SPOTLIGHT ON INNOVATION SERIES
The US Department of Education has awarded multi-million dollar "First in the World" grants to 24 colleges and universities 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.
by Lisa Cook & Daniel Fusch, Academic Impressions
It is well known that traditional "remedial courses" are not working for the majority of students assigned to them; College for America at Southern New Hampshire University (CfA) is helping underprepared students with a new approach that circumvents remedial education altogether. This concurrent model enables students to pursue college-level work while receiving targeted academic support.
CfA’s work is supported by a $3.93 million First in the World grant, and we reached out to Cathrael Kazin, Chief Academic Officer of College for America, to learn more about their work.
Anywhere between 25 to 40 percent of undergraduates take at least one remedial course, but studies have shown that students who enroll in remedial courses are less likely to complete the course or a college degree. Some estimate that less than 50 percent of students complete the course, and only a quarter of community college students who enroll in remedial education will earn a degree or certificate within eight years.
“In the vast majority of cases, no matter how well-meaning the administrators, no matter how hard the students work, and no matter how hard the instructors try, it’s really limbo land for a lot of students,” explains Kazin. Their solution: place students in the regular curriculum and offer concurrent assistance to address needs as they arise.
JUICE: Just-in-Time Contextualized and Empowering Academic Assistance
CfA termed the project JUICE to highlight their just-in-time, contextualized and empowering approach:
- Students engage in JUICE concurrently, rather than as a prerequisite to college-level work
- Students encounter JUICE within the context of what they are already doing in their college-level work
- JUICE is competency-based, which aligns it with the competency-based education that CfA already offers
- JUICE is student-driven, with gaming elements, dashboards and incentives to increase motivation and persistence
JUICE uses learning packages that target key CfA competencies, such as making an argument, Kazin notes. Students then access a series of mini-lessons on the relevant subcompetencies of the competency, such as identifying arguments and supporting arguments, and play games that enable them to assess their progress before returning to their regular CfA work.
"I think that this is a brand new way of thinking about how to help students who are eager to succeed in college. What happens now is that they come to college ready to learn and they get diverted from their goals, almost immediately," Kazin notes. "We want to change that so students are in charge of their learning."
The Research Component
The research portion of the project studies how students who aren't fully prepared for college access help, how they think of themselves as learners, how they conceive of what they need, and what forms of help are likely to be used by them and used productively. Kazin explains that this research helps the JUICE team determine the kinds of interventions that students need, as opposed to starting with a hypothesis about what students need and then piloting it. In addition, the grant will evaluate the effectiveness of the JUICE interventions through a randomized controlled trial.
Why You Should Watch this Project
Although this approach will work well with CfA's self-paced competency-based program, the model could be more challenging for schools that do not have competency-based programming. Kazin's team will focus on replication activities during the fourth year of the grant, so that the model can be adopted or adapted by other schools for their own purposes.
To facilitate use by other schools, the learning packages will be set up on a website rather than embedded within a specific learning management system. CfA is also working with a user-design firm to design packages that are attractive and effective for students.
TO CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION:
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Want to see more approaches to developmental education redesign?
In 2013, Academic Impressions released a report interviewing academic leaders at two-year and four-year institutions that offer effective alternative approaches to traditional developmental education. These institutions have seen significant gains in retention and completion rates. Learn more from their example in our free report.
You may also be interested in our recent Spotlight on Innovation article highlighting a new approach to developmental education at Gateway Community and Technical College.