Solving Digital Courseware Challenges

Digital courseware in higher ed plays a more pivotal role than ever before

An all too familiar scene in the world of higher education continues to unfold across the country – new edtech products are continually released as institutions face mounting pressure to better select, implement and scale their digital learning tools. The digitization of classrooms is the norm and successfully leveraging digital tools is expected for competitive, high-functioning organizations - both for those institutions that vie for student enrollment and those that welcome graduates into their professional lives.

Resources to help administrators and faculty select, manage and measure appropriate digital tools have not kept pace with the proliferation of edtech entering the market. Most education organizations lack adequate evidence and analytics to make high-stakes decisions on budget, implementation and education outcomes in order to better increase equity and enhance and personalize learning for students.

If you need some help getting your arms around managing tools with your faculty and students, here are some of the main edtech challenges we hear from working with colleges and universities, and resources to address them. 

Challenge #1 - Identify appropriate, relevant products and digital courseware.

With the overwhelming number of digital courseware and edtech products available, it’s a challenge to identify ones that do what they claim they will. Faculty and staff need an organized way to weed through products and search for specific features and capabilities. They want to know how to find new digital tools that work, appropriately implement those products and stay up to date on the latest research to proactively address changing organizational requirements and student needs. The Courseware in Context (CWiC) Framework helps with all of these problems. Through a collaboration between the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) and Tyton Partners, with contributions from SRI International and Lea(R)n, the CWiC framework is, “designed to help postsecondary decision-makers make informed selections of digital courseware products, and support effective adoption and implementation of these solutions (CWiC website).” 

A recent framework update includes: 

  • New and improved functionality for the interactive CWiC framework on LearnPlatform.
  • Introduction of an adoption checklist to help decision-makers assess their readiness to adopt courseware.
  • An updated Product Taxonomy, revised to reflect the ongoing evolution of the market and to better differentiate courseware products.
  • Release of case studies profiling pilot implementations of the CWiC Framework at Arizona State University and the University of Central Florida.


Challenge #2 - Effectively communicate and collaborate with faculty about instructional technology.

The growth of digital tools aligns to the need for increasingly tech-savvy faculty who can quickly and seamlessly master new technologies. As a component of the six major challenges facing technology in higher ed in the coming years, New Media Consortium's Horizon Report: 2017 Higher Education Edition states that collaboration is key for scaling effective solutions. “Communities of practice, multidisciplinary leadership groups, and open social networks can help spread evidence-based approaches. Institutions and educators can make more progress learning from each other.” When one educator has gone through the trial and error process, they can share their learning to eliminate the need for a peer to go through the exact same process. 

Peer interaction is embedded in all features of LearnPlatform. Instructors can select a product they are considering for their course and view detailed grades and reviews from other verified educators. If they don’t see the feedback they’re looking for, they can ask questions of other users. 

Challenge #3: Understand if products and courseware yield desired results.

Selecting and implementing the right tools is a challenge but conquering that is insignificant if usage and results aren’t captured, analyzed and measured. There is not enough applied research that examines edtech utilization and effectiveness or guidance for implementation to meet stated goals. This leads to organizations across the country not knowing how to improve DFW (D, F, and W grades received in a course) rates for certain intro courses

By tracking and evaluating usage and achievement data, universities increase equity of access and personalize learning across disparate student segments, as well as devise evidence-backed solutions to combat high DFW rates. Running an IMPACT™ Analysis with LearnPlatform equips universities with better, deeper and more meaningful data to examine edtech efficacy in their organizations. An IMPACT Analysis integrates data from multiple sources including educator feedback, pricing, product usage and student achievement to produce evidence-based reports and dashboards on product effectiveness. Conservatively, a single IMPACT Analysis will result in 1.54 million calculations in 2.6 seconds — that’s the functional equivalent of two weeks of effort in a traditional third-party evaluation, so schools can save time and money getting critical information almost immediately.

The Horizon report states “What good is a new approach or technology deployment if the results are not carefully measured and analyzed, with the program adjusted based on the results (page 6)? In online and blended courses, data can reveal how student actions contribute to their progress and specific learning gains” (page 9).

The digitization of classrooms and the increased adoption of edtech products is supposed to not only modernize the 21st-century classroom but also increase equity and enhance and personalize learning for students. There’s no right solution for how to address the challenges that come with a rapidly expanding edtech market, but this is a step in the right direction. Higher ed organizations, faculty and product companies alike are all in this together.