The surprising challenge holding up developmental ed efforts

As pressures to improve student outcomes of developmental education mount, colleges and universities turn to technology to boost student success, Markeisha Grant, Rebecca Natow, and Vikash Reddy write for EdSurge.

But despite their reputation as the most tech-savvy generation, students emerge as a key challenge to technology adoption in developmental education, finds a new report by the Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness (CAPR). Researches at CAPR interviewed 127 people from 42 colleges and 41 higher education systems on their development ed technology practices and challenges, the authors write.

Students frequently had difficulty using course technology, according to the interviewees. Some respondents cited a lack of technology training for end users as a barrier to adoption, the authors write. Low-income students and institutions located in rural areas also lacked reliable internet access, a problem that often disrupted their learning, the authors add. 

Related: 5 myths about remedial education

CAPR's finding delivers another blow to the "digital native" stereotype. Older generations often generalize millennials as digital natives, assuming that they're all experts, or at least fast learners, when it comes to technology, Jenny Abamu wrote for an article in EdSurge.

Yet a report by the American Institutes for Research and nonprofit Change the Equation found that 58% of millennial test takers could not solve a multi-step task that required more than one computer program.

"We are not very tech savvy coming into college. Other than playing games and basic Microsoft office, there are many things we don't know," said Raamish Saeed, a senior from Saint Louis University, at an ed tech conference in 2017.

This discomfort with technology is even more pronounced with older students. In her work with low-income adult community college students, many students expressed frustration with their web-based developmental math, says Christina Hubbard, a community college expert at EAB. The students “felt like the technology was preventing them from demonstrating what they knew and most feared they would lose their financial aid eligibility before reaching college-level,” Hubbard adds.

As technology's role in developmental education grows, educators can no longer assume students have the necessary skills to succeed, the authors argue. Instead, institutions should try mandating courses that teach students how to use technology to support their course work, they recommend (Grant et al., Edsurge, 1/9).

Also see: 5 items on your students' technology wish list

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