Presidents / chancellors

New presidents Albany Pharmacy Baker Brock CSCC Missouri Mount Mercy UNMC

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  • Gregory Dewey, provost at the University of La Verne, in California, has been named president of Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, in New York.

A professor's new appreciation for how tough administrators have it (essay)

The year he spent assisting a college president in a tough spot gave Eric Robinson new appreciation for the challenges campus leaders face.

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Essay looks at how early warning systems can better boost retention

The news that Purdue University likely overstated the impact of its early warning system, Course Signals, has cast doubt about the efficacy of a host of technology products intended to improve student retention and completion. In a commentary published in Inside Higher Ed, Mark Milliron responded by arguing that “next-generation” early warning systems use more robust analytics and will be likely to get better results.

We contend that even with extremely robust and appropriate analytics, programs like Course Signals may still fall short if their adoption ignores the most pressing piece of electronic advising systems — their use on the front end, by advisers, faculty and students. Until more attention is paid to the messy, human side of educational technology, Course Signals — and other programs like it — will continue to show anemic impacts on student retention and graduation.

Over the past year, we have worked with colleges in the process of implementing Integrated Planning and Advising Systems (which include early warning systems like Course Signals). The adoption of early warning systems requires advisers, faculty and students to approach college success differently and should, in theory, refocus attention on how they engage with advising and support services. In practice, however, we have found that colleges consistently underestimate the challenge of ensuring that such systems are adopted effectively by end-users.

The concept of an early alert is far from new. In interviews, instructors and advisers have consistently reminded us that for years, students have received “early alert” feedback in the form of grades and midterm reports. Early warning systems may streamline this process, and provide the reports in a new format (a red light instead of a warning note, for example), but the warning itself isn’t terribly different.

What is potentially different about products like Course Signals is their ability to connect these course-level warnings to the broader student support services offered by the college. If early warning signals are shared across college personnel, and if those warnings serve to trigger new behaviors on their part, then we are likely to see changed student behavior and success. In other words, sending up a red light isn’t likely to influence retention. But if that red light leads to advisers or tutors reaching out to students and providing targeted support, we might see bigger impacts on student outcomes.

Milliron says, for example, that with predictive analytics, “student[s] might be advised away from a combination of courses that could be toxic for him or her.” But such advising doesn’t happen spontaneously: it requires advisers to be more proactive in preparing for and conducting each advising session. They must examine a student’s early warning profile, program plan and case file prior to the session; they must reframe how they present course choices to students; and they have to rethink what the best course combinations are for students with varying educational and career goals, as well as learning styles and abilities. Finally, they may have to link students to additional resources on campus — such as tutoring— and colleges need to ensure these services exist and are of high quality.

For this process to occur, advisers need to be well-versed in how to use the analytics, and be encouraged to move past registering students for the most common set of courses to courses that make sense for the individual. But because most colleges remain uncertain about the process changes that should occur when they adopt early warning systems, they are unable to provide the training that would help faculty and advisers make potentially transformative adjustments in their practice.

Even if colleges do adequately prepare faculty and advisers for this transition, there is much we still don’t know about how students will perceive and use the data and messages they receive from early warning systems. These unknowns may influence the extent to which the systems impact student outcomes.

For example, if students perceive early warnings as a reprimand rather than an opportunity to get help, they may ignore the signals or avoid efforts of college personnel to contact them. To anticipate and mitigate these kinds of potentially negative responses, it is important to understand how all students, not just those who use and enjoy early alert systems, experience and react to such signals. As Milliron notes, we need to figure how to send the right message to the right people in the right way.

Early warning systems are only tools, and colleges will have to pay closer attention to changing end-user culture in order to maximize their effectiveness. Currently, colleges are skipping this step. At the end of the day, even the best system and the best data depend on people to translate them into actions and behaviors that can influence student retention and completion.

Melinda Mechur Karp is a senior research associate at the Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College. Also contributing to the essay were Jeff Fletcher, a senior research assistant, Hoori Santikian Kalamkarian, a research associate, and Serena Klempin, a research associate.

New presidents provosts: Clemson Hopkinsville Millikin MVSU Lowcountry Spring Hill

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  • Jay S. Allen, vice president of the Perkinston Campus and George County Center of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, has been named president of Hopkinsville Community College, in Kentucky.

Feds move to next step as gainful employment negotiations end in stalemate

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The Education Department plans to release its own take after negotiators fail to agree, but feds promise to listen to suggestions.

Professor suspended after taking vow of silence, even in class

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Naropa professor, suspended for not speaking at all, even in class, says he's being punished for speaking out previously about diversity issues.

New presidents provosts: Arcadia Blinn Colorado Mountain Denver Queen's Belfast Southern Idaho Victoria

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  • Nicolette DeVille Christensen, vice president and executive director of the College of Global Studies at Arcadia University, in Pennsylvania, has been appointed as president there.

Federal Trade Commission steps up scrutiny of for-profit colleges

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The government's consumer watchdog -- the Federal Trade Commission -- tightens guidelines aimed at for-profits and tells student veterans to be cautious about the industry.

ACE's 96th Annual Meeting: Seizing Opportunity

Date: 
Sat, 03/08/2014 to Tue, 03/11/2014

Location

1 Dupont Circle NW Suite 800
20036 Washington , District Of Columbia
United States

Opportunity Nation and senators push for close ties between colleges and employers

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Two senators and the nonprofit Opportunity Nation want federal job training programs to be more efficient and performance-based, while also seeing expanded role for community colleges.

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