Closing achievement gaps with smart strategies and sophisticated technology

Closing achievement gaps with smart strategies and sophisticated technology

By Dr. Dale Nesbary on Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Our student population is very diverse in age, demographics, race, and gender: we have early-entry students who are 15 and returning students in their 90s. Some students need help learning how to study, others need help balancing work, family, and school. So we needed several strategies that could address all those needs.

As an Achieving the Dream leader college, Muskegon Community College has designed a robust student success and completion agenda which includes 13 high impact practices that provide our students with the extra support they need. These practices focus on the entire student population as well as specific groups:

New student intervention activities

  • Mandatory new student orientation
  • Enhanced college success seminar

Returning student intervention activities

  • Fast-track classes that increase the speed of course completion while decreasing the amount of time spent in the classroom
  • Talent development programs that translate into employment and entrepreneurship

All student strategies and intervention activities

  • Enhanced campus facilities that demonstrate the relevance of course curriculum, i.e. support of entrepreneurism, advanced manufacturing, health, and STEM programming
  • Enhanced developmental courses such as math, reading, and writing
  • Academic planning and goal setting
  • Enhanced tutoring

So after we developed these strategies and programs, we faced a new question: how do you get students to participate?

That’s where technology comes in. We implemented Ellucian CRM Advise to help us engage with students and intervene early if necessary. It tracks everything from attendance to grades, so we can see who is doing well and who is struggling. And because it links to all departments across campus, faculty and staff can see immediately what’s going on—whether it is a financial, behavioral, or educational issue. Then, the system sends automated alerts to the students as well as the appropriate counselor to connect them to the resources they need, both inside and outside of the classroom.

Ellucian CRM Advise, coupled with our student success initiatives, will continue to help semester-to-semester retention (persistence jumped from 77 to 82 percent) as well as fall-to-fall retention rates. The inter-campus communication helps faculty and staff work together to avoid critical incidents. Participation in high impact activities has increased more than 34 percent in just four years and that has made a huge difference: 315 of 1,566 at-risk returning students re-enrolled for fall 2015.

Additionally, Ellucian Technology Management Services runs all technology for us. IT is now seen as a seamless part of student success and an integral part of the campus staff—they help us get our day-to-day jobs done.

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About the Author

Dr. Dale Nesbary

Dr. Dale Nesbary

President, Muskegon Community College

Dr. Dale Nesbary has served as president of Muskegon Community College since 2009.