Bainbridge State College has been awarded funds from a competitive program in the University System of Georgia (USG) focused on innovative practices designed to increase student success and college completion.
Bainbridge State was the only USG institution to receive funding for both of its submitted projects.
The college will receive $35,000 from the University System of Georgia Incubator, a program that is aligned to the work of Gov. Nathan Deal’s Complete College Georgia (CCG). CCG calls not just for maintaining current graduation levels but also for producing an additional estimated 250,000 graduates in order to meet projected workforce requirements. By 2020, an anticipated 60 percent of jobs in Georgia will require a certificate, associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree, an increase of 18 percent over the present level of the state’s young adults prepared to such a level.
“Complete College Georgia furthers the mission of Bainbridge State College, particularly our emphasis upon accessible and excellent education, and we are excited about this opportunity to participate in innovative practices. We’re so proud of our outstanding faculty and their willingness to explore new models of learning,” said Dr. Tonya Strickland, vice president for Academic Affairs.
Dr. David Pollock, director of Online Learning and the Center for Teaching Excellence, is the project leader of the team receiving $25,000 for a grant proposal titled “A Self-Paced Competency-Based Model for Learning.” Melissa Harrell, instructional coordinator for the School of Arts and Sciences, is the project leader of the team receiving $10,000 for a grant proposal titled “Planning for Success in Gateway Courses: Curriculum Alignment of English, Math and Economics.”
Modular and self-paced learning
Dr. Pollock’s team will convert the five courses in the Small Business Management certificate into online modules that are self-paced.
“There is growing interest in higher education with models of learning that allow students to move at their own pace, to gain credit for prior learning, and to take more responsibility for their own learning,” Dr. Pollock said. “All of these approaches are believed to increase student motivation and persistence to completion and to reduce the amount of time it takes to complete a program.”
Because 58 percent of Bainbridge State’s students are non-traditional and older, some of these students have tremendous demands on their time and little tolerance for some of the hoops they have to jump through when working toward a credential. Dr. Pollock said his proposal would allow more flexibility in the time needed to devote to the courses and to allow self-paced work.
“The objective of this project is to create a learning model in which students take ownership of their own learning by recognizing and working toward concrete competencies in a self-paced program of study,” Dr. Pollock said. If the pilot is successful, Dr. Pollock said it will not only decrease the time to completion and increase persistence for students in the certificate, but perhaps more importantly, it will provide valuable information for expanding such an approach into other programs in the college.
High school students transitioning to college
In the team project headed by Harrell, the college will align its gateway English, mathematics and economics courses with the Common Core State Standards so that college courses build on what high school students already know and can do.
“Bainbridge State will create a pathway for high school students that enable them to better understand college expectations and transition from high school to Bainbridge State,” Harrell said. “This transition, facilitated by standards and assessment alignment, should improve student success and completion.”
One statistic Harrell would like to decrease is the number of credit hours students earn in order to get a degree. She said 16.5 percent of Bainbridge State’s full-time Associate of Arts majors completed 150 percent of the required credit hours for their degree.
“We believe we can reverse this trend by better aligning our core courses with high school standards and by building better relationships through working closely with high school faculty and advisers on this project,” Harrell said. “Aligning gateway courses will provide a smooth transition for high school students into college-level work and will motivate them to further success as they continue working on a degree.”
Not only will these projects enhance students’ experiences at Bainbridge State, but the college will also be part of the incubator cohort comprising a learning community of campuses that will share lessons learned with other USG institutions.