with their own challenges and celebrations — but they can still learn from each other. By being part of a larger network, institutions benefit from field-tested insights and resources that support their journey to whole-college transformation.
Cuyahoga Community College (or Tri-C) in Ohio knows just how valuable this network of information and support can be. An ATD Network institution since 2005, the college has been involved in events and innovations that have helped catalyze its work. Starting in 2019, Tri-C was one of seven lighthouse institutions to take part in the Every Learner Everywhere Adaptive Learning Initiative, a pilot project that used advances in digital learning to improve student outcomes in foundational gateway courses.
Tri-C’s faculty-centered approach helped ensure that the adoption and implementation of adaptive courseware would be successful and — most importantly — help its students succeed. “This kind of course redesign could only be led and implemented by our faculty,” representatives from the college told ATD. “There is simply no other way to do it and see success.” From start to finish, ELE teams stressed that faculty owned their curricula, and their buy-in and leadership were critical to the project.
While faculty led the way, the college found comprehensive support in its partnership with ATD. Site visits from ATD Teaching & Learning staff provided key touch points to keep faculty excited and engaged. “Getting together, hearing what others were doing, seeing the faces of those working so hard to see this project improve courses, outcomes, and lives was simply tremendous,” Tri-C team members said.
For many involved in the adaptive learning initiative, a major benefit of participating in the Every Learner Everywhere initiative was a “call to focus.” The college was not only undergoing internal transformation through the initiative, but actively communicating their results with peers.
At the Ohio Adaptive Learning Summit in 2021, Tri-C and another participating college, Lorain County Community College, presented findings and explored how adaptive courseware could benefit students across the state. “As a part of ELE, we’ve had to channel our efforts in a way that we can share externally. That has allowed us to be more organized, more intentional, and ultimately more successful,” a team member told ATD.
Adaptive Courseware: New Models to Support Student Learning
The lessons learned represent the work of hundreds of faculty, staff, and administrators in over 25 different courses from nine disciplines across the campuses of the seven participating institutions, who together served more than 7,500 students throughout the pilot.
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A learning mindset
As much as Tri-C’s participating faculty and leaders were considering how their efforts would be shared with the Network, they also benefited from their connections with the six other lighthouse institutions in the adaptive learning initiative. College faculty don’t often have the opportunity to work with people in like disciplines in other parts of the college, let alone with faculty across the country. After the Adaptive Learning Summit, Tri-C faculty continued to regularly collaborate with other institutions, co-present at conferences, and develop shared materials.
“Because of the way ATD and ELE promoted cross-institution collaboration, our Tri-C faculty now have extensive networks for peer-to-peer sharing and learning,” reflected a team member.
Tri-C is also continuing to learn: Following their work with the adaptive learning initiative, they took part in ATD’s Building Capacity for Change seminar series, a program designed to help institutions strengthen high-impact professional learning among faculty. Tri-C pointed to the ATD Teaching and Learning Toolkit as an important resource to provide a solid foundation for the work, and the seminar series “led us to redirect or efforts on how to facilitate consistent, college-wide faculty learning communities.”
The learning opportunities that ATD is able to provide are made possible and enriched by the colleges that participate in them. Institutions like Tri-C contribute valuable insights to a growing body of work that helps a growing network of colleges tackle their toughest challenges.