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Lane's GPS Guide to Student Learning, Engagement, and Navigation
For students to have a clear roadmap to learning and success, the institution must recognize and align its curricular, cocurricular, and student support coordinates into a navigable order. Lane Community College is well on its way to developing this comprehensive roadmap for student learning, engagement, and navigation. Lane’s Roadmap team is developing a multidimensional “Guide to Personal Success,” what we call the Lane GPS.
This major systemic and cultural change supports three components of the Lane GPS:
- Learning: Using Core Learning Outcomes (CLOs) as guiding principles for liberal education and guideposts for a student’s academic journey.
- Engagement: Empowering students with high-impact practices (HIPs) to advance their learning and success.
- Navigation: Developing transparent processes and tools that support integrated practices for student progression and completion.
Our GPS model for students has its origins in an intentional institutional shift from a freedom to fail culture to a right to succeed culture. Like many open-access community colleges, Lane offers students an array of courses, programs, and academic degrees. While the college strongly encouraged academic advising, students have been free to take whatever courses they could enroll in. Many courses have had no prerequisites for success and we have lacked first-year experiences and visible HIPs.
Once we recognized the unintended results of giving students freedom without sufficient guidance, we set about adopting practices to foster students’ right to succeed. Members of Lane’s Success and Goal Attainment committee (SAGA) were key leaders in articulating the right to succeed. As a group of academic and student affairs faculty and staff, SAGA has served as a think tank for student success, progression, and completion since 2004. SAGA gathered and shared evidence about national best practices for improving student success that led to a five-year Engaging Students Title III grant in 2008.
In a right to succeed culture all faculty and staff are responsible to ensure students can exercise their right to succeed in their learning, their progression, and their timely degree completion. While this new culture might constrain students’ options in some ways, it is making the roads to success truly accessible and navigable.
Two of Lane’s strategic directions—a liberal education approach to student learning and optimal student preparation, progression, and completion—provided the institutional base for the Roadmap team’s integrated action plan, with learning, engagement, and navigation at the center.
Guiding Learning: Twenty-First-Century Core Learning Outcomes
Lane’s previous general education outcomes had proven confusing, unassessable, and largely unknown. The Roadmap project provided the catalyst for developing new core learning outcomes, now seen as a legitimate and critical component of a right-to-succeed culture. In addition, Roadmap supported the Assessment Team’s efforts to move the culture of assessment into the student learning conversation around success and completion. In a series of campus conferences and workshops, the Roadmap and Assessment Teams provided multiple occasions for faculty and staff to examine the relationship between learning outcomes, student success, and degree completion.
The result of two years of work was adoption of five Core Learning Outcomes that support the strategic direction of a liberal education model and that will be used as “markers” in the students’ GPS:
- Think critically
- Engage diverse values with civic and ethical awareness
- Create ideas and solutions
- Communicate effectively
- Apply learning
These outcomes invite the use of HIPs as pedagogical tools. Through rubrics and other assessments they provide information to students about the learning path they are on and how far and in what direction they need to go.
Guiding Engagement: Widespread Use of HIPs
The second feature of the Lane GPS involves helping students achieve program outcomes through broad communication, dissemination, and implementation of HIPs. Lane’s Title III Engaging Students program has developed first-year experiences, mandatory orientation and advising, and early warning systems, while increasing the number of learning communities. Lane’s Roadmap project took responsibility for developing the Lane GPS as a means of communicating to students the value of these and many other HIPs.
Lane embraces both AAC&U’s HIPs and the Community College Survey of Student Engagement’s “promising practices for promoting community college student success.” The Lane GPS will identify all of the relevant HIPs for students in a developmental, wrap-around model. Appropriate placement, advising, orientation, academic planning, and interventions, along with student engagement practices such as collaborative assignments, capstones, and learning communities, will all support students’ right to succeed and achieve their academic goals.
Guiding Academic Progression and Degree Completion
The third feature of the Lane GPS model involves improving the underlying mechanisms, tools, and processes that support students’ progress toward their goals. Through the work of the Title III grant, orientation, advising, and academic planning will be mandatory for new students. The Lane GPS Navigation feature will allow students to track their progress in courses and credits toward their degrees and certificates, along with their intellectual journey and curricular and cocurricular HIPs.
The implementation of the web-based tool DegreeWorks will enable students and advisors to evaluate which degree requirements are complete and which requirements remain. The Roadmap Action Plan served as a catalyst for its implementation.
This digital record will chronicle the student’s travel log: from orientation to advising and financial literacy development, from courses to engagement in HIPs, from intentional academic planning and scheduling to achievement of Core Learning Outcomes (CLOs), and from tracking progress to completion. This tracking system and its user’s guide will become the complete Lane GPS, a comprehensive tool to assist students in actualizing their right to succeed at Lane and beyond our open doors
Roadmap Team as Leaders
The Roadmap Team has helped set the stage to deliver on right to succeed promises. The multiple dimensions of the Lane GPS emerge from the core commitments of team members, representing transfer and career-technical programs, student affairs, SAGA, the Title III grant, learning communities, learning assessment and planning, and first-year experiences. Like many nationally engaged community colleges, Lane has undertaken multiple initiatives to support student success, quality progression, and completion. In this busy landscape, the role of the Roadmap project team has been to help connect initiatives through innovation, advocacy, and persistence. Our team’s broad-based leadership—both high-level decision makers and those whose work and commitment can move the conversation—provides a model of influence (speaking up), rather than new work for the college. We connect individuals and teams toward the aims of the Lane GPS.
Tracking Our Next Steps
In a right to succeed culture, it is essential that students be empowered to know where they are at any time in their learning process. The complex maze of college procedures, courses, and degree requirements can be mapped and navigated. Lane’s next steps will be to raise visibility of CLOs and HIPs among faculty, staff, and students. In tagging HIPs and CLOs as guideposts for students’ academic journeys, our GPS can avoid cluttering the student landscape with detours and can mark degree progress in terms of learning, experience, and cumulative credits.
Are we there yet? Our Roadmap vision is helping Lane realize its commitment to students’ right to succeed. Taking our action plan to the next level means pushing our targeted elements outward, developing in-service activities to further our vision, reinforcing connections, and exploring new approaches to our goal: students’ right to succeed through a liberal education approach to learning, empowered by high-impact engagement strategies and encouraged by transparent navigation and support practices.
Mary Brau is the faculty coordinator for student outcomes assessment and curriculum development; Barbara Breaden is on the faculty of speech, and communication studies; Lida Herburger is the management coordinator for Title III and student success; Anne B. McGrail is a writing faculty member; Andrea Newton is the executive dean of academic affairs; Mary Parthemer is the director of TRiO and Title III; and Sarah Ulerick is the division dean of science—all of Lane Community College