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Vanguard Learning College



Institutional Profile

Outstanding Features of Learning College

Project Plans

Solutions to Problems and Issues

Advice to Our Colleagues




Solutions to Problems and Issues—Compiled Spring, 2002

IV. Student Engagement

For further information, contact Nancy Cure at cure@morainevalley.edu

Part A.
Orienting and Engaging Students in Learning-Centered Education

1.  What student behaviors are most critically related to learning success?  How does your college promote and support these behaviors?
One of the most critical student behaviors for learning success is making connections with instructors and other students, both inside and outside the classroom. Students who make these connections become comfortable within the college environment because they believe they share common interests and academic abilities with other students and faculty. These students are more likely to find the academic environment challenging instead of overwhelming. They are more likely to be aware of and seek needed support and resources and are more likely to continue their college enrollment.

The college has many programs, services and classroom activities to promote and support student connections in the learning process. Mandatory assessment and placement in basic skills courses is an important first step. Ensuring that students begin academic courses at the appropriate level is critical in helping students become involved in the learning process. Such placement allows students to connect with other students with common academic challenges and abilities as well as build the necessary academic skills to move forward.

New student orientation and the required first-semester student success course (COL-101) promote and support student behaviors critical for learning success. Both provide students opportunities to learn skills critical for student success, to connect with faculty and other students and to learn about campus resources. 

Classroom practices that allow students to work together and to receive frequent feedback from instructors promotes and supports learning success. Full time faculty are required to schedule and post office hours to provide meeting/conference times for students. They are also required to provide email addresses, office location, and phone numbers on the syllabus for each class.

The Academic Skills center provides individual tutoring assistance to students. Faculty and professional tutors provide assistance with a variety of topics. The center is open 56 hours per week.

2.  What key institutional practices at your college have been found to be linked to student retention and positive learning outcomes?

Mandatory assessment, placement, orientation and COL-101.

We know that the students most in need of assistance are the least likely to seek help. If orientation and COL-101 were offered only on a voluntary basis, few students would choose them. If testing and course placement were advisory, few students would follow the recommendations. By being proactive in providing support to students, by requiring course placement, orientation and COL-101, we make certain that all new students start at a level where they can be successful and that they learn about resources available to help them.

Preliminary results show that COL-101 has a positive impact on student retention. End of semester and end of year data for new fall 2000 students showed that students who successfully completed COL-101 had a higher GPA, completed a higher percentage of the credit hours in which they enrolled, and were more likely to enroll in the second semester and second year than students who were unsuccessful in COL-101 or who did not take COL-101.

 3.  What are your college's best practices in student orientation and first-year experience?

Moraine Valley requires that all new full-time students complete placement testing and orientation prior to first-semester registration. Orientation introduces college resources, reviews placement testing results and assists students with educational planning and first-semester registration. Led by a team of counselors and academic advisors, and continuously revised for improvement, the orientation program currently involves a variety of instructional media including use of an Internet orientation website, lecture, group discussion and individual assistance. 

Effective Spring 2000, Moraine Valley requires that in addition to the pre-semester orientation, all new full-time students complete a one credit hour student success course, COL-101, during their first semester. COL-101 helps students make a successful transition to the college environment by providing the opportunity for them to learn about campus resources, to develop essential academic skills and to learn about themselves in relation to the demands of higher education.  Through COL-101, students have the opportunity to connect with other students and with the faculty member teaching the course. COL-101 includes a module during which all students participate in an educational planning session with an academic advisor. A completed educational plan is one requirement for successfully completing the course.

4.  How can your college effectively assess, benchmark, monitor, and improve student engagement in learning?
Continue to track the success of COL-101 participants beyond the first semester. This will allow us to compare the characteristics of students who continue to experience academic success to those who do not in order to improve the academic success of all students.

Continue to conduct student focus groups to document students' experiences in learning.

Complete pre- and post- tests in remedial classes to assess what the student has learned in each course. Create opportunities for students and faculty to provide feedback regarding what is and is not working for student learning.

B. Creating Learning-Centered Programs for Underprepared Students

1.  What structures, policies, and processes have proven to be most critical in promoting the success of underprepared students at your college?
  • Mandatory assessment and placement

  • New student orientation

  • Mandatory counseling for students experiencing academic difficulties

  • Free tutoring and academic skills instruction

  • Mentoring program for minority students (DREAM program)

  • Academic advising specifically focused on promoting the achievement of minority students

  • COL-101

  • Academic Skills Center

Mandatory Assessment and Placement-Students registering for 12 or more credit hours are required to complete placement tests in reading, writing and mathematics, and participate in an orientation program prior to their first registration. Students registering for less than 12 credit hours are required to complete placement tests in reading, writing and mathematics prior to registering for composition or math courses, or after attempting eleven credit hours.

After students are assessed they are placed in the appropriate courses. Students must successfully complete the required course(s) to move to the next level coursework. Placement is enforced through the student registration system. It is also monitored after grades are posted at the end of each semester.  Students who do not complete required coursework with a grade of C or better are notified and required to re-register for the course.

Early Warning Support System (EWSS)-During the third week of the semester, faculty are asked to identify students who attending regularly, completing course assignments or achieving academic success. Students are sent a letter requesting that they meet with a counselor or the instructor to discuss their progress.

DREAM Mentoring Program-Directing Results Through Educational and Academic Mentoring (DREAM) is a staff/student program designed to help minority students reach educational and career goals, as well as provide social and personal direction. The DREAM program helps students overcome obstacles, share experiences and make new friends. Students are paired with two other students who share the same mentor. This program gives students a chance to foster a relationship with their mentor and other students of similar backgrounds and interests. Students are encouraged to interact with their mentor to develop a relationship conducive to learning about college and themselves. This interaction provides students with ideas and knowledge about different college interests and enhances students' abilities to make the right choices and decisions.

Academic Skills Center-The Academic Skills Center offers tutoring assistance in reading, communications, math, science, and other subjects. Tutors complete an eight hour training program and provide services to all levels of students. The Center also offers a supplemental instruction program for faculty interested in providing this service for students.

2.  What are the keys to creating information systems adequate to the need to track student progress and success at your college?  What performance indicators will help your college know how effective its approaches actually are?

Keys to information systems to track student progress:

  • Ability to track and monitor assessment and required placement

  • Ability to track placement exemptions

  • Ability to account for numerous student characteristics simultaneously (multiple test scores, course grades, intended program of study, etc.)

  • Ability to develop comprehensive database including student needs and expectations- not just abilities and performance data

  • Identify educational and career goals

  • Identify needs for support services

  • Ability to record student involvement in extracurricular activities

  • Ability to record staff comments regarding student-not all characteristics are quantifiable

  • Access to information about students beyond enrollment at the community college

Performance indicators include:

  • departmental pre- and post- tests for remedial courses

  • successful completion of departmental final exams

  • successful completion of post tests in remedial courses

  • successful completion of remedial coursework

  • retention rates in remedial coursework

  • improved course grades in next level coursework

  • goal identification (educational plan-transfer or career)

  • goal completion

  • degree completion

3.  What diagnostic tools are being used at your college for effective assessment of student skills upon entry and appropriate placement in courses?
The college has recently begun using COMPASS for assessment and placement. Individual testing is available to determine learning disabilities. Formerly, we used the ASSET test for math and communications and the Nelson Denny test for reading.
4. In what ways is your college effectively working with middle and high schools to improve student preparation?
Beginning Fall 2002, we have been awarded an Educational Talent Search grant which will allow us to provide ongoing support to students at one high school and four middle schools. We are discussing this issue currently. We welcome thoughts or ideas from other colleges.