To achieve this goal, we have identified three initiatives that will help students stay on track as they pursue whatever they aspire for by coming to NVCC. These initiatives will build academic readiness for college, improve first-year student success, and guide students as they navigate their NVCC college experience.
Deepen the College-Wide Advising Program
Fewer college students today can afford the time to “find themselves” in college. Today’s students must be more laser-focused on picking a career and then determining the quickest, most-affordable route to get there. Academic advisement helps students develop one-to-one relationships with college representatives who can guide them through their college experience to achieve their academic and career goals. While advising approaches vary from campus to campus, national research shows that academic advisement can improve community college persistence, retention, and graduation rates.
Now all NVCC students (full-time, part-time, matriculated, non-matriculated) are assigned advisors to help them orient to the college, prepare to register, and determine appropriate courses to take. By 2016, we will improve key aspects of academic advising, including our capacity to engage students at critical stages, so that they can embark successfully along academic pathways that keep their long-term goals in sight.
Activity Areas of Focus:
- Improve student understanding of the importance of advising to retention and graduation.
- Strengthen faculty and staff training in advising so they better understand their roles, different methods, when advising is critical (early warning intervention sooner), and new program requirements to communicate with students.
- Establish an advisor-designed plan to strengthen first-year student advisement, implementing cross- functionally trained teams of advisors (faculty, staff, tutors, and peers) that include advisors connected to student majors.
- Reinforce advising at other critical points, particularly as applicable to part-time students, e.g., when students are undecided, changing majors, or approaching graduation.
- Integrate more technology into advising, from the creation of online advising systems to purchasing a program that can support group texting and peer-to- peer texting.
Assess and Fine-Tune First Year Learning Communities
College, especially a non-residential one, can feel overwhelming and isolating for many students, particularly in their first year. Learning communities offer an effective educational approach where students learn and undertake activities in cohorts, thereby creating a system of mutual support that impacts their performance, engagement and retention. Identified as a “high impact practice” by the American Association of Colleges and Universities, learning communities also promote greater curricular coherence by strengthening interdisciplinary collaboration among faculty.
NVCC piloted learning communities with first-time, full- time freshmen in fall 2012. Based on preliminary indicators of success, in fall 2013 we expanded the program to 11 learning communities. By 2016, we want all first-time, full-time freshmen to have the opportunity to participate in learning communities, laying the foundation for long- term academic success.
Activity Areas of Focus:
- Offer 25 learning communities by end of Year Three, serving the majority of first-time, full-time freshmen.
- Strengthen various critical aspects of the curriculum through the program review and assessment processes (e.g., capstone experiences, internships, advisory councils).
- Provide professional development for faculty to focus on student engagement and learning.
Redesign Remedial and Developmental Course Offerings
Today about 60% of first-year college students require some level of remedial or developmental education. At two-year colleges, about 75% of incoming students need remedial support in English, mathematics, or both. Our nation can meet its ambitious college completion goals only if students who start in developmental education succeed. In August 2012, Governor Dannel Malloy signed a new state law, P.A. 12-40, An Act Concerning College Readiness and Completion. This law requires the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities, beginning by the 2014 fall semester, to offer certain students remedial support embedded with corresponding entry-level courses, and certain other students an intensive college- readiness program.
As NVCC works to fully comply with the letter and spirit of the law, we will implement new procedures to ensure that students are spending their time and money earning college credits that help them graduate. Based on impressive research findings surrounding acceleration models, by 2016, NVCC will pilot fast-track courses, modularize instruction, and mainstream students into college-level classes, transforming the way our students learn and engage.
Activity Areas of Focus:
- Provide diagnostic software for students to prepare for the college placement test.
- Pilot self-paced modularized math instruction, allowing students to quickly transition from remedial to college-level courses.
- Embed tutors within fast-track, self-paced, and intensive math courses.
- Provide professional development for faculty teaching developmental and gateway courses.