How Online Courseware Can Help Decrease Dropout and Fail Rates By 50 Percent

Insights from an expert in student engagement and course efficacy.

GUEST COLUMN | by Brian Rowe 

As boosting student engagement continues to be an issue for universities, educators are all looking to answer the same question: how to make classes more meaningful and engaging for students? One solution is digital courseware.

This technology is beginning to infiltrate classrooms across the higher education landscape while playing a vital role in student learning. Most recently, Kennesaw State University (KSU) revealed the success of its usage of digital courseware in the classroom to improve student engagement in its WELL 1000 course.

However, simply using this solution isn’t enough. Many factors must play a role to ensure digital courseware is leveraged in the right way to successfully boost student engagement and reduce failure rates among college classrooms. This includes re-examining course objectives, incorporating predictive analytics, ensuring accessibility and analyzing course efficacy.

Re-examining course objectives 

In the redesigned WELL 1000 course, KSU desired to offer a more holistic approach focused on goal-setting, building self-assessments and reflecting on ways to establish long-term health behaviors.

The goal was to work together to boost student engagement by making course content more relevant and meaningful while still aligning it with the university’s general education standards. This required a number of content progressions, which included topics on more modern health behavioral topics that contribute to the leading risk behaviors of college students in the United States.

By leveraging a new editorial process, KSU instructors were able to work together with the publisher to create customized content that aligned specifically with enhanced course objectives and were more relevant to modern-day college students.

Incorporating predictive analytics

Predictive analytics unlock the key to a new future in education. It allows advisors to be alerted if a student is veering off the path for graduation in the desired major, allowing for necessary intervention to be executed.

At KSU, educators had access to unique analytics throughout the semester that demonstrated the effectiveness of student learning. It allowed for unlimited tracking of data in real-time to find gaps in a student’s performance. In addition, educators were also able to better identify students who may struggle early on and further engage with them at a higher impact to maintain successful progress throughout the entirety of the course.

Ease of Access

As the proliferation of personal devices continues to change the landscape of teaching and learning, KSU wanted to ensure its WELL 1000 courseware materials reflected this new progressive method of teaching. With more than 95 percent of students having access to a smartphone and 72 percent have access to a laptop, leveraging online courseware allowed course materials to be more accessible by both mobile and web applications.

This also meant ensuring students had access to courseware on the first day of school. Given that 50 percent of students who have postponed buying textbooks see their grades suffer as a result, KSU wanted to ensure early success for all course enrollees. Using digital courseware, students could access the materials on the first day of class—even if the textbook hadn’t been paid for yet—which assists those who cannot purchase books right away due to cost or delays in financial aid.

Analyze and assess course efficacy

After each semester, KSU would gather feedback and re-engineer the entire platform to make changes, improvements, and revisions to the course to fit the needs of students. The faculty and staff were able to utilize the digital courseware to provide students with a more tailored learning experience designed to increase engagement each year with the creation of customized content that aligned specifically with course objectives.


The initiative worked. Over a two-year period, the partnership between KSU faculty and their solution provider supported a 48 percent reduction in DFWI rates, falling from 25 percent to 13 percent in 2017. Most notably, the online section of WELL 1000—which traditionally carried the highest DFWI rates—saw a 55 percent reduction over the same time period. It dropped from an all-time high of 35 percent to only 16 percent.

Ultimately, using interactive and engaging educational technology in conjunction with customizable content, ease of use, and accessibility proved to be highly effective in lowering the DFWI rate in WELL 1000 without compromising the course’s academic integrity. The reduction also suggests this method was able to successfully increase the level of student engagement throughout the course, establishing a new benchmark for measurement in future academic years.

As more than 88 percent of students feel they could earn better grades using interactive digital courseware compared to traditional materials, it is evident that more universities will implement this type of technology in the future. Doing so will ensure students receive a more dynamic learning experience while educators enjoy an earlier, more efficient way to analyze course efficacy.

Brian Rowe is Founder and CEO of Perceivant, an edtech company serving higher education. Perceivant publishes and provides courseware that replaces traditional textbooks with cost-effective and interactive learning experiences for both web and mobile applications. Learn more, visit:


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