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Mt. San Antonio College—Roadmap to Student Success Project
The Mt. San Antonio College (Mt. SAC) Roadmap project is a virtual and interactive web-based tool for students, providing them with information on applying to college, financial aid, tutoring, and other student services, as well as information regarding degrees, certificates, and transfer. The Roadmap team at Mt. SAC consists of a diverse, cross-divisional group committed to creating an effective tool to improve overall satisfaction and success for our students. Drawing from Instructional Services, Research and Institutional Effectiveness, Career and Transfer Services, and both counseling and instructional faculty, the team has experience in classroom teaching, curriculum development, research, planning, student support services, and the development of measurable and meaningful learning outcomes. The dynamics of the team members provide the necessary knowledge and understanding of the campus and its processes to give students with varied educational goals and backgrounds a single source of information needed to successfully navigate a complex educational system of higher education.
The website that students can access has a background of the map of the campus. In the foreground are Mt. SAC students who are connected to the various components of each pathway: Get Started, Get Help, Get Tutoring, Get Involved, Get a Plan, and Get Going (see fig. 1). The Roadmap is not intended to be linear. The team expects students to come and go, and even return to various parts of the map many times. Instead, the site is a compilation of all of the various programs and services on campus that students should know about to have a successful experience at the college. For example, the Get Started pathway includes Apply to Mt. SAC, Apply for Financial Aid, Get Assessed, and Get Counseling.
After developing the prototype, the team presented to two student focus groups for feedback. The first group consisted of a career and technical education class in computer graphics. Since the Roadmap is presented in an electronic format, the team felt that these students could provide valuable input regarding the design. The Roadmap team developed a series of questions to ask the students, and the research yielded useful qualitative suggestions for improvement. The second student focus group consisted of first-time Mt. SAC students in one of the college’s summer learning communities. The goal in targeting these students was to determine how useful they thought the Roadmap would be as they began their educational endeavors. The same set of questions was used with this student focus group, and additional ideas for improvement emerged. Based on the suggestions made by the focus groups, the team is working with designers to modify and refine the Roadmap. The team will use continue to use student input, and it should not be overlooked as a source of data for designing student pathways.
The initial concept of the Roadmap was presented to the information technology staff to determine the feasibility of placing the Roadmap on the college’s web page and in the student portal. The project proposal was also presented to the Basic Skills Coordinating Committee, the Student Preparation and Success Council, the Educational Master Planning Group, and the Academic Senate on campus to obtain campus-wide buy-in. Last semester, a member of the Roadmap Team presented the concept to the Counseling Department, which expressed great support in the concept and an interest in providing additional input. A presentation will be made to the college’s board of trustees during the spring 2013 semester.
The Roadmap Project aligns locally with the recent recommendations from the California Community Colleges Student Success Task Force, which focus on career readiness, strengthening student support, improving education of basic skills students, and aligning course offerings to meet the needs of students. When students gather important information from a pathway, they will be able to access resources and make better decisions about their educational goals.
Figure 1. Prototype of the Get Started Pathway from the Roadmap to Success
The Roadmap also supports the college’s Educational Master Plan, which includes as goals on preparing students for success, using technology to enhance educational services, and ensuring that curricular, articulation, and counseling efforts are aligned to maximize successful university transfer. The Roadmap clearly identifies programs that students may want to be involved in that will increase their academic success, while also providing them with information regarding curriculum, articulation, counseling, student services, and transfer. It is a prime example of the power of technology to enhance the overall educational experience for students.
The Roadmap Team created a way to measure the impact of the college’s work on students using the AAC&U VALUE Rubrics. For example, the Lifelong Learning VALUE Rubric will be used in numerous sections of the Roadmap to assess students’ progress. The Get Started and Get Help sections of the Roadmap align well with the Independence component of this rubric. The assessment process will allow for numerous assessment points over the course of students’ time at the college. The Roadmap also aligns well with the college’s release of an online degree audit system (DegreeWorks) that students can use to check their progress toward their goal of earning a certificate, an associate’s degree, or transfer.
When the Roadmap is ready to launch, the college plans to make it accessible to the students and staff through various vehicles. Mt. SAC has established communication avenues with the local high schools through our high school outreach program. When the outreach staff visit the high schools, the Roadmap can be a part of the new student orientation sessions, so that students can access valuable information about getting started at Mt. SAC. Also, various academic programs of study, especially in the career and technical education area, have mandatory orientations designed for their cohorts of students. The Roadmap can also be a part of these orientations. The Roadmap will also be marketed to the associated students and student organizations and clubs. Eventually, the Roadmap team plans to offer staff development sessions to inform interested faculty and staff about the Roadmap project so that the information can be disseminated by faculty in their classes, especially in the first weeks of the semester.
In the process of designing and implementing the Roadmap, three significant lessons have emerged. First, the diversity of the Roadmap team has been important for creating an integrated product that will be valuable to our students, although working across professional responsibility boundaries has proved to be complex and time consuming. Second, student input and feedback using focus groups has been invaluable to the project’s success, and it will inform future developments as well. Third, the campus-wide communication planning has been essential to foster a collective understanding of the uses and benefits of the Roadmap. With the support developed through these strategies, the Roadmap team at Mt. SAC believes that the Roadmap to Student Success will not only be a tool that students enjoy using, but a tool that will lead them to the successful completion of their academic goals.
Terri Long is the dean of instructional services at Mt. San Antonio Community College.