We've written a few times about "non-traditional" learners but the reality is that on today's college and university campuses across the U.S. more than half the students enrolled are more than 24 years old - with many working part-time or full-time and even supporting dependents of their own. This is the new normal.

Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio is one such institution focusing on these students that achieved noteworthy results from carefully, and thoughtfully, applying data and analytics. From the article:
“Full and part-time students progress at different rates,” Cleary said, “and it is difficult to compare students who take a term off to those who progress straight through, including summers.” Sinclair and other schools work with partners like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to adopt a research-based approach to these difficulties. In Sinclair’s case, the partnership works to increase college completion rates through data-driven initiatives like Completion by Design, which identifies where and when schools are losing students, and provides strategies and supports to address those loss points.

“Planning with Completion by Design has allowed us to identify a number of areas of improvement for student completion,” said Steven Johnson, president and CEO of Sinclair. “Through a full review of institutional policies and practices, we hope to remove barriers to student access, progression and completion.”
Students are also empowered and encouraged to track their own progress using a customized tool "My Academic Plan" or MAP that can not only be used to monitor progress but send alerts for task completion and more support [hey, just like Junction Beacon!]. How pervasive is MAP usage? In the spring 2014 semester nearly 9 in 10 students used the system and Sinclair's data demonstrates that students who used MAP were twice as likely to graduate as those who didn't.

One other major risk area, preparedness for college-level work, is addressed in the piece as well as they cite a statistic that 60% of students have been referred to developmental courses over the last two years. By way of example:
Ryan Hurst, 29, spent 11 years in the Marine Corps before starting college. To refresh his math skills, he enrolled in Sinclair’s math academy to fill his academic gaps without a complete semester of study. “I was out of school for so long and needed to refresh my skills, but I knew I didn’t need to sit through entire classes,” Hurst said. With this self-paced online course in a teacher-led classroom, he was able to address weak areas and skip the concepts he already knew. After six weeks, Hurst completed two math courses and received credit hours toward completing his degree .
It's great to see senior leaders at community colleges digging deep to understand the needs of all students and then assembling the resources, tools, training and technology to address gaps and drive progress for greater numbers of learners. While the issues around dropouts are multi-faceted, the steps illustrated in this article appear to be having a significant impact. From our work with Junction we know that providing an easy-to-use, easy-to-customize learning environment that uses data to adapt instruction and promote positive study behaviors is another puzzle piece that can be used to develop solutions as well.

To read more, visit the link below.

Data-driven support improves student completion rates at community college

John Carter is studying to become a firefighter and paramedic. He stopped attending school in 3rd grade and didn't return until age 19, when he started a recovery program to complete his high school education. Today, Carter, 24, is a community college student and volunteers with at-risk youth.