USG Incubator RFP: Coastal Connection Initiative

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1 USG Incubator RFP: Coastal Connection Initiative Proposal Project Lead: Heidi Leming, Vice President for Student Affairs, Other Team Members: Dr. Phil Mason, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Kay Hampton, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Niki Schmauch, Coordinator of Academic Services, Dr. Phillis George, Director of Service Learning, Dr. Michael Butcher, Dean of Students/Director of Residence Life, Clayton Daniels, AVP for Enrollment Management, Project Category: Proof- of- Concept or Start Up/Data- Driven Student Engagement Overview of Project: The central focus of Coastal Connection is to direct students into a degree pathway that connects a student s desired career outcome with courses, while also building an academic culture that encourages commitment to institutional mission and timely degree completion. The seeks to build norms and expectations of timely degree completion through an extended orientation program that includes freshmen convocation, a freshmen community service project, and first- year common read program. The goal is to improve freshmen to sophomore retention rates through integrated support starting in orientation through a three- prong approach: faculty advisement, peer mentors, and participation in mandatory supplemental instruction. There will be a total of seven learning communities that will serve as pilot groups: two residential communities, four commuter groups (one to be housed at our Camden location), and one adult learner group. These cohorts will be pre- assigned to connected freshmen seminar (CCGA 1101) and ENGL 1101 courses that provide student navigators (referred to as Connection Leaders) and supplemental instructors. Impact on Completion: Students will have default pathways where they are pre- registered for their first semester and must ask for permission from their academic adviser to change courses. Less choice in course selection and automatic placement in gateway courses, will give students a clearer path. Students in learning support will be integrated with other students to establish expectations for academic success and provide peer- on- peer support. All freshmen will be enrolled in credit hours to keep students thinking of the importance of maintaining a full credit load in order to graduate on time. Professional advisers for each school will meet with students within the first two weeks of the semester to ensure students have selected the appropriate degree program and become familiar with the advising process. The intended result will be productive persistence between freshmen and sophomore year and the enculturation of elevated expectations for academic performance and persistence that will lead to higher completion rates. 1

2 Potential Lessons to be Learned: Data from both groups of freshmen students (those that are part of the pilot program and those that are not in connected learning communities), will be gathered at the end of the fall 2013 semester to assess differences in outcomes to interventions. Retention rates for freshmen between fall to fall will be compared to explore the impact of the revised orientation and advising model, freshmen convocation, and common read impacts fall to spring retention rates for all freshmen. Course evaluations for CCGA 1101 and ENGL 1101 will be used to examine differences between the students participating in the pilot group and the control group. Data- driven student engagement will inform future practice in the first year and lead to quality improvement in the orientation and first- year gateway courses. Concept Description: Lessons learned from Stan Jones at the Complete College America program, provide three Completion Cornerstones that form the basis for this initiative: time to degree, choice, and structure. Students need to spend less time completing a degree, fewer choices in academic coursework, and structured pathways to career goals. By developing academic support strategies in gateway courses, more students will achieve success. It is the goal of the Coastal Connection initiative, using connection leaders and mandatory supplemental instruction, to increase the academic success of first year students in ENGL The revised orientation and advising model will clearly direct students to courses that lead to specific career goals providing structure that will limit time to degree. While the has worked hard in the last year to develop a completion plan that addresses freshmen to sophomore retention rates and timely degree completion for all students, more attention is needed to bring the various projects together in a seamless experience for students. In order to maximize the potential impact of these various retention strategies, the Coastal Connection initiative will connect each project in an intentional and organized approach to measure the effectiveness of these strategies on a pilot group of students. As an access institution, specific concerns around remediation and time to degree completion created an urgency to identify better strategies to support students. This led to the decision to track students into courses that align with clear career pathways, the integration of learning support students, increasing the number of credit hours for freshmen, and less choice in course selection. The College will continue to utilize an early alert program where students who are at risk are identified by faculty. The early alert program, however, will drive follow up at the school level directly with student advisees. Use of analytics in D2L and earlier classroom assessment will provide additional data that can be used to inform future practice. Assessment of the pilot group to the larger freshmen class will give useful data on the strategies that yield the greatest impact on retention. The College will then replicate these strategies on a larger scale in future years with the intent of building a campus culture that supports student persistence and, ultimately, timely degree completion. 2

3 Connection to the Campus Completion Plan As stated in CCGA s Complete College Georgia Plan, this project directly aligns with: Goal 2: Expand and improve retentions systems and instructional delivery to support student success through the implementation of a revised orientation and advising model, learning communities, peer mentor and supplemental instructors to support student learning, and support for co- curricular learning opportunities through a common read and service- learning project. Goal 3: Promote and increase student campus and community engagement through an extended orientation program the first two weeks of the semester that includes a freshmen convocation and service- learning project, co- curricular programming connecting to themes of the common read, and support for additional co- curricular programming provided by the Connection Leaders affiliated with the learning communities. Theory of change/logic Model The Coastal Connection initiative supports evidence found in the literature that structured program pathways are more effective (CCA, 2013; CCSE, 2012) and a student s productive persistence is a combination of motivation, engaged learning, and skill attainment (Pathways, 2011). The re- design of freshmen orientation and freshmen advising will intentionally socialize students to the College environment and creates a culture of timely degree attainment. Connection Leaders, who are peer mentors assigned to learning communities at orientation and then work with the same cohort of students through the freshmen seminar course, provide another layer of peer support which encourages successful transition from high school to college. Furthermore, developing a campus culture, which communicates high expectations for student performance, is an effective practice for increasing academic performance (ACE, 2013; Schilling & Schilling, 1999). The re- establishment of freshman convocation, the intentional inclusion of a service- project into the curriculum of the freshmen seminar course, and the requirement that all freshmen engage in a common read (connected to ENGL 1101) will engage students as learners in meaningful ways to other students, faculty, and staff. The implementation of learning communities is a pedagogical strategy to increase active and connected learning, which fosters a sense of collaborative community (Cross, 1998). While the concept of supplemental instruction is not new to the College, the Coastal Connection initiative will organize supplemental instruction to be a primary pedagogical tool in the learning communities through the 3

