A Close Look at Rio Salado College’s Approach to Boosting Success for At-Risk Online Students

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The US Department of Education has awarded multi-million dollar "First in the World" grants to 18 colleges, universities, and organizations that are innovating to solve critical challenges with access, recruitment, retention, and student success. At AI, we have interviewed each of the recipients to learn more about the projects these institutions are pursuing, how their approaches are unique, and what other colleges and universities can learn from these new efforts.

2015 was the second year of the First in the World grants. You can read our interviews with the 24 institutions that received 2014 grants here.

by Lisa Cook and Daniel Fusch, Academic Impressions

If you're looking for ways to assist online students who are academically under-prepared, you may want to watch Rio Salado College’s developing research project, PLan for Undergraduate Success (PLUS). The two-year college’s latest initiative targets new students pursuing an associate degree or planning to transfer to a four-year institution, and will allow Rio Salado to route additional support and preparation to these students. Assisted by a $2.7 million First in the World grant, the college hopes to increase degree completion and persistence by personalizing learning, supporting students with a college success course and facilitator, and by offering an online boot camp to minimize the need for remediation.

Each of the program’s main elements is replicable at other institutions: the key at Rio Salado College is how all four are integrated with and build on each other:

  1. An Online Boot Camp for students who test into developmental courses
  2. A College Success Seminar
  3. A focused course sequence to help students be successful early in their college career
  4. An adaptive learning platform, with support provided by a PLUS facilitator

We talked with Shannon McCarty, dean of Instruction and Academic Affairs, to learn more about each of these components.

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