In working with 50 community colleges over ten years, we’ve had the opportunity to partner with a number of Achieving the Dream institutions. In many ways, it’s an obvious pairing — becoming a data-driven college and creating a culture of evidence rely on the ability to give end users access to comprehensive data on students, programs, and interventions. Getting the data into the hands of those users requires a system that’s been built specifically for the needs of higher education, and our long time relationship with many of these colleges has enabled ZogoTech to do just that.
We work with colleges that are logging student contact data, not only as a means of keeping up to date with that individual student’s progress, but to also contribute to a pool of data on the collective effect of those contacts. Advisors who use this tool become an essential part of a culture of evidence as they are able to both implement and measure interventions.
In other cases, colleges use longitudinal data to determine where students are being lost along the developmental education pipeline, and they’re using those reports to devise strategies for improvement. At the same time, as end users become more comfortable with the data, department heads can begin assessing student learning objectives and strategic goals, all without waiting on IR and IT.
Case Study #1: Southwest Texas Junior College
As part of Achieving the Dream’s first cohort of colleges, SWTJC in Uvalde, TX was determined to create a culture of evidence. Previously, the college had received a warning status from accrediting agency SACS and they were working hard to improve student success.
Through the analysis of both qualitative and quantitative data, leaders at SWTJC noticed that among developmental classes, College Level Algebra was a big roadblock, but when completed, a great indicator of success — in fact, 35% of students went on to graduate within five terms of passing the course. The college created learning communities to address the concerns of specific cohorts within developmental math. These efforts resulted in marked improvements, with students in the learning communities progressing through the levels sooner than those who were not, thereby increasing both dev ed completion and overall graduation rates at the college.
In 2011 Southwest Texas Junior College was named as a top 10 finalist for the prestigious Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.
Case Study #2: Bunker Hill Community College
Using data to carefully refine and select groups of students is also at work at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, MA. In collaboration with their Achieving the Dream Initiative, Success Coaches who work in BHCC’s Advising Office are assigned to designated Seminars, where they work with faculty to design the course’s career exploration and educational planning components.
These coaches use ZogoTech’s Student Engagement to log student contact data in addition to creating and tracking interventions based on that data. They are then able to assess outcomes. This data can be shared with everyone in the department as well as faculty or executives. “I track the progress of my students and my interactions with them. I want to document that so that we can, for data purposes, see if we’re retaining the students and if the work that I’m doing is making a difference,” Success Coach Amanda Teker Dooling explains. Now instead of sending her spreadsheets to the Institutional Research Department, Teker Dooling and her colleagues can immediately share information with the research team from a reliable platform, meaning that the entire institution can focus on the data and gain actionable insights.
Analysis of those data have shown that term-to-term and year-to-year retention of students enrolled in BHCC Learning Communities is consistently 10 to 15 percentage points higher than college-wide retention rates. Armed with this information, the college plans to roll out the Learning Communities program to all first-year students at BHCC.
Case Study #3: Brazosport College
Named as one of 2013’s Top Ten Community Colleges by the Aspen Institute, Brazosport College has made great strides towards student success in recent years. For BC, working with ZogoTech has been an important part of reaching that goal. “ZogoTech doesn’t require you to be a programmer; even people who wouldn’t have thought of themselves as data users can now feel at ease with the technology and use it every day,” says President Millicent Valek, PhD. “It’s customized to our requirements, so the data we need is quickly and easily available. Because so many people on campus can use ZogoTech, it generates conversations about the data. That’s the kind of thing that drives continuous improvements and it plays a critical role in what we’re trying to do here.”
This widespread use means that everyone, at every level, can access the data most relevant to their goals. “Because the data are now available for various offices, they are able to get at a lot of information without waiting on IR,” explains David Preston, PhD, Director of Institutional Research. “The plan is to get even more data in the hands of more users, so that eventually everyone can use data for decision making.”