John Gardner Institute: Excellence in Gateway Courses Conference April 13-16 Indianapolis, IN

The John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education   (group that pioneered the work on the First Year Experience, Foundations of Excellence programs) sponsored the first annual Conference on Excellence in Gateway Course Completion April 13-16 in Indianapolis, IN.  I was able to attend this wonderful conference and learned many things that could be useful to us on campus. I’ll summarize the highlights below – Please get in touch if you want to talk further!

2 Powerful Keynote Speakers:

Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, President, University of Maryland, Baltimore County – I’d love to get him to talk to our campus. He is so inspiring and knowledgeable. Thanks to Chris Beaverson who told me that Dr. Hrabowski will be speaking at the Pullo Center on August 28 for the United Way Campaign kick-off –

Katherine J. Denniston, Deputy Director, Division of Undergraduate Education, National Science Foundation talked about future of NSF grants in light of the new budget directions of the Obama administration.

What are “gateway” courses and why do they matter?

Gateway courses are those courses that are:

  • credit bearing
  • at the foundational level (either developmental or entry to major)
  • high risk to students (high D,F,W,I rates 30% or greater)
  • high enrollment (institutions define what this means to them)

These courses have the greatest impact on student success (and institutional retention rates).  Not surprisingly, retention in these courses is strongly correlated with successful degree completion. The conference topics looked at maintaining high standards while supporting students in these courses through re-design.

Strategies/Approaches/Tidbits of Interest

In each example below, faculty tried to improve DFWI rates in gateway courses through course interventions or re-design with significant success. Many of the ideas could be applied cross content as well as in courses that are not considered “gateway” courses. Click on the links below to read more about each intervention

  • Econ re-design makes big dent in D,F,W,I rates; data collection tells the tale – UMBC – faculty member sets ANGEL to stay locked until students prove mastery of each unit before they can move on
  • Dev Math re-design: blended course re-design + My Math Lab mandatory computer sessions = huge success! Univ. of South Florida
  • Intensive chemistry prep thru summer bridge – Cornell – students take the chem course in the summer with math review – they take it again in the fall fro a grade- big changes in success rates
  • Pairing ENGL 4 concurrently with ENGL 15 – same instructor – integrated content – scaffolding in ENGL 4 – counter-intuitive?… but successful! Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) – CCBC
  • Physiology  re-design – content heavy courses – 42% DFWI rates drop to 11% in three semesters Cal. State Northridge – prof adds active learning, teaching concepts, concept maps, and workbook assignments
  • Interventions that Matter – understanding the different “types” of DFWI students: low performers, non-attendees, non-compliers, and drop-outs and different interventions for each type of at-risk student in an Intro to Psych course – analytics drive change and success – IUPUI -

An Institutional Approach to Improving Gateway Course Completion

Year 1 – Planning

  1. Create task force (faculty, staff and admins)
  2. Identify gateway courses
  3. Determine whether gateway course completion is an issue – D,F,W,I rates of 30% or greater
  4. Find out follow-on retention rates for those students (DFWIs in gateways)
  5. Choose top 5 courses for re-design – use principles of re-design from G2C
  6. Create action plan for performance improvement – includes key performance indicators (KPI’s)

Year 2 – Implementation and Data Gathering

  1. Create implementation teams for course re-design and data collection and analysis
  2. Implement and assess using data
  3. Use predictive analytics to inform future actions

Year 3 – Assessing, Refining, Future Planning

  1. Data-based decision-making and action planning for continued quality improvement

Want more formalized support?

Apply for the Gardner Institute Program: Gateway to Completion G2C

  1. Join the formal program – There will be informational webinars on the following dates at
    • April 25th 10-11 am
    • May 16th 10-11 am
    • June 6th 2-3 pm


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