With most teaching going remote because of COVID-19, a new grant for the UC Davis LibreTexts project will help bring personalized online learning to students around the world.
Launched by UC Davis professor Delmar Larsen in 2008 as ChemWiki, LibreTexts is a national consortium that creates online resources to replace conventional textbooks and course materials. Students can access the materials for free, and instructors can assemble information tailored to the needs of their class. The world’s most popular online textbook platform, LibreTexts saved UC Davis students about $1.5 million in textbook costs in the 2018-19 academic year, and had a global impact of 100 million pageviews in 2019, Larsen said.
The $1 million innovation grant, from the state of California’s Learning Lab, supports LibreTexts’ effort to develop, test and widely distribute a new adaptive learning platform that complements LibreTexts’ extensive library. “Adaptive learning is like having a virtual tutor that responds to the performance and needs of individual students,” said Larsen, director of LibreTexts and a chemistry professor in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science. For example, based on the answers a student provides, the adaptive learning system will guide the student toward remediation steps if they get things wrong.
Adaptive learning advances diversity and inclusion in STEM
The adaptive learning project aims to foster inclusivity in STEM fields and address equity and achievement gaps in postsecondary STEM education, Larsen said. “We want to build the system to be responsive to the cultural identity of the students, to increase ownership of the learning, and reduce STEM attrition rates of disadvantaged students,” he said. The learning platform will support both in-person and remote teaching.
The award will fund collaborative work between faculty from UC Davis, California State University, San Bernardino, and Mendocino College, as well as additional partners within the California State University Chancellor’s Office and the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges.
In addition to UC Davis, the LibreTexts consortium includes University of Michigan, University of Kansas, DePauw University, University of Minnesota Rochester, College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University, Mendocino College, Monroe Community College and South Tahoe Community College.
— Becky Oskin, content strategist in the College of Letters and Science