As a teaching institution, DSC faculty and administration support what happens in the classroom and seek to increase engagement of students at all levels and in all departments with high impact, engaged learning methodologies.
Since 2011-12 AY course redesign initiative and with a new Center for Academic Excellence Director, faculty has increasingly implemented a variety of instructional innovations, including hybrid instruction, flipped classrooms, use of i-clickers, use of iPads, emporium model, small group projects, and undergraduate research to increase student engagement and learning.
The Center for Academic Excellence, the Library, and the Instructional Technology Service Center have offered a variety of workshops, book groups, small group discussions, presentations, speakers, webinars, etc. to provide professional development opportunities for faculty to learn about new instructional technologies; faculty travel was funded to conferences to do presentations and learn from others regarding alternative instructional methods; A newly hired Instructional Technologist who will direct training under the Office of Academic Affairs has occurred. Part of the Quality Enhancement Plan involved introducing writing software into learning support English.
This Goal is being addressed at many levels through the introduction and emphasis on high impact practices as defined by the AAC&U.
Alternative models of instructional delivery have been shown to increase student engagement and student success. Examples include online courses, hybrid (blended) courses, flipped classrooms, emporium model, and incorporation of interactive technologies and social media. Further, increased student engagement leads to decreased DWFs and improvements in student learning, which, in turn, promotes confidence, persistence, and increased likelihood of program completion. In 2010, Dalton State became a part of AASCU’s Red Balloon Project, focusing on redesigning undergraduate education; DSC launched a campus-wide, faculty-driven course redesign initiative in the 2011-2012 academic year. Combined with this desire to re-imagine classroom instructional activity to be less lecture based and more learning centered, the faculty and administration have learned what does and does not work well with DSC students.
With a new Director for our Center for Academic Excellence in Summer 2014, the college began a focus on “high impact practices” as defined by the AAC&U through their LEAP (Liberal Education and America’s Promise) initiative. Almost every event was related to incorporating the high impact practices into the classroom and curriculum. During the 2014-15 academic year and continuing into 2015-16, the CAE provided training and leadership in service learning, writing intensive classes, common readers, first year experience and freshmen year courses, internships, capstone courses, undergraduate research, collaborative learning projects, and global learning. Georgia became the thirteenth LEAP state on June 19, 2016, and by then our faculty had already subscribed by vote to the LEAP initiative.
The Office of Academic Affairs, with help from the Office of the Dean of Students, sent a team of five personnel to the AAC&U Institute on High Impact Practices in Los Angeles in Summer 2016. Selection for attendance was based on a competitive proposal process. In response to the College’s Strategic Plan, which specifies inclusion of high impact practices as one of the four strategic goals under the theme of Student Success, the team was able to construct a detailed action plan for the next four years of the College’s life which will result in multiple experiences of high impact practices for at least half of our graduates. Essentially, high impact practices involve pedagogical practices high in engagement with faculty, in reflection and rigor, and in experiential learning. The AAC&U designates ten high impact practices but also eight “quality matrices” or “key essential elements” that actually ensure the practices are “high impact.” Moving forward, DSC will not call a practice “high impact” unless it meets these criteria. Discussion about how courses will be designated “high impact” and how students will achieve this metric are ongoing, as well as how to make sure online classes are also high impact.
Innovations in pedagogy to expand experiential and engaged learning can be found over the campus. It would be impossible to list all of them here, so only a few relevant to this report will be included. In 2013 learning support math courses initiated an emporium model which has raised success rates to over two-thirds of enrolled students. Increasingly, students are being taught in hybrid/blended formats. In Fall 2015, 941 students participated in the first year experience course, which is now being expanded to include thematic courses. The Office of the Dean of Students directs a civic engagement program, and DSC has a growing international education program that enlisted 33 students and 8 faculty to participate in 8 different study abroad programs, with help from the DSC Foundation.
Another alternative strategy that has gained some traction nationally is that of the “flipped classroom,” where direct instruction through reading and video is done outside of class meetings and class time is used for active learning strategies. The Center for Academic Excellence has hosted workshops on this methodology, and several instructors in the STM disciplines and elsewhere have experimented with it. Preparation demands for the flipped classroom, such as creating instructional videos, are high, and student resistance is also an issue. To date, no consistent data has been collected on the effectiveness of “flipping the classroom.” However, the ASN program began a fully flipped classroom mode of instruction Fall 2014. This move was partially in response to lower-than-normal first-time pass rates of ASN graduates on the NCLEX (69% in Spring 2014). In Fall 2014, instructors were required to flip at least one lecture period, and by Fall 2015 all lectures were flipped. Data collection in terms of student evaluation of instructors (and thus satisfaction with the class experience) has been completed, but the most important data will be the first-time success rates of ASN graduates on the NCLEX in Summer 2016 (not available at this writing, but 2015 rates rose to 80%). Among other reasons, the ASN program was changed to a flipped classroom model in order to address the high content nature of the coursework and the increased emphasis on critical thinking on the NCLEX. (It should be noted that DSC’s success rates on licensure exams in Radiological Technology, Respiratory Technology, and Medical Lab Technology have been 100% for several years and counting, and the LPN rate is consistently around 95%.)
Measure, metric, or data element
Various measures of instructional health and achievement of learning outcomes; diffusions of innovation in the classroom instructional model; course completion rates; licensure exam rates in health professions; retention rates; improvement in average college-wide GPAs
Fall 2011 data:
- Completion rates in hybrid courses: 80%
- One-year retentions rates of first-time, full-time freshmen, 64.2%
- Overall GPA, 2.63
- Course completion rates, 79.3%
Interim Measures of Progress
- Overall student GPA has increased to 2.95 in Fall 2014.
- Eighty percent pass rates on the NCLEX for Spring 2015 ASN graduates.
- One-year retention rates of first-time, full-time freshmen cohort 2014 increased to 73.7%.
- Completion rates in hybrid courses has increased to 87.2% in Spring 2015.
- Overall course completion rates increased to 85.8% in Fall 2014.
- Since introduction of emporium model for learning support math, overall completion rate has increased to 63%, with a high of 69% in Spring 2015.
- English 0098 (Learning Support English) completion rates have increased from about 50% to over 87% in AY 2014-2015 (down to 77% in AY 2015-2016).
- Bachelor’s degree completion numbers increased from 221 in 2010 to 367 in 2015; six-year graduation rate for bachelor’s degrees is 20.5%.
- All lecture instruction in ASN program has been adapted to flipped classroom methodology by Fall 2015. Spring 2015 graduates performed at 80% on NCLEX.
Measures of Success
- Improved pass rates on NCLEX for ASN graduates, from 69% to 90%.
- 5% decrease in the Fall 2014 DWF rates.
- Sustained and somewhat improved success rates in learning support courses (due to decreased admission standards and adaptation to co-curricular model in English and reading in Fall 2017). After the adjustments in 2017, it is projected that pass rates will be sustained at 75%
- 5% increase in campus average GPAs
Improvement is possible with sustained effort, training and development of faculty