Denver: ‘Early alerts’ raise pass rates

Student pass rates and grades are rising at Community College of Denver. More students are passing their courses with a C or better and more are earning academic honors for high grades.

All faculty members now use an “early alert” system to warn counselors when a student is struggling. Alerts go out at the third, fifth, seventh and ninth week of a semester — in time for the advisor to suggest ways to get back on track.

Colorado tries ‘immersive game-based learning’

“Immersive game-based learning” (IGBL) is a teaching tool at the Community College of Aurora, reports the Denver Post.

In one building on CCA’s Lowry campus, there are numerous simulated areas — a multiroom house, a bar, an outdoor cafe, even an ambulance in which students can practice treating trauma victims or responding to an event.

“There’s one where the EMT students go into the house and see a man handcuffed and badly injured, and a woman and child off in another area,” (Colorado Community College System president Nancy) McCallin said. “Almost always, the student goes to the woman, but that’s always wrong — it turns out she was the abusive parent and it was the man who needed immediate medical attention.”

One of the latest additions is a simulated courtroom, complete with a jury box. Expected to be operational by next month, “Law and Order: EDU” will be run by Margaret Uchner, CCA’s legal studies program coordinator and a former deputy district attorney in Douglas County.

Students and faculty enjoy IGBL courses, according to surveys.  

“There are studies that show that the more engaged students are, the more likely their chances for success and their excitement about the future increases,” McCallin said.

Other Colorado community colleges are experimenting with IGBL, reports Community College Weekly. 

The Auto Collision Repair program at Morgan Community College purchased a SimSpray immersive virtual reality painting simulation unit. . . . The 3D SimSpray experience, aimed at students who play video games, allows students to practice painting before ever stepping into the paint bay.

At Front Range Community College, curriculum designer Kae Novak, who specializes in game-based immersive environments and virtual worlds, designed “Project Outbreak.” It’s a series of augmented reality scenarios in which microbiology students track and follow a potential epidemic in their local area to its source across international borders. Students use their mobile devices, the TagWhat geolocation app, Google Hangout and Google maps. Scenarios are designed to meet core competencies, promote global connectedness and give students a global perspective in solving real-world problems.

Angie Generose, an adjunct instructor at the Community College of Denver, is teaching a systemwide student success course through ACCESS, a web-based game modeled after the board game “Life.”

Denver remediates collegebound grads

More than 60 percent of Denver Public Schools graduates require remedial courses in college. Now Denver is providing free remedial math and English classes over the summer for collegebound graduates, reports the Denver Post.

Community College of Denver and Western Colorado Community College instructors will teach the courses at DPS schools.

The summer courses will cost DPS about $50,700. District officials said the program could save students and the state money in the long run.

KayLynn McAbee earned a 3.1 grade-point average in high school and was admitted to the University of Colorado-Pueblo. But she did poorly on placement tests. She signed up for summer remediation.

“I knew that if I took these classes that I would be better prepared for college, prepared to take on the workload and most likely finish college in four years, instead of the five years it would take if I had to take remedial classes,” McAbee said.

Students who get a C or higher during the summer won’t have the repeat the course at a Colorado university.

It’s sad that a B student isn’t prepared for college work.

FastStart boosts math success, but not retention

Remedial students in Community College of Denver‘s FastStart were more likely to complete remediation and take and pass gatekeeper math courses, concludes a  Community College Research Center study. However, FastStart was not linked to increased persistence or accumulation of college-level credits.

Fast Start was designed for students who test into at least two levels of developmental education in a particular subject area. The program combines multiple semester-length courses into a single intensive semester, while providing case management, career exploration, and educational planning services.

Acceleration, rather than case management, appeared to be “the catalyst driving superior course performance outcomes,” the study concluded.

FastStart has added learning communities that combine a developmental and college-level course. That may improve retention rates, researchers speculate.

Taking art outdoors — and large

In a neighborhood plagued by graffiti, Community College of Denver students painted a 100-foot mural on an alley wall by Flame Works Auto Body.

The mural shows “your art can be used in a positive way,” said Thomas Garcia, one of the art students. “I think that’s a good message.”

Community colleges rethink remedial placement

Community colleges are rethinking placement tests and looking for ways to start more students at the college level, reports Education Week.

