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University of North Georgia gets nearly $100K from Gates foundation
Grant will go for adaptive learning in reading, English
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University of North Georgia students will soon get a more personalized learning experience in reading and English classes, thanks to a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The $99,999 grant will go to fund the University of North Georgia’s adaptive learning program, designed for new students who are behind in certain skills as determined by the school’s placement test. The program is a sort of customized learning experience.

“It’s for primarily English and reading learning support classes,” said Karen Redding, assistant professor in English and reading at the UNG Oconee campus. Redding was the teacher of a pilot program this past school year.

The Internet-based program does both pre- and post-diagnostic tests of students who are deemed to need learning support after taking a college entrance test. The pre-test not only determines at what level the student is, but also the areas the student should focus on. The program adjusts itself accordingly so that as the student completes the course, they are focused on their precise problem areas.

Students who completed 90 percent of the program had a pass rate of 92 percent on the exit exam. There was only a 60 percent pass rate for students who completed less than 90 percent.

“One class was actually the weaker class coming in,” Redding said of her two pilot classes from last year. “They were the ones who worked the hardest and improved. They were able to improve their exit tests by a considerable percentage.”

The grant will cover reading and English classes at both the Gainesville and Oconee UNG campuses. Staff will be making final decisions on how the program will be used during the upcoming fall semester, and classes using this technology will begin in January.

“We actually are tossing around a lot of ideas right now about that,” Redding said.

There are several considerations, including shortening the length of classes so students that work faster may finish earlier and move on to another course. It’s all up in the air at this point, she added.

“We estimate that we are going to eventually touch 700 students through the grant program,” said Kristen Roney, associate vice president and dean of University College at UNG.

The program can translate to success in other areas of college, both Redding and Roney said.

Redding explained that it’s not necessarily that students are poor readers, but they have problems with comprehension or applying the text to what’s being learned in classes.

“Reading translates to all classes, like biology,” she said. “If you survive this (class), and take out of it what you need to take out of it, then you’re going to be a better student.”

Roney agreed. “It helps (students) build both efficacy and confidence,” she said, saying that the program helps students develop learning and studying skills.

“My hope is that having that confidence will inspire curiosity, which will give them the freedom to feel like they can be that really engaged student.”

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