Higher Learning Commission Initiative: Foundations for Success 2013–2016
As part of the “Open Pathway” reaccreditation process set out by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association, DePaul is required to complete a “major Quality Initiative designed to suit its present concerns or aspirations.”
Foundations for Success, our Quality Initiative, is inspired by Vision 2018, which calls on us in Goal I—Enhance Academic Quality and Support Educational Innovation—to “Focus the entire university community on student learning and success.” Foundations for Success is a set of initiatives whose goal, over the next three years, is to improve the conditions for learning at DePaul so that more undergraduates complete their degree. The projects included in this new initiative grew out of on-going institutional research about our students and discussions with leaders in Academic Affairs, Enrollment Management & Marketing, Student Affairs and the Colleges about university-wide strategies to support students in their learning.
The Executive Summary for 2013–14, DePaul's first year of this initiative, is currently available to all interested parties. The metrics, as well as the full report, are available to members of the DePaul University community.
Foundations for Success Projects
The Learning Commons. The creation of a centralized place where students could go for tutoring and other academic services was the No. 1 recommendation of the Probation Task Force, a group charged to identify ways to help students avoid ever having to go on probation. The renovation of the first floor of Richardson Library provided a wonderful opportunity to create just such a place, and The Learning Commons opened in September 2013. Please encourage students to visit the Learning Commons. For more information, visit the University Library.
Early Feedback. Research on student success has shown again and again that feedback from instructors—early and often—is critical. Receiving such feedback is especially important for students in their first year at DePaul, whether they are freshmen or transfer students. To help students succeed, the Deans of all the Colleges have agreed to set the expectation that faculty will provide undergraduate students with feedback on a low-stakes assignment by the end of the third week of each quarter. With that information in hand, faculty can participate in the Academic Progress Reporting process to alert targeted students and their advisors that they may need additional academic support. Our goal is to increase the percentage of faculty who give early feedback and complete the Academic Progress Report each quarter.
Support for Transfer Students. Every year, roughly half the students who graduate came to DePaul as transfer students. While we have come a long way in terms of making the transition a smooth one, we can do more. One goal of this project is to create an online transfer orientation program that students could access at any time with easy access to information about support services and other opportunities. In addition, the Library will create instructional materials and workshops to help transfer students become acclimated to a new library system. Finally, we will weigh the pros and cons of identifying new transfer students on class rosters so that faculty can provide targeted support.
Integrated Information about Academic Resources. Given the vast array of academic resources at DePaul, students have expressed difficulty in accessing information about them from general university website. This project seeks to better coordinate information about academic support services from orientation through graduation, and offer students a centralized website integrating all university resources related to students’ success.
Improved Communication across Student Support Offices. In fall 2014, we implemented an online system called BlueStar in Campus Connect whereby a) participating offices may share pertinent information about students, b) faculty may more easily alert advisors about students who need additional support, and c) students may receive alerts and/or kudos about their current performance and schedule appointments with participating advisors, instructors, and support services. This system effectively creates a better safety net for students across the university.
Improved Course Access. To help ensure conflict-free course scheduling and support timely progress toward degree, the university recently purchased AdAstra software. The classroom scheduling piece has been successfully implemented to leverage our instructional spaces and reveal future needs. Once implemented, the AdAstra Platinum Analytics suite will connect to our enrollment data and requirements in the Degree Progress Report so that Student Records can provide college offices accessible dashboard reporting for what specific courses current students most need to graduate.
Learning Communities. To help enhance first year students’ engagement with potential majors, several Colleges piloted learning communities in Autumn 2014 whereby students enrolled in two concurrent courses: a Chicago Quarter course related to the major, and a second course chosen by the college. In addition, over the following years, participating colleges piloted one-credit courses to help entering transfer students plan their time at DePaul wisely and make the best use of available resources.
Math Placement Process Review. To ensure that entering students who need math courses are being placed appropriately, begin taking those courses as soon as possible, and have the support they need to succeed, we will conduct a review of the entire process, from admission through course completion. With that review in hand, we will make any necessary adjustments to the process so that more students take the math they need when they need it.
Effective Use of Technology in and out of the Classroom. In order to address an increasing demand for computer labs, ensure that all first-year and new transfer students can take the math course they need as soon as they arrive, provide better service for on-line courses, and encourage active learning, this initiative will make it possible for a range of course sections to be designated as “laptop required.” On the one hand, a “virtual computer lab” will be made available so that students in most courses will be able to access course-related software online, and on the other, we will create workshops for faculty to learn best practices in incorporating the use of laptops into their teaching, where appropriate.