Learning Assistant Workshop at Chicago State University/Harold Washington College, March 24-25, 2017

1. Jim Rabchuk and Susan Brooks from WIU QC attended.
2. We prepared a poster on our proposed 3 year pilot project.
3. We engaged in discussions on the three aspects of the LA model: Learning Assistants in the classroom, the Pedagogy class, and the Weekly Preparation session with the faculty.
4. In addition, we heard various presentations on unique features of various programs, with a special emphasis on how TYC (two year colleges) and FYI (four year institutions) could work together.
5. We had question and answer sessions with learning assistants from CSU, HWC, and Cleveland State University
6. Plus we had time for information sharing with other participants.

Things we learned, connections we made, and ideas we had at the workshop:
1. We decided that for the pilot we would have a joint weekly preparation session with the two faculty members and the 4 LA’s, to help coordinate course preparation, and to see how students in the Engineering program were doing across several courses. We identified several goals for those prep sessions
a. Review of past week successes and failures
b. Identify needs for class review and for intervention with particular students
c. Consider different pedagogical approaches
d. Model and role play healthy learning dynamics
e. Review of content for LA’s.
2. We had a lot of positive feedback on our pilot proposal, especially the fact that we were controlling for the variables by having just two instructors involved initially.
3. The flip side to the benefit of starting small is that our data sizes will be small, so we’ll have to be wise in how we collect data and demonstrate effectiveness of the intervention.
4. We learned from the LA’s that they are able to help work with students on content, study skills, and discussing life-challenges.
5. Susie was able to connect with several faculty from other institutions who are using the LA model in Calculus classes.
6. Several institutions that are already using LA’s suggested having current or former HS teachers lead or at least participate in the Pedagogy class.
7. We had an idea that, in addition to exploring how this project might expand to the Macomb campus, we might be able to work together with Black Hawk in supplying LA’s to them for their Physics and Calculus classes from some of their graduates who continued on in the Engineering program.

Heather Calvert’s report from the 2017 Great Lakes Regional Student Success Conference in Detroit

It was a great conference. I came off without my notes today, but here is a short overview: Peer mentors, or in class peer tutors are proving to be successful based on outcomes from other programs in use by schools presenting. There is a large focus on equity services, that some students need more assistance than others, or different types of interventions. I was impressed by a presentation by Harper College who has partnered with their in-district high schools to help better prepare students to enter college ready to take College English and Math. They have also established a program that allows students to “earn” their education based on their performance in high school, which includes areas beyond just their academic performance (attendance, turning in homework assignments in addition to a relatively modest GPA requirement (I can’t remember if it was a 2.0 or a 2.5). They identified these factors by going into the business community in their area and finding out what basic skills employers were looking for: showing up on time, being trainable, etc.

I also sat in on a few really good programs geared towards first generation students. One was a program developed by UM Deaborn, which provides a scholarship to first generation college students who are required to earn “points” each term by engaging in campus resources, or events. They have a full time advisor to help counsel the students and host events for the group, but they have taken on a persona kind of like a student organization with pins that they wear to help spread the word about the program, and to identify themselves to faculty/staff/students.

The other presentation that sticks out in my mind was a partnership between a Local College Access Network (Local branch of MCAN, I don’t know that we have those as a part of ICAN), and local community foundation, and a 4 yr. institution. Their program also focusses on first generation students, but has a graduate student (in counselor ed program) who serves as a mentor/counselor to students awarded the scholarship from the community foundation. The award is renewable and is not tied to a school. The community foundation had a change in focus so now when someone wants to start a scholarship with them, they focus on this program, as opposed to encouraging the donor to set up strict guidelines (someone majoring in math who came from Milan).

Significant Accomplishments for the Persistence and Rentention Commitee

Phase I of the data warehouse is finished, enabling completion of initial data analyses. To complement analytic work, we have completed a retention inventory of institutional programs and services available to Macomb, Quad Cities and Distance Learning students. The predictive analytic framework will allow us to identify who is at-risk, and the retention matrix will help us identify where results should be referred.

This set of preliminary analysis is scheduled to be presented as a poster presentation at the Academy Poster Fair at the HLC Conference on April 18, 2016.

September Distance Learning Team Update

On September 15, 2015, the Distance Education Team met. One of the many accomplishments of the meeting was to provide several Tips for the website. One tip they put forth advises distance education instructors to avoid cognitive overload by “chunking” content into manageable sizes. In order to ensure this, instructors could have a colleague outside their discipline see if pages of content seem reasonable. More tips from this team will be on the website soon. The team also provided a list of retention practices that will be added to a spreadsheet being compiled by the Steering Team. Finally, the team reviewed and made some changes to the survey they plan to send to students who have taken distance courses. The Distance Education team plans to meet again on October 20.

September Steering Team Update

On Thursday September 3, 2015, the Steering Team met for its regularly scheduled meeting. The topics included a discussion of HLC Academy Mentor Feedback. The feedback was not as positive as we had hoped, however, even before we received the mentors’ comments, we had begun to make changes. One of big changes is the new website design. As time goes on we expect the site to become more and more interactive. We have also started a newsletter and intend to promote the website elsewhere. Another concern was our lack of data analysis. A major part of this project is building a data warehouse, which in itself is likely going to have the most long-lasting impact of all things that come from this project. Once the warehouse information is verified, we can begin analysis on data from it, but at this point we are still a few months away from that. In the meantime there will be some analysis on already existing data from the factbook as well as from already existing data sets. Results will be forthcoming within the month.

Two Years into HLC Persistence and Completion Academy

In late 2013, WIU applied and was accepted to the Higher Learning Commission’s Persistence and Completion Academy. The Academy is a structured, mentored, four-year program aimed at evaluating and improving student persistence and completion. WIU has made significant progress.

Nearly two years ago WIU started the Persistence and Completion Academy with the overarching question “What are the patterns of retention rates, and what factors foster or inhibit student persistence?” Applying that question to the context of the WIU student experience, the team began to focus on three separate groups of students based on location and instructional modality: First-Time Freshmen Starting on the Macomb Campus, Undergraduate Students at the Quad Cities Campus, Off-Campus Undergraduate Students.

We have developed a communication structure to share information, data and analysis. We have also begun to build a data warehouse which, once completed and tested, will open the door to ongoing analysis of more than just persistence and completion trends. It will also allow for more just-in-time data needs to be met, more data driven decisions to be made and resources appropriately targeted.

To begin studying institutional retention and graduation rates, all three teams have independently focused on a set of indicators that were surprisingly similar to each other. The indicators we are now focusing on are the following:

  • Admissions type (freshmen, transfer, special admissions, dual enrollment)
  • Full time versus Part time
  • First semester GPA
  • Program/Major
  • Pell/MAP eligible and/or received (socioeconomic status)
  • Commitment scholarship received (tuition discounting for high need students)
  • Enrolled in English 100 or Math 099 (remedial courses)
  • Number of first semester DFWIUs (grade deficiencies)

Once the data warehouse is deployed, we will begin analyzing the information in both SPSS and WEKA, then using the university’s structures that are already in place, take our findings to the group most appropriate to affect change.