Students have used print textbooks for centuries, but in recent years higher education learning companies have made the concerted effort to shift from print materials to digital tools in the form of digital learning platforms. With this change, content has become more engaging and interactive, and the benefits are obvious.
Digital learning platforms include personalized learning technologies embedded around a digital textbook and can be customized by faculty to suit the needs of the specific class. They can be used on any device and involve quizzes, problems and games to keep students interested in the topic. Not only are digital learning platforms cheaper for students to purchase, but, when compared to lugging around textbooks, they are also much more convenient to use online.
The Association of American Publishers (AAP) recently hosted a webinar with faculty from California and Texas colleges in which they provided insight into their experiences with digital learning platforms. Here are some of the common themes from the discussions.
Digital Helps Provide a Flexible Approach to Teaching and Learning
One of the greatest benefits of digital learning is its ability to bring the classroom to life with features that benefit both teachers and students:
• Calendaring features, prompts and reminders help students become more accountable for the preparation they need before coming to class.
• The games, quizzes and problems keep students engaged, are adaptive to their needs and focus on getting them the information they need to be successful.
• Real-time feedback helps students as they learn concepts, and allows faculty to see student progress at both the individual and class levels.
Not only do these platforms work with students on mastering the content, but they also equip students with the technical skills and knowledge needed for future courses and jobs. The personalized learning and innovative technology included in these platforms has turned higher education publishers into dynamic educational learning companies. To this end, professors see more than just the practical and economic advantages of digital versus print.
“I never use technology for technology’s sake. I use it because there is a clear benefit to the learning process.” – Nathalie Vega-Rhodes, Developmental Mathematics, Lone Star College (Texas)
Student Performance Increases
Studies have demonstrated that the use of digital platforms can increase student performance by up to a full letter grade. Because students are more engaged, get immediate feedback and are easily able to build a foundation of knowledge, they become better able to learn and retain new concepts. Adaptive learning technology, an innovative component to learning platforms, is able to individualize lessons to assess the students’ knowledge and assist them with concepts they need help with.
“The artificial intelligence quickly analyzes what a student knows and doesn’t know and then quizzes, informs and interacts with the student until he has made progress with the concepts.” – Lynda Haas, Rhetoric and Composition, University of California, Irvine
Students today are attracted to the idea of gamification in adaptive learning. Using engaging tactics like gameplay or even audio and video tools turns learning into something fun and familiar, making retention of complicated concepts more likely. And because instructors have to lecture less in class, this opens the door for more collaboration between students, individual attention from the faculty and an opportunity to discuss real-world problems and how they relate to the topic at hand.
Helps Developmental Students Build Skills
The interactive elements of these digital course materials help developmental students build the skills they need not only in their future courses, but also in future jobs. The engaging platforms focus students on learning information and not doing more work than necessary.
It’s important for developmental students to get immediate feedback so they’re quickly able to learn from their mistakes and get a better grasp on important concepts.
“Students in developmental education need skill-building opportunities. Using these platforms, students are able to complete these activities to help build the skills they need to become better readers and better thinkers.” – Kristi Barker, Developmental Reading and College Success Strategies, South Plains College (Texas)
Many of these platforms are able to assess student knowledge at the beginning of a course to determine a student’s base knowledge. It then creates exercises and activities to fill in the blanks. Using these platforms, students see very clearly what they’re good at and have a better understanding of where their proficiency is. When students have a tighter grasp on what their strengths and weaknesses are, they have more confidence to work on the areas where they need help.
Using Technology to Expand Knowledge
While digital learning platforms make learning more accessible and convenient, it is just a jumping off point, a catalyst to expanding student knowledge. These systems aim to encourage student curiosity and motivate them to seek out more information and apply it in their own way.
“These are wonderful tools to enhance their learning and get them excited about learning. It’s another tool in our toolbox.” – Patty Worsham, Accounting, Norco College (California)
Technology teaches students to be critical readers and learn to evaluate sources on their merit. These platforms offer students the opportunity to learn to navigate technology and teach them to dig deeper into information they’re given. Digital learning platforms use intuitive and adaptive technology to help even the most reluctant user gain confidence with technology.
To see the full transcripts of AAP’s faculty webinars, please visit www.aapbacktocampus.org.
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