Aimed at working teachers, VSU’s science endorsement is all about demonstrated learning. Following the CBE model, teachers use a variety of projects, activities, and lab experiments within the classroom to demonstrate their mastery of the subject matter. They are also asked to videotape lessons, draw diagrams or illustrations, and take before and after pictures. Working with the teachers is a team of three VSU staff: a success coach; an instructor responsible for learning outcomes, guidance and content understanding; and an assessor, whose sole role is to go through the assessment and grade the student. In VSU’s CBE model, the mastery of subject matter can take two forms: Mastery Level III, which corresponds to an 80 percent or higher on a traditional transcript; and Mastery Level IV, which indicates a higher level of student mastery and translates to a 90 percent or above on a traditional transcript.
To support the instructional team, King-Spezzo and his VSU colleagues utilized Brightspace to capture critical analytics on student interactions. This includes the number of times logged into the system, the number of active discussions, content modules accessed by date, assessments in the Dropbox, and so on. VSU also used Brightspace Intelligent agents to streamline communications between the instructor and the student.
“These agents allowed us to automate certain routine aspects of communication, such as notifications, so instructors could focus on higher value, higher level communication with their students,” notes Spezzo-King.
Kathy Sundin, online communications coordinator for VSU’s Center for eLearning also stepped in to create a custom web front end. As a result, when a student enters the CBE course, they view a streamlined, simplified interface solely focused on CBE.
“We wanted to put all the technology in the background so the students could just focus on learning,” says Sundin.
Finally, VSU worked with D2L to overlay the CBE program’s Mastery III and IV grade scheme over the traditional number grade found in the Brightspace system; color coding and simplifying the new CBE grading format so students could view their progress at a glance. When students submit work via Dropbox, the assessor uses the Brightspace rubric to assign a level of mastery on every single criterion. This rubric provides students with an acknowledgement, and feedback on their progress.