Faculty assembles to review data to improve students’ experience
By Janie Medelez
SAC Scores is a semi-annual event that assembles a collegewide assessment for a review of a comprehensive collection of data to determine areas of success, improvement, new goals or discoveries.
Some of the goals met or on track for the academic success department are 654 transfer advising guides, open educational resources and Quality Matters training for online instructors.
“Because at the academic level, most of our goals are ongoing, I have to work with the incoming data, on the district- and college-level, and at this point, we’re on track or have met our goals,” said Dr. Jothany Blackwood, vice president for academic success, in an interview Feb. 21.
The transfer advising guide on the Alamo Colleges website at www.alamo.edu provides links to transfer degree information from numerous universities and colleges.
It matches students’ areas of interest with career goals and guides them with an overview of the courses they may take before they transfer.
“Now students, based on their pre-major or university they want to attend, will know exactly what courses to take so they don’t waste time and money,” Blackwood said.
“TAG was developed districtwide through the heavy lifting of faculty and the support of Dr. George Railey Jr., vice chancellor for academic success and his team working with the colleges,” Blackwood said.
Students may access TAGs with their adviser and by going onto the Alamo Colleges website and typing transfer advising guide in the search box.
Open education resources is a program Blackwood plans to scale up across disciplines.
“OER allows the student to be ready on the first day of class with free resources, versus buying a book,” Blackwood said.
Blackwood’s continuing goal and vision with the OER program is to remove the financial barrier to education for all students across the district.
“Because we have a lot of students with physical implications who can’t afford to buy their books,” Blackwood said.
“So, students are waiting days or weeks to buy their books and getting behind in class.”
Blackwood said, “Another significant goal that we met is that 100 percent of our faculty who teach online have completed QM training.”
Quality Matters is an international non-profit organization that has set the benchmark standards for a quality online course.
QM created 42 rubric standards that an online course must meet to be recognized as QM certified.
Each rubric standard is designed to make the course friendly and clear.
It aligns the activities and assessments with the objective of the course and allows the students to meet the learning outcomes.
“This will be an area we will continue to focus on in increasing the number of online courses that are QM certified,” Blackwood said.
“But we have to be strategic in how many we can do because QM is an external organization and there is a cost associated for certification of a course and, at the same time, trying to build our reputation around quality.”
Faculty are concerned that not all classes are appropriate for online presentation, Blackwood said.
“So, the goal is to collaborate with faculty for their content expertise in identifying those disciplines better aligned for online versus the courses which are more effective in a face-to-face setting for students,” she said.
“A lot of places don’t give the opportunity to really engage in a cultural assessment,” she said. “So, I think to just have that space to slow down, look at the data and see what we’re doing around assessment and how can we continue to improve for the sake of our students doing well, is great.”
Vernal Walker, dean of academic success, said, “That really is the importance of the assessment. That really demonstrates to us that it’s important to the president and it’s important to the school.”
“At the end of the day, everything we do is for the student success, and strategic planning keeps us razor-focused on the goal,” Blackwood said. “We have until September 2019 to identify the new set of goals for the next three-year strategic planning cycle.”
Blackwood will be leading a dialogue with the deans of academic success, chairs and directors to identify those before the deadline.