Different ways to study success

A number of great tidbits have come in over the past week, most of which are directly relevant to student success. Instead of waiting for Friday, it seemed sensible to share them now.

First, the idea of ​​8-week semesters (as opposed to 15 or 16 weeks) still holds up. I know of the achievements at Odessa College, Amarillo College, College of Southern Maryland and Grayson College, but now we can add Kilgore College (TX) to the list. Seeing the improvements in pass rates, college president Brenda Kays reported that “it took my breath away.” Among other things, the graduation rate for black students has almost tripled. There aren’t many inexpensive interventions that are this effective.

Longtime readers know that I’m a fan of short semesters. Shorter courses make it easier for students with complicated lives to focus. They also make it less costly for a student who has to go away in November or April, for example, because life happened. The academic calendar is one of the few variables that is entirely under the direct control of a college. Yes, there is an adjustment period, but that happens once and then it’s over. And colleges have long taught shorter courses in the summer and January semesters, so the notion that the fifteen-week semester was passed down from the mountaintop just doesn’t hold water.

Kudos to the schools that see the big picture. I hope many more will soon.

This one came to me late and indirectly, but it’s still worth sharing. Morgan State University, an HBCU in Maryland, has built an entire school focused on bringing back working adults with college but no degrees.

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Other colleges have done similar things, but what struck me was the mix of forward-thinking practices—prior learner assessment, online courses, face-to-face counseling—with a classic liberal arts degree.

Often the conversations surrounding returning adult students assume that they are only interested in degrees or credentials that are closely related to specific careers. That can certainly be true, but Morgan State has found that liberal arts degrees can also be really attractive.

Although we often prefer not to think in these terms, many employers and/or professions require that a candidate can check the box indicating a degree, even if they don’t particularly care what area the degree represents. For students who may be a decade or two old but already have tremendous work experience, a program large enough to absorb a wide range of credits can be more appealing than in a field in which they have no experience to start over .

And there is also the sense of personal achievement of going from “college dropout” to “college graduate”. That still means something.

Kudos to Morgan State for finding a way to minister to students no one else has ministered to. The rest of us can learn from this.

Finally, yesterday’s post on a US government course that may be required brought some thoughtful responses.

One mentioned a “town hall” structure where the (short!) semester culminates in an open public meeting with local elected officials. The idea is that students focus on a specific problem and learn the usual institutional things in the context of a problem they are trying to solve. They then present their solution to elected officials and community members and ask questions about them.

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It’s a great idea and I could imagine the students eating it up. However, I’m not sure about the scalability; Elected officers’ time is limited and I would imagine attendance will dwindle after the first few rounds. Still, it’s the kind of idea that can be built upon and refined over time.

Liz Norell of Chattanooga State wrote with her choose-your-own-adventure American government-class style. (She specifically mentioned that it’s “open” for people to see.) It’s a short (!) class where students have to decide what to focus on. The line on the syllabus page that won me over is “pursue your curiosity”. Yes Yes Yes.

The final paper of the semester includes the requirement to “get closer”, i.e. to talk to someone whose perspective differs significantly from your own. It’s hard to dehumanize someone standing right in front of you.

The class looks great. If I were a student I would want to take it. It gives me hope

We can do better. humans already are.