Adapting to Developmental Ed

By Steve Kolowich

With public higher education systems under political pressure to increase completion rates, and foundations offering grants to colleges that are using new technologies to help usher students through to a degree, education technology companies are seeing a ripe market of potential buyers for new e-learning products — in particular, software aimed at high school graduates who lack the basic reading, writing, and math skills to succeed at the college level.

Technology geared toward helping students “catch up” has been around for a while, but only recently has it achieved a potentially game-changing level of sophistication, according to Carol Twigg, president of the National Center for Academic Transformation. “These products that 10 years ago were sort of iffy, at best, have now become remarkably mature and high quality products,” she says. And while public higher ed systems are seeing their budgets cut, developmental education is in such bad shape that many colleges are prepared to spend — often with foundation support — on products they think could help bring them more in line with state and national completion goals. There are many contracts to be won, Twigg says.

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