The open access or near-access colleges or universities have provided great opportunities for many pursuing college dreams, and changing their lives. It is a great thing to provide opportunities. Open access increases the enrollment; however, it is a negative factor affecting graduation rate. It is understandable that open access accepts everyone, but not everyone can satisfy the graduation regime. Although the rate of graduation is lower, the totally number of graduate has increased. College enrollment and completion are different things.
I have a formula for learning,
Learner + accessibility + interactivity -> Learning
Open access solve the problem of accessibility in learning; but whether learners learn or not depends on the interactivity: interact with content, with peers, with instructor… Graduation depends on the learning outcomes. It is hard to evaluate graduation based on the enrollment.
It is a big challenge in open access colleges and universities to keep students to learn. It is the retention issue. I find although we have the open access mode in enrollment, the way we teach in higher education has not been changed much. Traditionally higher education is like a sifting process. Everyone goes through the same process, and only those who can fit will go through. In a way, it is fair because it is about learned or not. Higher education has dramatically increase open access colleges and universities; however higher education has not thoroughly considered to systematically increase the interactivity in learning yet. There are innovation in higher education to improve interactivity, such as supplemental instruction (SI, peer interaction) and using visual and audio content in instruction, online or face-to-face (content interaction). In my work, I often see these are not very effective. In my class, I cannot have my best students to be the SI leaders. Majority of the students work, and we are a commute college. They only stay on campus for the classes. And the small compensation to be a SI leader does not attract to them much.
I am looking for ways to increase the interactivity in the teaching and learning. I find the university design of learning can provide some ideas about how to do this. The interactivity in learning has multiple dimensions: with content, peers and instructor. It requires systemic design work. Below are guideline in universal design of learning.