The follow post is provided by Steve Schmidt, Ed.S. Steve is the Assistant Director of ABSPD at Appalachian, and reflects here on his experience with our AsULearn-Global pilot over the last year:
How can Appalachian State most effectively serve learners outside the university community who are solving significant statewide challenges? Adult Basic Skills Professional Development (ABSPD), part of Appalachian’s Reich College of Education, asked that question some years ago. The Center for Academic Excellence provided the answer in the form of AsULearn-Global, an online learning management system for students not enrolled at the university.
ABSPD has provided professional development to adult basic skills education instructors since 1988. These instructors teach students who have dropped out of school, recent immigrants who are learning English, and under-skilled workers who need to improve their reading, math and writing skills to secure family sustaining wage jobs. Our state has a huge need for these educational services. More than 10,000 students drop out of North Carolina schools each year, 17% of state residents’ age 25 to 64 lack a high school diploma, and thousands of immigrants come here each year seeking a better life.
AsULearn-Global, a Moodle based online learning platform almost identical to Appalachian’s existing AsULearn platform, solved several problems at once. It allowed ABSPD to provide cost effective hybrid professional development to funding challenged adult education programs while meeting best practice guidelines for professional development. Most importantly, the AsULearn-Global initiative seamlessly aligns with Appalachian State’s Strategic Plan goals of addressing the challenges of our region and state through creativity and innovation and engaging the state, region and the world.
Courses begin with a full day face-to-face session where participants build community, engage content and navigate AsULearn-Global. The course then moves online for 12 weeks where participants learn and interact on AsULearn-Global. The course concludes with a full day face-to-face workshop where learners present capstone projects showing how they have applied course content in their classrooms. Steve Schmidt, Matthew Brown and Brandy Brown teach these courses under the leadership of ABSPD director Dianne Barber.
Since AsULearn-Global’s inception in Fall 2017, ABSPD has run seven course cohorts with three different course titles that have served well over 100 learners. Course participants have noted a number of positive changes in their teaching practices. These include improved technology skills, increased use of classroom technology and enhanced adoption of evidence based teaching practices. These instructors also note their students show heightened learning gains and better class attendance. Participants have said:
“My students are more engaged in their learning,”
“I used to struggle with finding effective, interesting resources, but I now have access to a gold mine of resources.”
We look forward to expanding this initiative in 2018-19.