How CourseGateway Centers Equity in Independent Reviews of College Courseware
College and university faculty selecting quality digital courseware may be aware of an early version of CourseGateway, a free website that helps faculty, department chairs, program committees, deans, and other academic leaders filter and select digital courseware based on a variety of criteria. But since an equity audit in 2022 and the engagement of a panel of independent reviewers, the courseware-evaluation tool has become a more robust resource for addressing the needs of all learners.
“CourseGateway has always strived to be an all-in-one platform for discovering and evaluating courseware,” says Andrea Jones-Davis, director of CourseGateway at EDUCAUSE. “The relaunched version now lets faculty and administrators put equity at the center of that selection process. It helps them with their goals of ensuring equitable outcomes for all students.” CourseGateway particularly emphasizes gateway (introductory) courses where persistence and completion gaps for Black, Latino/Latina, Indigenous, poverty-affected, and first-generation students often start.
Rather than evaluate all of the education technology and digital learning universe, CourseGateway focuses on digital courseware—instructional content that is scoped and sequenced to support the delivery of an entire course. Users can filter products by price, discipline, learning management system integration, and product attributes.
The CourseGateway Independent Review Process
Another way CourseGateway differs from other software-review sites is that its evaluations are developed by independent experts guided by criteria established by a Product Advisory Board representing a breadth of experience and institutional settings. (CourseGateway is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It does not sell courseware or earn money from commissions or referrals.)
For example, among the updated criteria used in the evaluation process is how much a product promotes equitable outcomes for Black, Latino/Latina, and Indigenous students, first-generation students, and students from low-income backgrounds. Reviewers look at the documentation and the platform to see if the learning activities allow the instructor the flexibility to incorporate culturally responsive materials, or if the design and development of the product is based on research that considers student populations by race and income. Other updated evaluation criteria include efficacy, functionality, systems capabilities, and privacy/data protection/rights.
“The Product Advisory Board is working with a vision for what digital learning can do and is holding these courseware products to meaningful standards,” Jones-Davis says. “The board members know from their experience that if educators are supported to select and implement excellent courseware tools, they can transform learning.”
CourseGateway serves a range of users including tenured faculty updating a familiar course and contingent faculty hired on short notice to teach an unfamiliar course. Instructors may also be teaching in a variety of modalities such as fully face-to-face, fully online and asynchronous, and hybrid. Other users of the site might be departmental committees selecting a common courseware for multiple sections of a gateway course.
As a result, faculty might be using courseware products as a textbook replacement, as a ready-made roadmap for the academic term, or as a complement to an established syllabus. For example, an instructor who has already built a course in a learning management system like Canvas could use CourseGateway to filter products and select the best option to enhance the existing course resources within Canvas.
The EDUCAUSE team met with product suppliers to develop relationships and engaged a UX/UI design services team to create a new user experience. The updated CourseGateway site has a streamlined flow and navigation for faculty and other users.
In August 2022, the CourseGateway site added a Community Resources section featuring authoritative and practical guidance on using courseware. The resources will particularly emphasize implementation, the challenging stage following the selection of a particular tool.
“Digital learning has a lot of potential to close equity gaps, but it doesn’t happen automatically,” Jones-Davis says. “It takes committed faculty thinking about how to use courseware effectively. Fortunately, there is a serious community of professionals willing to share their experience, and we’re excited to feature their voices.”
What’s Next for CourseGateway?
Currently, CourseGateway features reviews of products from 16 vendors or publishers across 12 academic subjects. One of the next goals is to work with those providers to submit more courseware for review. The Product Advisory Board is also committed to updating product reviews on the platform as those products themselves are updated.
The Product Advisory Board also wants to keep updating and refining the review process, says Jones-Davis, by engaging with faculty and student focus groups. “CourseGateway is a helpful one-stop tool now,” she says, “but the board has a vision to make it so much more. They’re engaging with their colleagues at their own institutions and with the field at large to make sure the platform keeps up with the rapid growth of digital learning.”
Start discovering and selecting equity-based courseware here