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Blinn developing initiative to help students transition to college coursework

Quality Enhancement Plan will feature learning communities to boost student engagement

May 20, 2014

Blinn College’s district-wide initiative to help first-year students succeed will be centered on the development of learning communities, Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) Director Mary Barnes-Tilley told the College’s Board of Trustees during its regular meeting Tuesday night.

As part of Blinn’s reaffirmation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), Blinn’s QEP initiative will help students transition from high school to college. Colleges throughout the nation undergo the QEP process to develop an important element of their institutional mission, addressing a well-defined, focused topic or issue related to enhancing student learning.

Blinn’s QEP topic, “Student Success in the First Year of College,” was unveiled at its Faculty Convocation in January, and since then the QEP development team conducted internal and external data research to narrow the focus.

The College identified four high-enrollment courses – History 1301, Biology 1406, English 1301 and Math 1324 – in which first-year students have a lower success rate than the average Blinn student. As part of Blinn’s QEP, learning communities will be created with students taking two of those four courses, plus a success course that teaches students about diverse career opportunities as well as the College’s many learning resources.

Learning communities have been around for roughly 20 years, Barnes-Tilley said, but have become more popular in the last decade as colleges and universities have developed successful models.

“Research suggests that learning communities have the best results in improving student success and retention rate compared to other initiatives, and linking these communities to a student success course makes a lot of sense,” Barnes-Tilley said. “The research suggests that students master the subject matter better than if they are in a regular class because they have a support network to help them and students are more engaged in the learning process.”

Earlier this month, student focus groups were held to generate feedback, and six subcommittees are working to develop specific aspects of the initiative. Blinn’s final QEP proposal is due to SACSCOC in August.

Blinn enrolled 18,413 students this Fall and has experienced 31.1 percent growth since 2006. Founded in 1883, the College’s tuition and fees average about one-third the cost of the same classes at most four-year public universities in the state. In addition to its campuses in Brenham, Bryan, Schulenburg and Sealy, the College teaches online courses, dual credit for high school and prepares students for quick employment through its career and technical certification programs.

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