Students can easily withdraw from courses with little interaction from the college, but a new withdrawal system is guiding them into making more informed decisions before opting out. For its positive results and unique service, the Withdrawal Pilot in Gateway Courses earned the Innovation of the Year Award.

The idea was born from a subcommittee of the Completion Commitment committee. This group, which includes Dr. Jo Ann Jenkins , dean, Student Success; Dr. Sadya Khan , director, Institutional Research and Planning; Dr. Ryen Nagle, dean, Science, Business and Technology; Dr. DeWitt Scott, Student Success specialist; Michelle August, department chair of Information Management Systems; Sam Chen, professor of Biology; Sandra Gibbons, professor of Biology; and Larry Langellier, professor of Information Management Systems, examined data on courses that traditionally have high enrollments of over 100 students per semester and high withdrawal rates (double the average) such as math and science courses. Students can easily withdraw from these courses with the click of a button.

According to the nomination, “This technological convenience enables students to make potentially uninformed decisions about their course performance or available resources for success. It also can lead to a host of negative consequences—financial aid issues, delayed program completion or complete withdrawal  from the college.”

In fall 2016, the group chose CSC-140, Introduction to Computer Science, to be the pilot course to introduce an intentional withdrawal barrier to students. Instead of dropping the class with one click of the mouse, students had to complete a withdrawal form and meet with their instructor or with Scott to sign off.

“You want withdrawal to be their last option. With this, they’ll talk to the professor who might say their grade is low, but they’re not far off from improvement. Then they plan to get through the class without withdrawing. Some students share their appreciation for having someone to discuss what they’re experiencing. If  they just go online and click ‘withdraw,’ they don’t communicate if they’re having personal issues. I’ve recommended counseling because of our conversations. This outlet to share is huge,” Scott explained.

Getting this system off the ground required collaboration among IT, Scheduling, Registration, and buy-in from faculty members, said Khan. This intentional barrier was noted in the course catalog, course syllabi, emails as well as fliers. After the pilot semester, the average withdrawal rate for CSC-140 went from 21.6 to 11.3 percent. In spring 2017, this process was introduced to BIO-180, Human Anatomy and Physiology. Withdrawal rates dipped from 24.9 to 13.6 percent, and the success rate of passing improved from 59 to 67.5 percent.

The group plans to expand this process to additional courses, including MTH-120, General Education Mathematics, in the fall. They would like to expand to more classes in the future since it has already yielded success.

“I think this has been a great collaborative effort knowing how different departments can work together to impact student success rates,” Khan said. “In my position, it’s nice to see a data-driven approach. We used data to identify problems and inform the process, and it’s how we measure success at the end. It’s also personally very rewarding.”

“It’s an honor to win this award,” Scott added. “We didn’t intend to, but it shows this pilot is having a positive impact on the college, which is what we wanted to do.”