Preparing for the underprepared: Leveraging education technology for equitable and inclusive education

Dr. Drew Berrett, Pearson | August 30, 2021 in Higher Education

A man lies on his stomach on a bed, listening to headphones, writing on a notebook. A pile of books are on one side of him and an open laptop computer is on the other.

Have you noticed students coming to class underprepared or unable to demonstrate proficiency in reading, writing, or mathematics at the college level? Over 60% of students who attend either a two-year or four-year university enroll in at least one remedial course to better prepare for their major courses.1

Unfortunately, many of the academically underprepared are economically disadvantaged or come from marginalized or minority groups. For example, in California, over 90% of economically disadvantaged students require remediation in English language learning.2

The impact of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic may have further heightened the struggles of underprepared students. With the shift to online learning, teaching quality varied substantially and transitions to remote learning were inconsistent. This enhanced the inequality for students who may not have access to the internet or a computer or don’t have the parental support they need.3

Institutions across the country are looking for new ways to help learners succeed. How could your institution and instructors leverage education technology to improve access and utilization to support these underprepared students?

Filling the gaps

Learning gaps should be identified prior to enrollment or the start of a course to ensure students are as successful as possible. Technology can help identify these gaps.

For example, Pearson Gap Finder assesses student knowledge and skills on prerequisite topics prior to enrolling in A&P courses. Students take an online diagnostic assessment and, based on the results, complete online learning modules focused on identified deficiencies so they’re more prepared for the rigorous A&P curriculum.

Remediation

Once learning gaps are identified, you can provide the remediation students need to be successful. Your institution likely has its own remediation courses that are prerequisites before entering into major courses. Research has found that many of these courses are unspecific, increase costs, and extend the time required to graduate, all of which can lead to increased drop outs.

Using online instruction can compress these courses, allowing students to only receive remediation on the topics they need while co-enrolling with their major course. Plus this specification of courses increases affordability and access1 — helping you reach more students and meet your institutional goals of equity and inclusion.

Leveraging technology for ongoing support

There are many benefits to online instruction that level the playing field for many different social and demographic groups.

  • It allows for both asynchronous and synchronous instructional models. Asynchronous instruction (pre-recorded video, digital materials, etc.) provides for slowed and/or repeated delivery of instruction, making it ideal for English language learners.
  • Students can study anywhere at any time, which is great for students who are working while earning their degree.
  • Online tutoring provides the flexibility students need while still providing quality instruction.

Smarthinking is an online tutoring service available for core subjects, including math, science, business, health sciences, reading, and writing. Assistance can be provided asynchronously and synchronously 24/7 by subject matter experts with graduate degrees. The writing portion of the program allows students to submit essays or similar writing pieces and receive personalized assistance.

Watch my recorded webinar to learn more about supporting underprepared students