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RC Begins “Quality Enhancement Plan”

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RC has implemented a new five year plan currently titled the “Quality Enhancement Program” to improve student’s experiential learning outside of the classroom.

There are three main components to a college education:  The general education courses, a person’s major, and the experiential learning, which are things done outside of the classroom, such as study abroad and internships.  Roanoke has been known to have very strong majors, and has recently gained much publicity with their INQ general education courses, but is slightly behind in their experiential learning. 

The school started this comprehensive plan in hopes of improving in five main categories for student’s experiential learning: research, internships, service-learning, study away and artistic-creative works. 

 “There are two main issues we have [at RC],” said Dr. Kimberly Filer, Director of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment.  “The first is people’s experiences outside the classroom. Some people’s experiences are not as quality as other peoples.  We want to elevate the quality of experience for everyone across the board, no matter what their major is.”

Filer is part of a committee made up of her, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Dr. Jennifer Berenson, and Math and Computer Science Professor, Dr. Robert Grant. 

“The other issue we face is what we call ‘power users’,” Grant said.  “There seem to be students who do everything and get involved in as much stuff as they can, whereas others do not get involved at all.  We want to get all students participating because there are many things that are tied to participation, such as retention and classroom grades.”

The group’s hope is to develop a type of program that all students can be a part of. The three have been to many workshops and visited other schools who do this type of thing as a way to assess how it should be done here. 

“It’s not going to be one giant thing all at once,” Grant said  “Next year will be the pilot year to test it and by 2012 it will be implemented.  We’re going to do small steps over the five years to get it fully into the school.”

The program will be set up so that students can have hands-on experience with other students, as well as with teachers, and do things both for and not for credit.  The students will go into it with a thought of what they want to get out of it and how it will play out in the long term.  They will be required to think ahead of time, and they will reflect afterwards on what they learned. 

The main thing is that the student will not be isolated.  They can share with teachers, other students, or the public about what they have learned. 

“We want them to be able to build relationships that will last after college,” Filer said.  “There is a connection with learning in the classroom and applying it to their experiences.”

 RC has purchased an e-portfolio through Inquire for students to show to employers or grad schools.  They will have showcase models where they can present their work and further reflect on it as well as advertise it for future students.

There is also the potential to set up a central data source, so that students can search for things either by their major or by the type of experience they want to do.  This will either be electronically or physically a building on campus for all the students to go to.

 “This program has the potential to transform the culture of the campus,” Grant said.  “Everyone will have a well-rounded learning experience.”

 The final step in the process will be having the current RC students give input on what they would like to see out of the program.  A survey will be sent to all RC students asking things such as previous participation they’ve had, if they want to participate in learning experiences like this, what types of things they would want to participate in, as well as barriers and motivators there might be to participating in these type things. 

“We have everything on our part in place, now we need to hear from the students for their needs,” Filer said.  “It wouldn’t be right for us to present these things and assume what students want because we don’t really know. We need to hear from students the best methods because it is unknown without them.”