EdTech as an Equalizer

June 2023. Community colleges are grappling with the decline in enrollment and the need to promote education equity. To address these challenges, leaders are turning to EdTech solutions.

June 2023

One question should be top of mind for higher learning leaders at community colleges right now: Can my institution do more to promote education equity? 

Historically, students from underrepresented groups have attended community colleges in higher numbers. For many, community colleges played a key role in providing access to an affordable postsecondary education. But this could change, as more and more institutions struggle to stay afloat.

Enrollment rates have been falling, and in spite of recent improvements, they are still below pre-pandemic levels.

To tackle this issue, leaders at community colleges need to attract and retain more students—and that means providing better support for individuals who come from diverse backgrounds.

But this student population is not a monolith. Broad approaches “have not sufficiently improved higher education outcomes for Black, Latino, and Indigenous students, and students from low-income backgrounds because these….interventions are not targeted toward specific populations,” states this Education Trust post.

This means there is no quick fix for education equity—it’s both a commitment and an investment. At the same time, it’s a must-have that the higher education system can’t overlook.

3 Ways to promote equity through EdTech

Forward-thinking leaders are taking action, and leveraging EdTech to complement their existing education equity investments. 

By integrating EdTech into a culture of support and understanding, college leaders can provide more equitable opportunities for all students to succeed

Of course, technology is no panacea, and other interventions are needed. Effective student advising, for example, reflects the lived experiences of students with a diverse set of needs. At Jackson College, affinity groups help students from diverse backgrounds connect with others who are like them and understand their struggles. 

The key is to take these initiatives further with digital tech. As the President Emeritus of APLU notes in this Forbes post: “Digital technology is another key tool to advance retention and degree completion. Institutions can adopt a multifaceted approach…to reach all students including those from underrepresented backgrounds, meet their academic and non-academic needs, and help them thrive in the classroom.”

Here are three ways that EdTech, as part of a holistic approach to education equity, puts all students on equal footing:

1. Affordability and predictability of costs

The rise of digital textbooks has paved the way for new course material delivery models that help students who are struggling financially. 

Equitable access models, which BibliU offers via its Universal Learning solution, provide an affordable and predictable cost structure for students. By bundling the cost of digital course materials with tuition, colleges can provide access to materials on day one of class at a lower price than traditional textbooks.

This is good news for cash-strapped students. In fact, increases in the adoption of day one access models was a positive factor contributing to students spending less on course materials, according to a recent NACS Student Watch Report. Student spending on course materials for 2021-22 was the lowest in 24 years. 

Prioritizing day one access to course materials can have a significant impact on student success rates, particularly for underrepresented students. This underscores the importance of ensuring that students have immediate access to course materials. Universal Learning makes day one access a reality for all students.

2. Early intervention for at-risk students

Faculty are often unaware of which students are succeeding or struggling until after the first assignment or quiz is submitted. Thisresults in delays in providing effective support. First-generation college students, for example, may struggle to reach out and get help when they need it.

BibliU’s Analytics dashboard helps faculty identify students who need more assistance, enabling institutions to meet students where they are, and intervene early for at-risk students. For instance, South Piedmont Community College uses the analytics that come with BibliU's platform to gain insights on student success, course material engagement, and total material costs. This data-generated insight helps faculty to spot problems and provide help proactively.

Before implementing analytics solutions, however, it's critical to create governance policies, ensure data integrity, and train faculty in data literacy. Privacy concerns should also be addressed, and sensitive data should be kept in restricted folders to respect student and faculty privacy. With these measures in place, higher learning institutions can deliver data-driven decision-making responsibly and effectively.

3. Digital access, even for students with spotty Internet

The pandemic led to an increase in the use of digital course materials. While this provides students with a level of affordability and interactivity that paper textbooks cannot match, it can present challenges for students who don’t have Internet or have poor Internet access at home. 

According to a report by the Institute of Higher Education Policy, one in four students and one in three low-income students face difficulties accessing course content due to Internet issues. This is clearly an equity issue: more than half of caregivers and Black students with unreliable Internet access cannot access all their course content, according to the report. 

To address this, BibliU's platform allows students to download course content on campus and access it offline, helping them overcome a potential barrier to academic success.

Achieving Equity in Education with EdTech

The decline in community college enrollment highlights the need for higher learning leaders to prioritize equity at their institutions. The use of EdTech can put all students on equal footing, regardless of their financial situation. Universal Learning provides affordability and predictability of costs, early intervention for at-risk students, and offline digital course material that students can access anytime, anywhere. 

By leveraging technology and adopting human-centered approaches, higher learning leaders can create a culture that promotes equity and student success. With the right EdTech, higher learning leaders can take education equity initiatives further, boost enrollments, and ensure that all students have access to an affordable education.

Learn more about the benefits of Universal Learning today.

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