Thursday, February 20, 2014

Learning Support: Redesigning the Redesign

There are major changes coming to what used to be called remedial education at Vol State. You may remember that the college went through a major redesign a few years back that led to the Learning Support model that we use today. Now, TBR has announced that the Learning Support model will be phased out. The new program will be called Immediate Credit or Co-Requisite.

Learning Support classes are currently non-credit. If students test below a certain level in Math, English or Reading they move through a set of Learning Support competencies before moving on to college credit classes. Under the new system, students would enroll directly in credit courses and then receive supplemental academic assistance, of some sort, to help those students keep pace with the class.

The announcement is probably tiring for the many Math and Humanities faculty members who worked so hard to get the Learning Support program up and running. TBR academic leaders point to promising statistics that show the Immediate Credit model to be much, much more effective.

 “Here’s an example,” said vice president of Academic Affairs, George Pimentel. “A student with an ACT of 13 in the emporium model (Learning Support) would enter Math 1010 and have a 2.9 percent success rate. That same level of student enrolled in Math 1010 with extra help under the Immediate Credit model had a 26.9 percent success rate. And it’s that way across the board, for math, writing and reading.”

The TBR stats include university and community college pilots of the new program. Dr. Pimentel says that he wants to see the raw numbers soon. He says faculty members have had the same reaction.

“A lot of them have said if it works, this is great. There is an equal amount of apprehension. We just did a redesign. They’re worried- will we do all of this work and then have TBR change again?”

The plan is to institute an Immediate Credit pilot program at Vol State over the next year. Vol State faculty and deans will come up with a couple of models for what might be done. In the end, there will only be two or three final models used statewide for community colleges. Then, in fall of 2015, the complete changeover will be made.

“There’s a lot more questions than we have answers,” said Pimentel. “I say, let’s put it all on the table. We need to look at how the other guys are already doing it- Cleveland State and Austin Peay.”

One big question is what will happen to the Learning Commons space. Pimentel says it could be used for the extra academic help under the Immediate Credit plan. That help could look like an expanded version of our current Supplemental Instruction or it could be something else entirely.

“We don’t know what we will do,” Pimentel said.” We want to develop the model first and go from there. We need to find the most effective way to help our students.”

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