However, many of the challenges facing the nation’s higher education system—including low graduation and retention rates—are felt most acutely in the world of community colleges. In addition, nearly 50% of 2-year students enter remediation, with four in 10 students never completing these remedial courses. With community colleges playing such a critical role in the nation’s higher education system, the need for innovation—and innovation that targets students in developmental courses—is high.
The day before making her remarks at SXSWedu, Dr. Biden and U.S. Under Secretary of Education Dr. Ted Mitchell paid a visit to Austin Community College, home of the ACCelerator, or the “world’s largest math lab.” The ACCelerator is a 600-seat facility contained within a state-of-the art learning center built on the former site of Austin's Highland Mall, in a 200,000 square foot space previously occupied by J.C. Penney. It has the capacity to serve half of the district's over 41,000 credit students in developmental math and is powered by McGraw-Hill's ALEKS adaptive math program.ALEKS uses research-based artificial intelligence to rapidly and precisely determine each student's level of knowledge, pinpointing exactly what a student knows and doesn't know. ALEKS then instructs students on the topics they're most ready to learn, constantly updating each student's knowledge state and adapting to the student's individualized learning needs.
During her visit to the ALEKS-powered ACCelerator, Dr. Biden said: “I teach a lot of developmental students and a lot of returning students, and the one stumbling block does seem to be math and math anxiety—and ‘can I do it?’ This seems to be so empowering and positive, and students can see immediate success. So it gives them the confidence [to succeed]… I hope other community colleges come and see this and adopt it on their own campus.”
As Under Secretary Mitchell wrote in a blog post, “The Austin Community College ACCelerator lab is just one example of innovative thinking by community college leaders, a strategic use of technology tools, and the hard work and dedication of students.”
Watch a tour of the ACCelerator shown at EDUCAUSE 2014: