Sauk Valley Community College creates effective learning environments.
3C.1: Learning Environments Expand
In support of the Mission, the FY11 Strategic Plan addresses one of the barriers that faces the diverse population in Sauk’s rural setting: “Expand the number of courses and programs that can be completed through alternative delivery methods, to expand student access” (Objective 1.3). Sauk provides a range of services and options that help increase opportunities for students to participate in education:
Diverse Learning Environments
The college offers multiple learning environments for students by offering courses in a variety of different modalities:
Non-traditional schedules: From its beginnings, Sauk has had a regular schedule of night classes. However, several other forms of non-traditional scheduling have been implemented in response to student needs:
Saturday classes: Starting in FY03, the types of courses offered on Saturday mornings were expanded in an attempt to offer a weekend alternative. Saturday classes were discontinued after FY08 because other campus resources, like the Learning Resource Center, were not open on weekends. A 2007 scheduling survey confirmed that students preferred other alternate scheduling options.
Friday classes: As a result of the 2007 scheduling survey and the college’s shift to Monday-Thursday class schedules, some classes are scheduled as Friday-only. This plan has the benefits of one-day-a-week scheduling, with all campus support offices open and available for the students.
Eight-week courses: Selected courses are offered in a condensed eight-week format. Currently such courses are scheduled during the final weeks of the 16-week semester, allowing for late entry by students who were unable to begin the regular semester and alternative hours for students who withdrew from a course.
Dual credit - Sauk has participated in the state-regulated dual credit program since 1998, allowing high school students to earn high school and college credit simultaneously. Classes are conducted at high schools and the regional career center, using either their qualified instructors or one from Sauk. (Note: The drop in numbers in Figure 3iii below results from Sauk's adherence to the enactment of more stringent state rules and guidelines for enrollment eligibility.)
Video conferencing - Compressed video technology allows Sauk faculty to interact with students at a high school or another community college as they would in a traditional classroom. This format has allowed low-enrollment, on-campus courses to gain the students needed to be viable. Although increased internet course availability appears to be decreasing the need for video, the format plays a critical role in partnered criminal justice degrees with neighboring Highland Community College.
Internet access: The extensive availability and support of online offerings has allowed Sauk to expand access to learning in several different ways:
Online courses: From the early 1990’s, the college recognized the potential for increased student access through internet courses and offered its first such course in 1993. Through support and training provided by IT, the number of qualified instructors has grown and Sauk has about 70 online courses available.
Online certificates: As of May, 2010, HLC has approved online certificates in marketing and supervisory management, the first complete programs to be 100% attainable online.
Internet partnerships: The college effectively uses the availability of internet course offerings to expand student’s access to programs outside of the community:
ILCCO – Sauk is a member of Illinois Community Colleges Online (ILCCO), which has developed an Internet Course Exchange system where member colleges can share online courses. If an online course is not available at Sauk, counselors and advisors can search other ILCCO members to find the course. The Sauk student pays Sauk tuition.
NIOIN - Northern Illinois Online Initiative for Nursing (NIOIN) was launched in 2009 by four community colleges and eight regional hospitals as a hybrid program for nursing students. Students study the same course material online, but complete clinicals at their local hospitals.
Agriculture degrees - In 2010, Sauk partnered with University of Illinois to offer agriculture degrees. Combining online coursework and periodic on-site learning sessions at U of I agriculture facilities, Sauk students are able to complete most of the degree locally.
The graph below (see Figure 3iii) shows the trends for the credit hours that have been generated by some of these different modes of class delivery. Although the increase in online credit hours is significant, no research has been done to ascertain whether these are additional students or merely an alternate delivery selected by student enrolled in face-to-face classes.
3C.2: Campus Supports Interaction of Students and Faculty
The ways that students come into person-to-person contact with faculty both inside and outside of the classroom may play an important role in a student’s learning experience. Creating opportunities for students to meet, interact, and take on projects with other students around shared interests is also an important charge for the college, especially given the rural location of the campus.
Like all community colleges, Sauk has many students who desire only to come to class, master the required outcomes, and return home. But many Sauk students look to the college to provide an environment that supports and respects their personal and social interests. To that end, various activities serve the diverse student population:
Performing arts: Students can participate in concert band and theatre productions as extra-curricular activities.
Student organizations: An array of student organizations provides social, educational, recreational, and cross-cultural opportunities. Any group of at least eight students is eligible to establish a club by recruiting an advisor and complying with the rules set out in the Student Organization Manual. Clubs come and go based on changing student interests and the availability of faculty and staff to be advisors, but the list that follows identifies the clubs active at the time of the self-study:
Association of Latin American Students (A.L.A.S.)
Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC)
Criminal Justice Club
Disaster Relief Club
Health Career Club
International Students Organization (ISO)
Magic Club, a gaming group focused on a collector card game
Promoting Respect, Individuality and Diversity for Everyone (P.R.I.D.E.)
Recreational Sports Club
Single Parents Association
Unique Abilities, an association of students with special needs
United Neo Otaku (U.N.O.), an anime interest group
Student government: Student Government Association (SGA) provides leadership opportunities for students. Besides representing the student body to the administration and Board of Trustees, SGA allocates funding to student organizations and sponsors a variety of extra-curricular activities and programs throughout the academic year.
Intercollegiate athletics: Sauk has 10 athletic teams with about 140 student athletes. Many of the teams study together in addition to their athletic activities.
Student Ambassador program: The Student Ambassador program is open to all Sauk students who volunteer to represent the college on campus and in the community. The program is designed to enrich the leadership skills of students who assist with college recruitment and public relations activities through personal appearances.
The campus provides places where students can gather. The cafeteria is a popular gathering place and has been furnished with a ping pong table for student use. The LAC encourages students to bring study groups into its casual study setting. Informal seating and study areas are scattered throughout the building. Creating additional student gathering space is one of the aims of the 2010 Facilities Master Plan.
Interaction with Faculty
The importance of student access to faculty cannot be overstated, and Sauk addresses that principle in several important ways:
Class size: Keeping class sizes small allows students more access to teachers for help and support. Class sizes are capped at levels determined by administration or, for online courses, by contract. The caps for some classes have been increased during the past few years as the number of sections were reduced in an effort to reduce the expense of offering classes with minimal enrollments. However, the average class size remains below the state average, as demonstrated by ICCB statistics for 2009 (see Figure 3iv).
Figure 3iv: Average Class Sizes - 2009
Average Class Size
Source: Illinois Community College Board
Technology: Faculty also provide students their college-supplied email addresses on each syllabus, so both full-time and adjunct faculty are accessible to students via email regardless of the type of course. Also, in fall 2010, 143 on-campus course sections offered online support using a course management system. According to IT data, this was approximately one-third higher than the previous year. Faculty using Blackboard, the system in place at that time, increased student access to course resources, assignments, and their grades; reduced the need for handouts; and supported students who missed classes. In addition, an internal email feature gives the student another access point for individual contact with and help from the teacher.
Office hours: Full time faculty members maintain at least six office hours per week, as set by contract. Scheduled between 8 a.m. and 9:30 p.m., office hours are held in the faculty office, LAC, or other approved instructional area. Faculty teaching internet courses may schedule one office hour to be spent online for each internet course. There are currently no office hour requirements for adjunct faculty.
3C.3: Advising Programs Focus on Student Success
The Counseling Office plays a critical role in carrying out the college Mission to “meet the needs of diverse students” by carrying out its own mission that it “acknowledges and respects that right of each individual to realize his or her fullest potential. . . while encouraging each person to take initiative and responsibility for his or her total development.” The Counseling Office, consisting of three full-time counselors and three part-time Academic Advisors, carries out several functions that support student learning and success:
Placement: Evaluation of incoming student abilities and placing each student at an optimum level to ensure success is a critical component of advisement in an open enrollment community college. Student placement is determined through evaluation of ACT scores and high school transcripts, as well as by administering Compass placement testing in English usage, reading, and math. Placement testing is available on campus, but counselors also provide testing options at local high schools. The Counseling Office provides information to prospective students about the placement policy through a Placement Guide, available as a booklet and on its webpage.
Educational planning: Every incoming full-time student meets with a Counselor or academic advisor to receive help in setting learning goals. The Counselors evaluate placement scores and help students establish plans for achieving their academic goal. They make the Myers-Briggs Inventory and other career and self-awareness instruments available to students and interpret the results for the students.
Referrals for special services: Counselors are the primary conduit for new students to the various support services Sauk offers to help them achieve student success. Such programs are discussed below in 3C.4.
Orientation: Counselors oversee and teach Orientation (PSY 100), a one-credit-hour course required of all degree-seeking students (except for students who transfer 16 or more credits into Sauk). About 48% of the incoming students will complete the course by the end of the fall semester. Because of capacity limitations, the college has not been able to deliver the course to everyone during the first semester, and some students postpone the course until the last semester of attendance.
Workshops and resources: The Counseling Office regularly provides workshops and events intended to contribute to student success. Some of these are funded through a particular program, such as Student Support Services, and then opened to the whole campus to attend. Others, like the annual Healthy Living Resource Fair, are campus-wide.
3C.4: Programs Support Overcoming Barriers
Community college students often face life challenges such as unemployment, child care needs, or personal crises, which undermine their ability to succeed academically. Sauk’s three counselors are qualified to provide counseling and help to students with personal issues. The Counseling Office also administers two programs that allow the campus community to respond to the needs of students:
Early Alert System: To allow proactive intervention by notifying counselors of student challenges, an Early Alert System was implemented in the fall 2009 semester. Faculty can discreetly refer a student by completing a web-based form that is automatically sent to a single-point coordinator in Counseling. The coordinator evaluates referrals and forwards them to the appropriate resource: SSS Transportation Committee for a transportation issue; Counseling for a personal issue; Advisors for attendance issues, etc. Resolution of the issue is communicated back through the coordinator to the faculty member(s) who made the referral. The Early Alert System was designed by a subcommittee and created digitally by the IS/IT staff.
Crisis Assistance Team: The Sauk Valley Crisis Assistance Team (SVCAT), established in 2009, has the primary purpose to confidentially address concerns about the personal wellbeing of students. Composed of counselors, faculty, and professional/technical staff with pertinent professional background, the Team investigates referrals and establishes an intervention plan to assist a person in need. The goal is to address potential crisis issues in their earliest stages so that proper interventions lead to a safe and healthy resolution. Any employee or student may refer someone to the SVCAT. A designated team member will provide immediate crisis intervention as applicable, gather initial information, determine if the situation warrants team involvement, and call an emergency meeting of the team, if appropriate. The SVCAT will determine and implement a plan of action or intervention, determine who outside of the team may have a need to know or to be involved, and provide a written summary of the incident and actions taken. In its first year, 21 personal crisis situations came to the team’s attention, 15 of which were handled on an individual basis and six by the entire team. Both of these initiatives arose out of concern over evidence that students were being lost to both academic and personal barriers. A system was needed for faculty to be able to communicate with counselors in a timely, confidential, efficient manner. Faculty received initial training and subsequent reminders of these processes since then.
Sauk also maintains support programs designed for demographic populations of students with similar types of barriers:
Student Support Services (SSS) is a federally funded TRIO program for first-generation, low-income, or special-needs students. Students who meet eligibility requirements receive academic counseling from SSS counselors, academic support through student success workshops, laptop and textbook loans, and scholarship incentives. SSS serves 200 Sauk students annually. During FY08, SSS offered 38 workshops which were attended by 480 students. SSS students performed better on average than all Sauk students in the following areas: year-to-year retention, transfer, graduation, good standing, and GPA.
Student Needs Coordinator is the primary contact for students with qualified disabilities, as defined under section 504 of the ADA, that are seeking services at SVCC. The Coordinator oversees priority registration, classroom accommodations, provides study skills assistance and personal support. Students must self-identify to receive services, but the Coordinator attends IEP meetings at local high schools to encourage higher education programs as appropriate for graduating high school seniors.
Veterans Services are provided by a dedicated Veterans Service Coordinator, who is a counselor. Traditionally provided by the Counseling Office on an informal basis, the state-mandated program provides veterans and their families assistance with educational benefits, counseling, and readjustment services, among others. In FY10, the program served 92 vets and their families.
Cross-Cultural Coordinator identifies and supports Sauk’s Hispanic and minority students. The Coordinator, who serves 35 – 40 students each year , makes referrals to support for coursework and family issues, plans events that showcase cultural backgrounds, and provides leadership opportunities. Through the grant-funded Families United for a Strong Education (FUSE) program, which began in 2005, the Coordinator encourages families to set higher educational goals for their children. The Cross-Cultural Coordinator also coordinates international admissions of students with the Admissions Office by serving as Sauk’s international students’ primary designated school official.
A retention initiative undertaken in spring 2010 is a cross-institutional effort to address student barriers to success in learning. The initiative includes two major components:
Perkins /Retention Coordinator: Funded in part by a Perkins federal grant, this new position includes a charge to “take an integrated approach in retention efforts” and “to create a socially inclusive and supportive academic environment that addresses the social, emotional, and academic needs of students.” The Coordinator chairs the retention committee and provides various support programs and activities. In addition, a grant to create a learning community, which is designed to support underprepared learners, is being implemented as the self-study is concluded.
Retention Committee: This cross-institutional committee, which was re-established after a multi-year hiatus, collects and examines retention data, develops initiatives to improve retention, and communicates ideas and expectations to the campus community.
3C.5: Learning Environments Support Underprepared Students
As an open enrollment college, Sauk recognizes that an important part of its Mission is to help community members to become prepared for a college education. These efforts reach out into the community, serve the enrolling population of students, and continue through various support services available to all students. In conjunction with state regulations and grant funding, the college provides services to those for whom the educational system has failed or been inaccessible:
Literacy service: For almost 25 years, Sauk has hosted Project VITAL, a state grant-funded literacy program that recruits and trains tutors to provide free one-on-one tutoring services to adults who are unable to read at a 9th-grade level. In FY10, Project VITAL had 82 tutors working with 115 students more than 690 hours per month in 60 towns within the 1,625 square mile college district.
Adult Education: The Adult Education Department utilizes a combination of four state and federal grants to provide Adult Basic Education, Adult Secondary Education, and English as a Second Language. The programs strive to make students more employable, more productive community members, and to transition to vocational training or higher education. Over 21% of Sauk's district population over the age of 25 do not have a GED or high school diploma and 6.9% are in need of ESL services, according to the most current data. The Adult Education Department served an average of 340 students per year, with an average of 42% of those receiving ESL services.
Developmental courses: Sauk applies the term “developmental” to a set of pre-college level courses in which a student may enroll for developmental, rather than college credit. These are clearly designated in the catalog and schedule with a course number lower than 100. Students are placed in these courses in accordance with Sauk’s placement policy. Developmental students often include non-traditional students who need a refresher after years away from the classroom and traditional students who satisfied high school graduation requirements but are not prepared for college-level expectations.
Academic Development Department: A new Academic Development unit began operating in FY08, which placed a single director over the combined areas of adult education, AmeriCorps, developmental education, Learning Assistance Center (LAC), and Student Needs to provide more coordination among these areas in support of developmental students. The Director of Academic Development has worked with the cross-institutional Developmental Education Committee to undertake improvements in placement policy and tutor training, revise the exit testing from developmental courses, and establish the Testing Center. As the self-study is concluding, an administrative reorganization has re-focused the unit on Project Vital, adult education, the LAC, and coordinating the developmental course curriculum. Data on the effectiveness of the revisions will flow through operational planning processes starting this year.
Sauk boasts an enviable level of technology directed toward enhancing student learning, which is managed by the Information Services/Instructional Technology (IS/IT) Department (3D.2):
Access to computers: There are approximately 325 computers designated for student use throughout classrooms, labs and other locations. All students have access to the wireless network for laptops and personal devices when they are on campus.
Technology-enhanced classrooms: In 38 of the 44 general use classrooms, instructors have access to a multi-media projection system (up from 16 classrooms so equipped in 2006). The equipment in these rooms includes a ceiling-mounted projector, wall-mounted speakers, and an instructor console that contains a computer, document presenter, and DVD/VCR player. In those few classrooms that do not have enhanced technology, portable technology carts can be requested for use by faculty.
Composition classrooms: Sauk students learn composition and research skills in a specially designated and equipped set of classrooms known as the Write Place, which has been in place at the college for nearly 20 years. Here students learn to use Microsoft Word™ to create finished essays which conform to the published standards of MLA. Instructors can use the computer application Insight™ which may be used to project lecture notes and writing samples or to interact with individual students as they compose. The Internet is available to allow use of the online databases and textbook supplements or may be blocked when necessary.
Online course management: In addition to its use for online courses, any full-time or adjunct faculty member may use course management software (currently Moodle) as a supplement to on-campus courses.
Program-specific technologies: Sauk’s instructional programs utilize a variety of specialized technologies, including the following examples:
The Biology area has portable, high-resolution monitors attached to computers with wireless internet connections, and a microscope with a digital camera. This allows classes to search for images online and the project them on the screen, and to find and display images in the microscope and save the images for later use.
The Chemistry area uses a gas chromatograph to separate components of a mixture, as well as infrared and atomic absorption spectrometers to identify a substance’s components.
The Electronics program uses the PSpice simulation software to design and test an electronic circuit prior to building it.
The Nursing labs are configured to look like patient hospital rooms and contain much of the same equipment. Among the technologies are laptop computers with patient records software that are transported on carts among patient rooms.
3C.7: Educational Services Included in Continuous Improvement System
Sauk is firmly committed to continuous improvement of its educational services. Its system of evaluation and review ties appropriate forms of data to varying forms of service. Every five years, each office and academic area complete a comprehensive program review, at which time an array of data and measures receives scrutiny. However, the primary mechanism for quality improvement review is annual operational planning. This process requires that every action plan be identified by its source, such as assessment, program review, department discussion, or some other source. A sampling follows (3D.4):
The Adult Education Department gathers data on ten measures as required by the National Reporting Standards. In addition, enrollment and completion statistics for the program are gathered through a data system called DAISI, which is used as a means to measure the effectiveness of Adult Education class sites on a variety of factors, including post-test rates. For example, based on FY09 data, four ineffective adult education class sites were eliminated. For FY10 the department will also be using unemployment data in its planning to identify communities with the highest need for GED and ESL classes.
Student Support Services (SSS) use a Likert Scale Assessment in combination with open-ended questions to assess the effectiveness of each of their program activities (workshops and college visits). The activities are evaluated immediately after they take place. SSS also evaluates the effectiveness of its program by having program participants complete an end-of-the-year comprehensive evaluation, which it confirms by examining data on retention, graduation, transfer, and GPA of student participants. In FY09, for example, individual programs and events received an overall average of 4.6 (out of 5 possible). An end-of-the-year comprehensive evaluation by program participants gave an average rating of 4.7. Data showed that for FY08 over 93% of program participants remained in good academic standing.