Video Transcription File: https://youtu.be/MRtKEeNhaUU
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- [Dianne] I have had the privilege of leading multiple tact grants. One of the greatest accomplishments from that experience has been the development of our Adult Learning Academy, the ALA. We were highlighted as a hybrid best practice. Hybrid meant we accelerated the program for the students, accelerated time to completion. We contextualized all of the instructional content to career pathways and we operated under an intrusive student support model in developmental education which is math, reading, and writing, that we had a lot of churn. We had a lot of students who would sign up for a developmental education class and not be successful.
We needed an alternative. We needed a way to look at unemployed, underemployed, low skilled job seekers, primarily adults, who wanted to become career ready and college ready. And by college ready, I mean able to succeed in a post-secondary training program.
We have full-time faculty who work on the credit side of the college, who worked with us to not only develop the curriculum, but to deliver the curriculum.
We were recently approached by one of the K-12 systems in our service area asking if we wanted to collaborate with them on seeking some ALA funding.
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- [Matthew] Students who go into, say, our patient care technician training program need to be college level in reading, writing and they need to be through pre-algebra. So if a student is not one of those things, they'll enter into the Adult Learning Academy.
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- [Matthew] We do occasionally pull a few students together in a small group and that helps to have them work with one another. So, we don't want them to isolate themselves even though they're working independently. So, we try to foster a community environment.
We have to manage that in several ways. One way that we do it is we have a master checklist with every assignment that that student will need to do over the course of the Adult Learning Academy and will sign off on each unit. So we break it into nine parts. And if I notice they're working on something that's beyond where they need to be, then I'll step in or another faculty member will step in. What we found is that communication amongst faculty members is critical. We have Dropbox so where we can put notes to one another as far as what a student has accomplished and what still needs to happen. And then, of course, we regularly dialogue throughout the day.
We enroll a new group of students every two weeks. It's rolling admissions and it depends on how many people are involved with the grant. In the Adult Learning Academy, we have the advantage of having students be prepared. Before they would enter the Adult Learning Academy, they'll have a new student registration workshop which introduces them at least fundamentally to the college email, the LMS, which in this case is Blackboard. And then they'll also be introduced to digital literacy. So that will help them improve keyboarding skills, basic web navigation, internet navigation.
Our curriculum is constantly being reevaluated so we can adjust it as we go.
- [Debbie] As a math teacher, one of the hardest things for me out when I'm teaching a regular math course is that the students will say when am I ever going to use this. That's the question that every math teacher dreads. In the ALA, we don't worry about it so much because these students know that they are going to use it.
We've created a workbook where the first section of the workbook for each chapter is just a regular old math book. There are problems to try. But at the end of each chapter, there is something called applications, career applications. So what we've tried to do is put the adult learner in charge and say, "You're ready for a test when you tell us that you're ready for a test." But then what we've done is for each chapter, we also have what we call flashcards. They're actually virtual flashcards. We've got them online so that they can access them from anywhere and the students run through the flashcards before they take a test and make sure that they've hit every topic and that they understand what's going on. And then they come to us and they say, "I'm ready for test number three," whatever it is.
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- [Dianne] I would recommend if anybody else wants to try to learn from what we've done and try to start a similar program at their organization, that they read a little bit about the process of change, that they really talk to leadership at their institution. It's always best, of course, if you have leadership at the very top and you have to find the champions within the disciplines. And you find out who that is just through conversation.
Four years in, we did get some corporate funding and have been able to scale the ALA to another campus. On the math side, we were able to reduce time to completion on average from a 16-week semester to 6 weeks and I mean, we've just been celebrating.
-[Matthew] Something else that we can't do without is the intrusive model of support, finding faculty and staff who are comfortable in a more free-flowing flexible environment. It's helpful to have some sort of manager on site. So someone to help manage all of this input and turn it into something that isn't confusing at all for students who are involved because, of course, they can't be exposed to many different messages. They need to have a consistent message.
-[Dianne] We continue to tweak and enhance the program and being part of the Supporting Student Success project really helped us move the college towards sustainability.