AQIP Current Action Projects

Developing Systems to Measure Effectiveness (Phase 1)

Phase I will involve the gathering of information about current systems/processes to monitor effectiveness (formal and/or informal) and the identification of any measures associated with those processes. Questions answered in this phase will be these: What do you do? What is the mission for your area?

Institution's reasons for taking on this Action Project:
In working on the 2012 Systems Portfolio, it became apparent that Aims has a number of procedures in place for measuring effectiveness; however, those procedures tend to be related to a particular person or short-term initiative, may lack documentation and reliability, and are not institutionalized. It also became apparent that evaluating the effectiveness of a process, a unit, a division, a department, or the college as a whole cannot be accomplished without improvement at Aims in measuring the effectiveness of our actions.

Phase I will involve the gathering of information about current systems/processes to monitor effectiveness (formal and/or informal) and the identification of any measures associated with those processes. Questions answered in this phase will be these: What do you do? What is the mission for your area?

Overall "outcome" measures or indicators to indicate success or failure:
The information gathered in this phase and for purposes of this project is necessary for Aims’ continued accreditation and good standing with both the Higher Learning Commission and AQIP. However, the process will stall if the only motivation behind its implementation is compliance. Equally detrimental is a process that emerges as too cumbersome and does not adapt to the units’ needs. Therefore, it must be made clear that while this project is useful for AQIP, its true value lies in creating a process and product useful to each unit in its planning, goal setting, and outcomes measurement. Campus-wide conversation will be vital and must be part of the planning phase. Additionally, it should be made clear that while Aims must document and establish processes to measure effectiveness, it is necessary to build a structure that allows the adaptability called for by an unfolding project.

Determining the Needs of Underserved Students

This project will serve as a research/exploratory phase for a future action project. The final outcome of the two projects will be establishment of a set of strategies and support systems' that will help underserved students (in this case first-generation, low-income or minority students) succeed at rates that mirror the success (retention, completion) rates of non- underserved students. This initial project will complete a needs assessment for these students to pave the way for the later project.

Institution's reasons for taking on this Action Project:
Several historic patterns, as well as recent developments, have encouraged the adoption of this project, including:

  • Location of Aims in predominantly blue-collar community
  • Current economic conditions and their impact on our communities
  • Status of Aims as a Hispanic Serving Institution

Establishment of a state performance contract that requires institutions to work to close completion/retention gaps between underserved and non-underserved students

Transforming Early Alert to Enhance Student Success

The primary goal is to implement an improved Early Alert System resulting in increased faculty participation in reporting academic performance concerns on a timely basis. A secondary goal is to facilitate the exchanges of ideas and research between and amongst student services personnel and faculty regarding best practices, such as early and frequent feedback for students.

Institution's reasons for taking on this Action Project:
Aims Community College is committed to student success. Best practices indicate that early identification of academically at-risk students by faculty and timely notification to those students are critical in connecting them to resources designed to get them back on track in their classes in a timely manner.

Under our current system, faculty submit reports via the web by manually filling in all requested information, including student identification number, course information, etc. Numerous faculty members have cited frustration with this cumbersome and time-consuming system and, therefore, do not use the system. Consequently, academically at-risk students are not being reported in a timely manner, if at all, and, thus, are not connected with beneficial institutional interventions/resources.

This new automated system will allow for easy identification of student concerns, encouraging regular reporting by faculty and providing a robust reporting structure to help us ascertain the impact of the interventions. In addition to reporting concerns, this system allows faculty to provide “kudos” to students. This new feature will be tracked to assess possible impact on student motivation.

This project will also allow us to systematically evaluate our current intervention strategies, ultimately leading to the development of a process map that delineates types of concerns with appropriate level of responses. For example, students reported for missing an assignment should be triaged differently than a student who has missed a full week of class without contacting his/her instructor. Our current process lacks this level of detail and systematic approach. Furthermore, we will be able to intentionally focus our advisors’ time and expertise on addressing the more critical infractions or at-risk behaviors.