About 60 percent of community college students are start in developmental education. Only 25 percent finish a credential in eight years, compared to 40 percent of students who start at the college level.

Long Beach City College in California now uses high school grades as an alternative placement method for recent graduates.

Community College of Baltimore County places some remedial writing students in a college-level composition class — and a skill-building class taught by the same instructor.

The school has found the intensive experience more than doubles the chance that a student will pass the credit-bearing class.

“We are no longer keeping students out of the credit course or isolating them with others who have weak writing skills. They are with stronger students,” said Peter Adams, the director of the program, who is working with schools around the country to adapt the model. “This is a way to shorten the developmental pipeline.”

When students study for the placement test, they’re more likely to place into college-level courses. Community College of Denver now publishes a review workbook and offers free tutoring for the placement test. On the first day of remedial classes, instructors make sure students are in the right level.

The first time Angelo Gallegos took the Accuplacer math test at CCD right after high school, he didn’t take it seriously and scored at the lowest level. Not wanting to waste time or money in a remedial class, he worked four years before returning to school.

To prepare for the test the second time, Mr. Gallegos, 26, went to Accuplacer tutoring sessions on campus over the summer from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. up to three times a week and studied at home another three hours a night.

He passed the test, started at the college level and became an honor student.

Retention effort seeks out males

High drop-out rates for male students have inspired the Community College of Denver to focus on helping men stay in school, reports the Denver Post. Fewer than 40 percent of students are men. Each year, one third to one half of male students leave without a credential.

Men are reluctant to seek help, said Ryan Ross, dean of students and retention.

“For some, there’s the pride factor, them saying, ‘I’m a man, I take care of my own and I’m not gonna ask anybody for help,” Ross said. “We have men here who are in dire situations. Maybe they’re homeless; maybe they’re not eating. We have a food bank but they won’t go because they don’t want to show weakness. “They’ll say, ‘ I’m on the campus, but I don’t want a pity party.’ “

Clenton Tunson, Jr. of Denver used to come for classes and go straight home. But this spring, he was persuaded to check out an Urban Male Initiative meeting. “I walked in and I haven’t left since.”

A father of three, Tunson enrolled in school after he was laid off from his job at a mechanical engineering design firm. For a time, he thought it might be better for him to work and let his wife continue school. But his lack of a degree was holding him back from even getting interviewed for jobs, he said. And he also realized that preaching the value of education to his children would ring hollow if he wasn’t walking the talk himself.

“Men will drop out and get a job to support their family,”  said Leslie McClellon, CCD’s vice president of student development. But, without an education, men can’t earn enough.

Urban Male Initiative offers a two-week summer bridge program that covers study and leadership skills.

“We don’t want the fluff leadership speech — we want to know, how did you fail and how did you get up?” Ross said. “We want to really give the students that push, to say I have to keep going because here’s somebody who’s a role model and they’ve had pitfalls and they were able to get up.”


On the remedial fast track to success

Two-thirds of new community college students aren’t ready for college-level classes, said Frank Chong, deputy assistant secretary for community colleges at the U.S. Department of Education, in a panel discussion organized by American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF).

The Community College of Baltimore County (Maryland) and the Community College of Denver (CCD) in Colorado were praised for accelerating remedial classes, reports Community College Times.

“The longer the pipeline, the more chances for leakage,” said Peter Adams, director of accelerated learning at the CCBC, whose runs a developmental English program that is gaining attention in Maryland and across the country.

CCBC’s Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) allows students to enroll in freshman English while taking upper-level developmental English in small-group classes.

ALP students have the same instructors for both courses, so they feel more comfortable asking questions and the instructors can more closely monitor students’ progress.

Prior to ALP, 59 percent of students in the developmental English class passed the course, and only 37 percent moved on to English 101. Since ALP started, 81 percent pass the developmental class, and, because of simultaneous enrollment, there is no attrition rate between developmental English and English 101.

CCD’s FastStart program lets students complete two to four semesters of developmental courses in one semester. It’s geared to working adults with career goals.

Prior to FastStart, 48 percent of students in the highest remedial math course completed the remedial sequence. Since FastStart, 85 percent have completed the sequence.

Adams called for a national institute to help instructors develop effective techniques for teaching remedial courses.