Learning College Model Adopted

As the separate efforts of the College to respond to HLC expectations progressed, the nature and scope of the necessary change began to impact the whole institution, including areas which are not the stated focus of the visit. This impact on the whole system arose naturally out of the nature of statements made in the Rationale and Expectations sections for both of the focused visits: many of the specific deficiencies noted stemmed not from intentional neglect, but from a larger systemic weakness in processes, accountability, and documentation. Assessing the College against learning organization principles confirmed the deficits: No system fostered cross-discipline communication. No system existed to tie assessment results to future budgets. Accountability for and follow-through on internal planning processes were often unreliable. For example, documents frequently ended up shelved in individual offices. It became clear that these system weaknesses must be addressed in tandem with the focused visit expectations.

SVCC’s adoption of the O’Banion Learning College model1 in the summer of 2004 had a major impact on the subsequent approach to both academic assessment and strategic planning.Reference The Learning College principles of providing and documenting quality student learning required embedding assessment into the culture of the College and connecting it to the strategic planning system.

Administrators and faculty who were available over the summer of 2004 worked together in various task force groupings to develop a new vision of Sauk Valley Community College as a learning college. Data sources were identified; accountabilities were assigned; links between data and planning were developed for the academic area and adapted into the new system for the support services area. By the time the faculty and staff convened for the opening in-service at the beginning of the Fall 2004 semester, a proposal for a learning college system was ready to be unveiled.

As a result, in the process of addressing the specific issues related to assessment and strategic planning, the adoption of the Learning college concept has enabled the college also to address the overarching system concerns:

  • Accountability: Policies and job descriptions now assure that individuals are charged by title rather than by name to see that the various vital tasks of maintaining the learning college are carried out.
  • Policy: Various visual representations, for example, the Organizational Planning and Improvement System Chart and the Planning Relationships Flow Chart, provide visual means of understanding the relations of various sections and processes of the learning college. In addition, written documentation of the assessment plan and strategic planning procedures clearly delineate the processes that are vital.
  • Cyclical Reliability: The Planning Timeline not only sets deadlines for the processes that ensure timely information for the budget process, but coordinates the link between assessment and operational planning cycles.
Leadership Profile

1O’Banion, Terry, A Learning College for the 21st Century (American Council on Education/The Oryx Press, 1997).