Finally, the project will serve as a catalyst to encourage broad-based conversations about student success initiatives between Student Services and Academic Divisions. The product of these conversations can be used to inform other institutional practices and decisions such as course scheduling and support services needed.

Overall "outcome" measures or indicators to indicate success or failure:
The outcomes for this Action Project are as follows:

  1. Did the number of faculty reporting academically at-risk students increase from previous years?
  2. Did faculty report students earlier compared to previous years?
  3. Did students complete their course at a similar rate compared to previous years in classes where faculty reported academically at-risk students?
  4. Did students who received kudos report higher academic engagement in the course?
  5. Did students utilize the services/resources recommended?
  6. Did the student perceive that those services/resources were beneficial?
  7. Did faculty attend meetings to discuss retention initiatives?

Creating a Seamless and Intentional Career Engagement Continuum

The primary goal is to educate college preparatory students about the career planning process to assist them in making informed career/major choices resulting in increased retention and attainment of academic credentials This process should also reduce the length of time and amount of money students require to complete their goals as they will have the tools necessary to effectively develop and track their academic progress.

Institution's reasons for taking on this Action Project:
As cited on the “Complete College America” website, “41% of students who start college are not ready for credit-bearing college-level work—resulting in discouragement, delay, and dropouts.” At Aims, approximately 60% of incoming new degree/certificate-seeking students require remediation in one or more college-prep area(s) (math/reading/ English).

To address the needs of this population, the institution developed a program, Emerging Scholars, in 2007 through an AQIP Action Project. This program requires students to engage in intensive academic advising services throughout the term, enroll in one of the AAA (FYE) courses, and participate in student success events. If the student adheres to these requirements and maintains a 2.0 gpa, they can apply for an institutional scholarship at the end of each semester in which they took a college-prep course. Although the fall to spring retention rates for this program range from an impressive 75 to 85% for six cohorts (’07 – ’12), the completion rates highlight an area to target for continuous improvement initiatives. Students in these cohorts take longer to complete their academic credentials for a myriad of reasons including taking a lighter course load due to their academic deficiencies, the current structure of college-prep sequences (multiple terms), and lack of academic/career goals.

After analyzing these reasons and reviewing retention literature, we chose to focus on enhancing career awareness via our AAA (FYE) courses that this population enrolls in during their first semester. Common themes emerged during the literature review highlighting the following benefits of intentional career planning:

  • “Career planning facilitates more appropriate goal setting, academic decision making, and course selection which heightens commitment, and the probability of retention.”
    John Gardner (1998, 2003) Nationally known for his work on improving the college freshman experience and raising student retention rates.
  • “Career planning leads to increased motivation, improved academic achievement, increased retention, and less time to graduate.”
    (Gillie, S. & Gillie-Isenhour, M., 2005)
  • “Career planning contributes significantly to timely college degree attainment influenced by the interests/major congruence of students.”
    (Allen, J. & Robbins, S., 2010)

As sanctioned by the research, helping students change to, confirm, or commit to a career that fits their interests, values, lifestyle, etc., through an intentional career awareness and planning process increases the probability of credential attainment in a timely manner followed by employment and/or pursuit of further academic credentials. Furthermore, this process teaches students a life skill that can be utilized throughout their lives including times of transition due to retirement, lay-offs, injuries preventing the person from returning to his/her current position, physical moves, etc.

Overall "outcome" measures or indicators to indicate success or failure:
The outcomes for this Action Project are as follows:

  1. Did students feel more confident in their major selection?
  2. Did advisors perceive that students were more engaged in the AAA assignment?
  3. Did a higher percentage of remedial students obtain an academic credential after implementation?
  4. Did students complete/obtain an academic credential in a shorter amount of time afterimplementation?
  5. What is the perceived value of the 2nd semester career activities for Emerging Scholars students?