Remediation goes online — and free

Community colleges are creating free online courses and study guides to help students brush up on academic skills and avoid paying for no-credit remedial courses, reports Inside Higher Ed.  Although some use free Khan Academy videos or other sources, instructors also are developing their own online content.

Cleveland’s Cuyahoga Community College developed a free online course to help high school students improve their math skills and place into college-level courses, reports The Quick and the Ed.  Tri-C, as the college is known, incorporated Khan’s lectures, the open-source TeacherTube and Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching, or MERLOT.

The Gates Foundation awarded $550,000 to 10 institutions trying to develop MOOC content for remedial and introductory courses. Tri-C used $50,000 in Gates funding to develop its course. Wake Tech partnered with Udacity to develop a remedial math course.

Bossier Parish Community College in Louisiana created five free online courses without outside seed money. Open Campus classes, which are open to anyone, provide remediation in reading, writing and math.  Instead of partnering with a MOOC provider, Bossier asked faculty members to design the courses, said Allison Martin, director of institutional effectiveness initiatives. “We think we have a better understanding about our own developmental education population,” she said.

The project’s leaders said they felt students at the college would react better to learning from online instructors they were likely to see on campus and in classrooms . . .

Most of Bossier’s students come from disadvantaged backgrounds, said Jim Henderson, the college’s chancellor. He said those students in particular do not react well to impersonal or “sterile” online courses.

“They’ve got to be able to see that face and know that ‘this is a person I can talk to,’ ” Henderson said.

Both the Tri-C and Bossier Parish courses are self-paced and competency-based. Students can retake modules until they reach mastery.

Tri-C uses game-style learning, said Sasha Thackaberry, the college’s director of eLearning technologies. “It actually teaches persistence and resilience.”

Most students are familiar with gaming. And college officials said nontraditional students in particular thrive on the positive feedback of progressing from level to level, rather than just receiving a single grade when they complete a course.

“The pressure isn’t on them to succeed,” said (E-learning Dean Charles) Dull. “It’s to learn.”

Students must master 80 percent of the competencies embedded in the non-credit course to earn a “digital badge” certifying mastery.