A lab at Southeast Community College designed to help students improve their academic and study skills and be more prepared for college-level coursework has won a national award.
The Transitions Lab at SCC has been named a winner of the National Council of Instructional Administrators Exemplary Initiatives competition in the Curricular and Program Innovation category.
The lab, an initiative of a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant, is in the Library Resource Center on SCC’s Lincoln Campus. It helps prepare students for success in college-level coursework by offering one noncredit “Quick Start” brush-up continuing education workshop and the opportunity to meet with a transition advisor.
Dr. Phip Ross, English instructor at SCC, will be attending the 25th International Conference on College Teaching and Learning in Florida in March to accept the award and present about SCC’s Transitions Lab.
“We are proud of a lot of things that this grant has helped us accomplish,” Ross said. “We try to talk to all students who score low on our placement test and start building relationships with those students.”
The Transitions Lab, which began in spring 2011, is a resource for students as they prepare for upcoming classes, particularly targeting those whose test scores place them in low levels of math, reading and writing. These scores can frustrate students and require many classes of developmental, or remediation, courses, Ross said.
“We are really taking a close look at improving services that serve students across the college,” he said. “The Transitions Lab is one piece of a puzzle.”
From the outset, Ross said plans included strategies to bridge curriculum from adult education to foundations courses and to college-level coursework.
“Post-secondary education institutions can be a very strange and confusing culture,” Ross said. “Besides the academics, there’s so much to acclimate to, and we try to meet and know our students and guide them. It’s a lot of work, but if someone’s in your corner, look out.”
Gathering data is an important part of the process. One study conducted by Transitions staff showed that students who received services in the lab are out-performing those with similar placement scores by completing and passing courses at a rate of almost 2 to 1. So, while transitions students are often skipping over classes due to 93 percent of its students improving placement scores, they are more successful and earning more credits in later terms. Twenty-three have earned employment certificates in the first two years of the grant.
“We’re preparing to celebrate our first graduates this spring,” Ross said.
Forty-eight of past Quick Start students earned spots on SCC’s 2013 Fall Quarter Dean’s List. To be recognized on the list, a student must complete at least six quarter credit hours of the term with a minimum grade-point average of 3.5. Classes with a grade of “P” (Pass) do not count toward the six-hour minimum.
The Transitions Lab staff advises students who come out of the Testing Center with scores in the foundations and pre-foundations level and helps connect them to other SCC resources. The staff invites students to register for the continuing education Quick Start course, which requires 10 hours or more of study in at least one skill area, until the next term begins. At the completion of 10 hours or more of study, students may retake the placement test and the $15 fee is waived.
Advisors celebrate students’ accomplishments, help them enroll in college-level courses and refer them to available college services, such as financial aid. They also maintain contact with the student to gather data on their progress and remain available for advising until the student transitions to a program advisor.
“The more students who have relationships with members of the staff, the more engaged and invested they are in their education,” Ross said. “I can’t say enough about our advisors in the lab. They are outstanding.”
Transitions Lab advisors are Gerian Rada and Kristi Lawrence.
The three-year grant, which was awarded to SCC by the Nebraska Community College Consortium and the U.S. Department of Labor, ends in October. It provides community colleges and other eligible institutions of higher education with funds to expand and improve their ability to deliver education and career training programs that can be completed in two years or less, are suited for workers who are eligible for training under the TAA for Workers program, and prepare program participants for employment in high-wage, high-skill occupations.