4 ENGL 1101 courses, which also connects to the common read program. This approach removes the stigma that supplemental instruction is for students needing academic support and provides academic assistance to all students in a freshmen gateway course. Supplemental instruction builds upon the theory of collaborative and active learning by using peer- on- peer support. Active learning is enhanced in learning communities where supplemental instructors will engage in academic assistance. Goals and Objectives As stated in CCGA s Complete College Georgia Plan, this project directly aligns with Goal 2: Expand and improve retentions systems and instructional delivery to support student success and Goal 3: Promote and increase student campus and community engagement through the following objectives: Objective 1: Establish clearly defined academic pathways for entering freshmen. Objective 2: Establish a campus academic culture that encourages student identity with the College and its service- learning mission. Objective 3: Establish a campus academic culture that encourages campus support for academic persistence and degree completion. Objective 4: Establish greater connectivity between students academic and co- curricular experiences. Objective 5: Establish early programmatic interventions to help students identify career plans. Project Plan: Phase 1: Revision of Orientation and Advising Model (Summer 2013 September 2013) Activities: a) revision of Orientation program to place a greater emphasis on campus resources, connectivity to campus culture and academic expectations, and introduction of common read; b) implementation of pre- registration for first semester courses and online preparatory programs; and, c) extension of orientation activities through the first two weeks of fall classes. Phase 2: Implementation of Common Academic Experience (August 2013 December 2013) Activities: a) introduction of College s first common read experience which will be required for all incoming freshmen and connected to the ENGL 1101 and CCGA 1101 courses; b) introduction of College s first Freshmen Convocation which will be required for all freshmen, faculty, and academic/student affairs support staff to set the tone and re- enforce the culture of community and productive persistence; and, c) sharing of academic and co- curricular resources and events through the provision of an academic planner to all freshmen as part of convocation. Phase 3: Implementation of Learning Communities (August 2013 December 2013) Activities: a) creation of seven pilot learning communities (two residentially- based, four commuter, and one for adult learners); b) assignment of students in learning communities to similar CCGA 1101 and ENGL 1101 courses with one peer mentor assigned to each CCGA 1101 course and one supplemental instructor assigned to each ENGL 1101 course; c) establishment of funds for co- curricular activities for each pilot group to strengthen connections outside of classroom; and, d) implementation of a community service- project with all pilot groups to introduce them to the service- learning mission of the College. 4

5 Project Evaluation: Summer Orientation/Intro to Common Read: Each entering freshmen will receive a copy of the common read book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks when they attend summer orientation. Peer mentors, referred to as Connection Leaders will introduce the book to students and build excitement. Evaluation: pre and post Orientation surveys, CCGA 1101 and ENGL 1101 course evaluations, and freshmen retention rate will provide best practices and inform future revisions to orientation and advising model. Freshmen Convocation: All freshmen, faculty, and key support staff will gather on the first day of class to set the academic tone for the school year, have the freshmen identify as belonging to a cohort and will be welcomed into the life of the College. All attendees will receive an academic databook/planner with key resources and events to assist them in their planning and reinforce engagement opportunities. Evaluation: pre and post Orientation surveys and freshmen retention rate will provide best practices and inform future convocation programming. Connection Leader Activities: For the seven CCGA 1101 and ENGL 1101 course learning communities, the connection leader and faculty assigned to those courses will be given funds to conduct out- of- class activities the encourage student involvement in the life of the College in order to encourage a deeper understanding of resources available on campus to assist students in their academic success. Evaluation: pre and post Orientation surveys, CCGA 1101 and ENGL 1101 course evaluations, and freshmen retention rate will inform best practices in peer mentoring and co- curricular programming Common Read Keynote: A speaker will be brought to campus to discuss the Common Read and to shed light on their personal experiences related in the book. Students will be able to ask questions of the speaker to gain a greater appreciation and make personal connections with the themes found in the book. Evaluation: CCGA 1101 and ENGL 1101 course evaluations and freshmen retention rate will inform future co- curricular programming around common read selections. Service- Learning Project: The seven pilot learning communities will engage in a community service project to introduce them to the service- learning mission of the College. Evaluation: pre and post service- learning project surveys and freshmen retention rate will guide future service- learning efforts for freshmen. Supplemental Instructors: Supplemental Instructors will be assigned to the seven ENGL 1101 courses connected to a learning community. These supplemental instructors will provide tutoring services to students in the learning communities. Evaluation: ENGL 1101 course evaluations and freshmen retention rate will inform revisions to supplemental instructor program. 5

6 Sources American Council on Education. (2013, January). An open letter to college and university leaders: College completion must be our priority. Center for Community College Student Engagement. (2012). A Matter of Degrees: Promising Practices in Community College Student Success. Complete College America. (2013). Guided Pathways to Success: Boosting College Completion. Cross, P. (1998). Why learning communities? Why now? About Campus, Pathways. (2011, September 29). There is More to College Success than Test Scores and Lesson Plans: Carnegie s Focus on Productive Persistence. Schilling, K.M. & Schilling, K. L. (1999). Increasing expectations for student effort. About Campus,

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