Focus on Faculty: Radhika Reddy
Author: Office of Academic Innovation
Posted: January 31, 2019


Bringing Adaptive to Life:

Instructor Radhika Reddy Introduces 
Adaptive Learning in PSU Biology Course

Meet Dr. Radhika Reddy, an instructor pioneering adaptive learning in her classroom at the Portland State University’s Biology Department. Dr. Reddy teaches Fundamentals of Biology, a foundational survey course taken by non-majors that poses a challenge to instructors seeking to meet students where they are at: “One of the best ways to get science to resonate with new learners is to build on what they already know,” says Radhika, “ and with the broad scope of the PSU student body, we see this incredible diversity in what students’ prior experiences are around science, math, chemistry, and physics. This creates a huge challenge around targeting the curriculum so that all students will benefit."

Seeking an impactful solution, Radhika has been working with an Instructional Designer and UX Designer at the Office of Academic Innovation to redesign the survey course. "In the adaptive platform, I see the opportunity to create access and support diversity,” she says, indicating the adaptive learning platform, Cogbooks, she integrated with her lectures in the classroom and an open source textbook. Radhika says she was drawn to Cogbooks because she could introduce open source content, effectively lowering the cost barrier for students and allowing her to align the course’s content with national standards for biology instruction. Students interact with their homework through the adaptive platform, learning foundational vocabulary and central concepts, and then attend lectures on campus that go one level deeper around critical thinking, problem solving and troubleshooting with their instructor. The adaptive system supports students in working through each week’s material, assesses their mastery, and tracks their progress. If they are struggling with the week’s content, the system matches them with prerequisite material and they are able to reach out to the instructor immediately with questions.

Launching the newly adaptive first section of Fundamentals of Biology in the spring of 2018, Radhika was prepared for hiccups. “There are always problems with early adoption. I anticipated that there were going to be problems and that the students weren't going to

Above: Dr. Radhika Reddy, Assistant Professor in the
Biology Department at Portland State University

like it...they have to put all of this energy into learning something new that actually isn't content.” But to her surprise, the launch went fairly smoothly. Radhika received weekly reports through Cogbooks on each student’s progress and found that she prized her interactions with students through the platform.

"In the adaptive platform, I see the opportunity to create access and support diversity.”

“Through online student assessments, I can develop a sense of how they are doing in real time. In addition, they can ask me questions as they're going through the online assessments, which is helpful in identifying issues with content structure and delivery...In our first run-through, I was really happy with the kind of questions that I was getting from the students and the way that I could address those questions.”

Above: Radhika worked with an Instructional Designer and UX Designer from the Office of Academic Innovation throughout the planning, designing, and launching of her course.

“It is instant feedback on how I am doing my job,” she says.

Now a year into the redesign process, Radhika has adapted the full sequence of Fundamentals of Biology using Cogbooks. She says she likes the platform but trusts that it's really time and data analysis that are going to show results. The time investment, she points out, was also substantial, as she and and a Teaching Assistant from her department, Emily Morris, had to put many hours into content alignment. “It was harder than I thought it was going be...I think to remain optimistic one needs to be realistic about the time commitments involved in adopting a new pedagogy,” she notes.”

Despite this challenge, she recommends adaptive to those seeking to create access and support diversity in the classroom. It offers the potential to lower costs for students, and introduces interactive homework systems and learning analytics that support the instructor in serving their students’ individual needs. As the platforms mature, she imagines that the adoption process may be smoother for future instructors. “I think the time investment that was required of me may not necessarily be required to use adaptive in the future.” Adopting this new pedagogy into her course has brought her insight into what’s next for adaptive, as well, perceptivity that she plans to share with her community at PSU: “I have learned a lot about what I'm doing right and what I'm doing wrong and what needs to be changed.”


Want to learn more about Radhika's experience and Adaptive Learning at PSU?
Join colleagues in conversation this February.


Lunch + Learn: Improving Student
Success in Gateway Courses

Feb 6th and 8th, 12PM, SMSU 209

Learn how Active + Adaptive is now impacting STEM disciplines and has potential to improve student access to gateway courses at PSU. Join us in conversation with Radhika Reddy, who teaches the Biology for non-majors sequence, and Priya Jamkhedkar, who teaches the Algebra-based introductory Physics sequence, and learn about their experiments with Active + Adaptive strategies in their respective courses. Please join us for an OAI hosted lunch on either Feb 6th or 8th at 12PM, and learn about their early successes as well as the unique challenges of applying this work.