The ACCESS Pilot Project received funding for 2014-2015 as part of the USG CCG Innovation Grants program (Incubate category). The program places students in a structured schedule format that enables them to increase the average number of credit hours they take in their freshman year, thus putting them on track to graduate in four years. Students in the B.A. program earn 30 hours their first two semesters, and students in the B.F.A. program earn 36.
The project’s original objectives were to 1) increase hours earned and retention of students in a structured scheduling cohort from their first to second year, 2) to support faculty and administrators in collaborative planning for structured scheduling instruction and research on effectiveness, and 3) to scale up structured scheduling at UWG.
Faculty indicated that they were able to make cross-disciplinary connections that enriched their teaching of writing and critical thinking skills. They also felt that students matured more quickly with this approach and that both (students and faculty) benefitted from close, collegial relationships with advisors throughout the project.
The long-term impact of this project on students is still unknown, as this pilot year was one of creative exploration and implementation. Nevertheless, early outcomes are encouraging. For example:
- There is growing interest among faculty and departments to create more block options for students. For instance, in Fall 2015 we will have a full schedule of blocked courses for Theatre majors and the Art Department has blocked pairs of Area F courses for students to re-gain ground that they might have lost if they transferred majors.
- The new Interim Dean of the College of Science and Math (COSM) recently engaged the Math Department in discussions about the possibility of creating blocked Math courses.
- The Richards College of Business (RCOB) faculty are discussing ways to adapt the block format to support business majors.
- A presentation at the UWG Innovations in Pedagogy Conference on campus (April 2015) drew attendees from a variety of departments and colleges on campus, and there were very specific questions and requests for advice and guidance on developing similar approaches for various majors and levels.
Modified blocks (i.e., schedules that include a blocked set of classes with non-blocked classes) may be effective options for students who need this type of scheduling flexibility.