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Posted: Wednesday, July 31st 2013 at 11:14am

UNG receives grant from Gates Foundation to support student success

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DAHLONEGA - The University of North Georgia has received a $99,999 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to expand a successful technology-based project that could help more students complete college, according to a release from UNG officials.

UNG will be part of the Gates Foundation's study of the effectiveness of adaptive learning, which uses technology to provide interactive, personalized instruction so students can contribute to classroom discussions and group work. In a pilot program with two UNG developmental reading classes using the technology, students who completed at least 90 percent of the program had a pass rate of 92 percent on exit exams.

Students who don't score well on college placement tests are enrolled in remedial or developmental courses to improve skills in deficient areas. Studies have shown that students who perform well in developmental courses are better able to succeed in other college courses and complete college, according to the press statement.

Dr. Kristen Roney, UNG's associate vice president and dean of University College, said she is excited about the potential to improve remedial education, one goal of the university's Complete College Georgia plan.

"Reading can be such a frustrating class for students who come into college and are told that they need remediation, but by the time they get through the reading program, they're highly successful in their courses," said Roney, who also is an associate professor of English.

"This grant provides us with the opportunity for the faculty to engage in professional development specifically related to transforming remediation. It gives us a very intentional and supported opportunity to think through what UNG's remediation program can look like with technological support."

Complete College Georgia was announced by Gov. Nathan Deal as a statewide initiative in the wake of a 2011 study that found Georgia will need to increase the percentage of its population with some level of college completion from a current 42 percent to 60 percent to meet projected workforce needs by 2020.

Roney is project co-director with Karen Redding, an assistant professor of reading and English on UNG's Oconee Campus. Since last fall, Redding has been working with McGraw-Hill, using that company's LearnSmart/Connect 2.0 software in two developmental reading courses.

The software gauges each student's skill level and adapts as the student improves; students also must create a personal learning plan to learn at their own pace. Instructors can see how a student or an entire class is proceeding and make changes as needed during the semester.

The grant, awarded through the University of North Georgia Foundation – Gainesville, Inc., will expand the program to developmental reading and English classes on the Gainesville Campus and create additional reading and English classes on the Oconee Campus.
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