Courseload Case Study - Berkeley College

Since its founding in 1931, Berkeley College has maintained its primary focus on students, providing personal attention and instruction with the goal of preparing students for career success.

Challenge

In 2009, upon seeing a trend of students using electronic textbooks (eTexts) in place of traditional textbooks, Berkeley College decided to require all textbooks used for instruction to have an accompanying eText version.

In addition, Berkeley College noted that many students were starting classes without a physical book, either as a result of not being able to afford the textbook or waiting to see how it was utilized before ordering. If and when a student ordered a textbook, it often took up to four weeks to receive it, making it difficult for the student to catch up with assigned readings and associated course work. To address this concern, Berkeley College decided to search for an Online Course Resource (OCR), or digital course materials, solution that would enable the College to continue its mission to adapt to and accommodate student needs. The ideal solution would also improve the quality of the student learning experience and, ultimately, their academic success.

Solution

As with every initiative introduced by Berkeley College, the search for an OCR solution was handled with great attention to the change management process. To begin, Berkeley College appointed an evaluation team comprised of administrators and faculty from a variety of departments and disciplines. Many of the evaluators also had experience with other OCR solutions, which was valuable in establishing requirements. Specifically, the evaluation team sought a product that: facilitated a single sign-on through the College’s Blackboard® learning management system, enabled students to interact within the course materials instead of just highlighting, and provided analytics that could be used in performance evaluations and material assessments.

“I was very interested in making sure that there would be a single sign-on. Bouncing back and forth can disrupt the learning process and add another element of worry with technology,” said Carol Smith, Assistant Provost, Online.

The Berkeley College evaluation team initially looked at a number of providers before deciding on Courseload because it met or exceeded all of their established criteria. “In addition to just meeting our needs, Courseload offered that extra ‘experience’ we were looking for in a partner. They understood our needs and were willing to work with us on making enhancements,” said Joe Canova, Director of Systems, Information Technology at Berkeley College.

In Summer 2011, Berkeley College began piloting Courseload in five online courses. Toward the end of the initial pilot, Berkeley College surveyed the students who participated and found that 74 percent enjoyed using Courseload for their course content. This feedback, along with other success measurements, prompted Berkeley College to implement Courseload in the entirety of its Berkeley College Online™ program in January 2012. Courseload is now used in approximately 250 to 275 sections per quarter.

According to Canova, the Courseload solution was easy to implement across all online courses. Although an initial uptick in help desk cases is generally observed during implementation of new technology, Berkeley College’s help desk staff was pleased to see a relatively small number of cases immediately following the deployment of Courseload. Canova attributes this to the Courseload platform’s intuitive interface, as well as the pre-launch efforts of Berkeley College and Courseload to inform and educate students and faculty.

Results

Throughout the pilot program and subsequent implementation of Courseload, Berkeley College continually surveyed the faculty and students to gauge satisfaction and determine areas where additional training would be beneficial. Results from these surveys and other measurements indicated that the implementation of Courseload, along with other student success efforts, brought about many benefits.

Because student success and retention were major drivers of the OCR initiative, Berkeley College analyzed year-over-year student retention numbers for the Berkeley College Online™ program. Following the implementation of Courseload and other retention-related efforts, Berkeley College saw an increase in total student retention of seven percent in its online program, with retention for new students in the same program increasing 12.5 percent.

Access

One area Berkeley College targeted with the implementation of Courseload was ensuring that all students had access to all course content at the start of each term. Faculty surveys indicated that 81 percent of the Berkeley College Online™ faculty felt they were able to engage with students earlier in the term due to the day-one availability of course materials enabled by Courseload.

Affordability

Since providing a high-quality education at an affordable cost to students is important to Berkeley College, the evaluation team also focused on how the OCR initiative could best benefit students. The result was a flat, per-course fee for students, regardless of how many pieces of content were used in each course.

In addition, Berkley College’s implementation of Courseload in all online courses meant that the College was able to generate enough demand to negotiate publisher agreements, in turn providing a lower cost for proprietary course materials. A Berkeley College Online™ survey following initial implementation found that approximately 90 percent of faculty believed that having digital course materials available through Courseload offered the same or greater value for their students as a traditional textbook.

Quality

The early pilot also showed that student enjoyment of Courseload correlated strongly with the number of features being used by both the students and their instructors. Driven by this information, Berkeley College focused efforts on faculty training and best practice roundtables to enable engaging academic instruction throughout the term. In addition to Courseload’s initial train-the-trainer seminars, Smith has instituted strategic training sessions with the Berkeley College Online™ faculty and enlisted more advanced users to share best practices.

“We looked at the Courseload solution as a way to enhance our engagement strategy with students. We are constantly evaluating our efforts and doing outreach to move faculty to the next level, whether that’s asking more questions through the platform or tying together concepts from various types of content,” said Smith, who regularly performs online course reviews to pinpoint areas where additional outreach could be beneficial.

Berkeley College continues to evaluate and grow its OCR program with Courseload and is currently looking at expansion into additional on-site courses.