Mary Jane Lindrum, CEO
As 2020 pushes higher education to embrace digital learning, the disparity between students of varying socioeconomic backgrounds has become an increasingly visible hurdle. And as institutions work to provide equitable access to online courses, two contradictory factors have emerged, according to a recent survey on student success and engagement in higher education: while students from lower income households are three times more likely to believe that technology has positively impacted them, they are also more than four times as likely to report difficulty in staying very engaged in remote learning.
Though creating engaging content and offering an intuitive platform may pose significant hurdles for many e-learning providers, they are precisely the two areas where innovative EdTech company Soomo Learning excels. Soomo’s modern courseware provides a robust yet simple learning environment that minimizes cognitive load so students can focus on learning, thereby enabling schools to improve student outcomes in foundational college courses. “Soomo Learning is all about getting students engaged with content, as we know learning requires a very focused effort,” says Mary Jane Lindrum, CEO at Soomo Learning.
Since 2006, Soomo’s teams have worked with thousands of students at schools all over the country to uncover and meet student learning needs. Focusing on first- and second-year courses, Soomo editors and learning designers have studied student activity patterns to fine-tune their webtexts to prompt all students to engage in A-student practices of rehearsal and recall.
Historically, many instructors have not assigned formative assessment for course credit in the GenEd area. With the shift to e-learning accelerated by COVID-19, the desire to increase student engagement outside of the classroom provides a unique opportunity to reexamine this practice.
As Lindrum explains, “The Soomo courseware provides multiple formative assessments and feedback on each page that promote metacognition and allow students to check their understanding of critical concepts, so they remain engaged with the course.”
The Soomo platform can easily be integrated with a school’s learning management system (LMS), enabling instructors to assign course credit. “As the students complete the questions on each page, the corresponding credit is assigned to them automatically without causing a drain on the instructor’s time,” notes Lindrum. “This frees up the instructor to better provide feedback informed by data on areas where students are struggling.”
A distinguishing feature of Soomo Learning is activity analytics, which enables instructors to keep a close tab on student learning as they progress through learning exercises. “We provide analytics at a very granular level—event streams and performance activity data from students—so instructors can get a sense of where their class is at in their webtext content,” says Lindrum. This visibility into student performance allows instructors to offer personalized guidance for those falling behind.
These tools led to a marked increase in pass rates in one university’s psychology course. Lindrum shares that students in this course struggled with completion of their writing assignments despite performing well on other webtext work. After collaborating with the school’s faculty, Soomo Learning built one of its most admired features—writing templates, which break an assignment down into a series of prompts to guide students through a writing project. This tool encourages students to complete their assignments in manageable chunks and can enforce due dates to get students working on summative assignments sooner. According to Lindrum, the pass rate for students in the psychology course rose from 40 percent to more than 70 percent after writing templates were integrated into the courseware.
Since its inception, Soomo has grown organically, with more and more satisfied students and faculty seeing the benefits of the company’s courseware over traditional textbooks. Well-crafted formative assessment assigned for credit helps bridge the equity gap so that all students can meaningfully engage with courseware. With Soomo, instructors can confidently adopt well-validated GenEd courseware right off the shelf or have it tailored to meet their individual instructional goals.