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Carolina Distance Learning® Customized Lab Kits: The Perfect Accompaniment for Open-Source Textbooks

by Carolina Distance Learning Staff on June 15, 2018
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Carolina Distance Learning® Customized Lab Kits: The Perfect Accompaniment for Open-Source Textbooks

The last few decades have seen a whirlwind of change in educational approaches and innovations. Many of the changes brought increased costs, such as those for textbooks, software, and supporting materials, that often bar students from access to the courses they want and need. As a result, colleges are always on the lookout for ways to provide students with cost-effective options that maintain high levels of academic rigor. One of the more recent trends in meeting this need is the development of open-source textbooks, the adoption of which can save students hundreds of dollars per course.

Louis McIntyre can attest to the great potential of open-source textbooks in the search for reliable, student-friendly resources. McIntyre is responsible for developing the distance learning program at Rockingham Community College, and has been teaching life and physical sciences for the past 13 years. He is currently redesigning courses using high-quality, readily adaptable open-source science textbooks from OpenStax™. Always ready to take a good idea to the next level, McIntyre has developed an online Introductory Chemistry course that uses an open-source textbook and a customized distance learning lab kit from Carolina Distance Learning® (CDL).

The result? A comprehensive solution for distance learning science courses that helps remove the scheduling and financial barriers many students face.

Customize for Alignment and Savings

McIntyre is aware of one of the key criteria in developing a distance learning science course—ensuring that the content meets the curriculum’s learning outcomes. He also knows from previous experience that CDL has a wide range of lab experiments to choose from, making it easy to build just the right kit for a particular class. And if he has a unique learning outcome to address, CDL works with him to design a lab that meets that need.

Another alignment consideration described by McIntyre is the need to meet partner schools’ credit transfer requirements. For example, community college students often plan to transfer to a four-year school. Knowing this, many community colleges collaborate with other regional colleges to design curricula that will ensure full credit transfer. Being able to build a customized lab kit that fully aligns with such requirements can have long-range implications for students and their educational goals.

All of this customizing may give the impression that the final kit will be costly. Not so, says McIntyre. CDL is able to provide very cost-efficient lab kits because each kit is customized for the specific course in which it will be used, eliminating unnecessary materials and costs. One-size-fits-all kits are not as cost efficient as customized kits because they may include unneeded materials or lack needed materials. CDL’s commitment to customization overcomes those concerns.

Provide Quality and Equivalency

Colleges that want to expand their distance learning course offerings are often concerned about the quality of available lab kits and their ability to provide the same level of learning as on-campus labs. CDL lab kits are well known for their high-quality materials and easy-to-follow instructions—characteristics confirmed by feedback from faculty and students alike. And because they are built around the course’s learning outcomes, the kits parallel the focus of on-campus labs.

CDL labs are designed and tested by experienced science teachers to ensure quality and effectiveness. As expressed by McIntyre, “I know from experience that Carolina lab kits are high-quality and every bit equivalent to those completed in on-campus classes.” McIntyre recognizes that combining a peer-reviewed, high-quality open-source textbook with a high-quality customized lab kit from CDL will provide students with an outstanding learning experience.

Expand Student Access

Students find it easier to fit the classes they need into their schedules when their college offers a wide range of class options, including distance learning courses. Combine this scheduling flexibility with the cost savings realized when an open-source textbook is paired with a customized CDL kit, and students are often able to fit more classes into a semester.

Once enrolled in their distance learning class, McIntyre explains, students find the CDL lab kits easy to use and very engaging. This leads to student learning and success, and also increases the student’s confidence in their ability to successfully complete other online courses.

Enhance Student and College Success

Adopting this comprehensive solution benefits the college as well as students. Increased course offerings and lower costs for class materials provide students with the flexibility needed to pursue and successfully complete their education. In turn, the college anticipates increased student enrollment, retention, success, and completion rates.

McIntyre is excited to be able to offer students another great online science course. Thanks to the perfect pairing of an open-source textbook and customized CDL lab kit, he knows students will enjoy the course and find success. He and the CDL team are proud to help students overcome barriers to their educational access and achievement.

“Carolina lab kits are high quality and provide experiences equivalent to on-campus classes."

—Louis McIntyre, Title III Project Director, Rockingham Community College