«Final Monitoring Report Florida Atlantic University’s Improvement Plan May 19, 2015 In June 2014, the State University System of Florida’s Board ...»
Final Monitoring Report
Florida Atlantic University’s Improvement Plan
May 19, 2015
In June 2014, the State University System of Florida’s Board of Governors (BOG) approved the
Improvement Plan for Florida Atlantic University’s Performance Based Funding Model Scores.
At that time, the newly-appointed president of Florida Atlantic University (FAU), John Kelly,
assured the Governors that the University embraced accountability measures and would be
committed to improving its baseline scores in the BOG Performance Based Funding Model.
The BOG then established guidelines for the universities to develop an improvement plan that would be undertaken during the 2014-2015 fiscal year. The foundational theme for the guidelines was that “gains realized on these metrics will not be available for at least a year,” and as such, “specific initiatives in the improvement plan must be measurable and verifiable” (BOG Budget and Finance Committee). In December 2014, FAU submitted a monitoring report to the Chancellor that documented the progress made on initiatives, as specified in the University’s individual improvement plan. The Governors reviewed FAU’s report on January 22, 2015, and they determined that satisfactory progress had been made, subsequently releasing 50% of the baseline allocations that the state withheld (~$3.5 million). This is the final report for review.
As a reminder, FAU placed a strategic emphasis on improving the following two metrics:
Metric 4 - 6-year graduation rate for First-Time-In-College (FTIC) students; and Metric 5 - Academic progress rate, which is measured by the 2nd year retention of students with at least a 2.0 grade point average FAU’s broad goal for the year was to enrich the educational experience in a manner that supports an organizational culture in which all units are dedicated to student success. Subsequently, FAU
implemented six specific, actionable strategies with measurable targets:
A. Increase the number of academic advisors B. Purchase and implement advising software C. Launch “Jump Start” pilot for undergraduates admitted in summer D. Develop study plans for undergraduates, also known as “Flight Plans” E. Launch bachelors of general studies degree program F. Launch “Major KnOWLedge” early career exploration module Reporting on Improvement Plan Strategies As is evidenced in the following report, FAU can confirm that it has met every single final target as established by the University’s Board of Trustees and as approved by the Board of Governors.
This monitoring report provides up-to-date data on the May 2015 expectations, as well as supplemental information, often showcasing progress beyond the established targets.
A. Increase the number of academic advisors May 2015 – Ex
26 new academic advisors are 26 new academic advisors have been hired and hired and strategically placed in strategically placed in FAU’s University Advising FAU’s University Advising Services (9), as well as FAU’s colleges and Services (10) as well as FAU’s departments (17) colleges and departments (16) As mentioned in FAU’s original improvement plan, the National Academic Advising Association recommends a 300 student to 1 advisor ratio in order to offer students a personal connection to the institution. Before the hiring push, FAU was at roughly 400 students to every 1 advisor. In addition to the 9 placements in the central office, 17 advisors have been hired to work in academic colleges and departments.
Adding new hires has increased raw advising capacity, but FAU also had a clear need to increase the effectiveness of advising. The institution is improving efficacy by revitalizing the central advising office with a new mission, reorganizing staff, and revising position descriptions. A new Director (Mr. Joe Murray) hired in 2013 has been instrumental in effecting these changes. Our Freshmen Academic Advising Services became University Advising Services (UAS), a center for the advising of first and second-year students. All incoming freshmen are connected to a personal advisor prior to attending orientation, and that advisor remains with the students throughout their first two years. The Advisor also serves as an academic coach for students at risk. Advisors provide career guidance by connecting students to academic disciplines and promoting early selection of majors.
All advisors in UAS are certified as having completed training in Appreciative Advising (AA) offered through the University of South Carolina's Office of Appreciative Education and considered best practice. AA is the intentional collaborative practice of asking positive, open-ended questions that help students optimize their educational experience and achieve their potential. The advisee and advisor, as partners, work together to discover the student’s passions, design a plan to achieve their dreams, deliver on that plan, and make changes as necessary. FAU has become a national leader in Appreciative Advising; the director and staff have conducted webinars and presented at national conferences. Another significant innovation is the reach of advisors into the residence halls. Every first-year residence hall floor now has a UAS advisor assigned to it, and resident assistants are being trained in the proper referral information and skills needed to identify students in academic difficulty. In January 2015, FAU launched a new academic and career counseling resource center in one residence hall, known as Get Wise @ GPT (Glades Park Tower). As noted in the January 19 edition of the Sun Sentinel, academic advising is also available to all students in the parking garages, which “brings services directly to commuter students whose busy schedules have traditionally made them less likely to visit academic advisors.” Discussions are underway to expand the Get Wise @ GPT model to all first-year residence halls and to mandate advising and tutoring FAU: Final Monitoring Report | Page 2 sessions for residents of these halls who are academically at risk.
FAU is committed to hiring an adequate number of personnel to support our students, but the most important commitment is to improving the overall advising experience. The university advising experience is now exponentially more effective, as it has been improved through innovative advisor training and by promoting and implementing nationally-accepted best practices.
B. Purchase and implement advising software
Starfish advising software is Starfish advising software has been installed and functional for use and 100% of integrated with University systems; 100% of advisors are trained and using undergraduate advisors have completed training system with students While FAU’s advising capacity is growing and the institution has implemented a number of measures to improve the overall effectiveness of academic advisors, it was also imperative that the advising system become more streamlined. After completing the procurement process per Board of Governors Regulations 18.002, 18.003, and University Regulation 6.008, the institution purchased software and integrated it with University systems. FAU’s “Success Network” advising system, powered by Starfish Solutions, launched at the start of the Fall 2014 semester. Since then, the institution attained the goal of training 100% of undergraduate advisors, as established in the improvement plan. The system is now available to all FAU undergraduates.
Previously, there was no common advising software in use university-wide. The firstyear advising office and some of the colleges used one software system, but they operated independently of one another. Advisors were unable to view notes on students maintained by other offices. Now, regardless of the level of student or whether or not they have already declared a major, students use the Starfish “Success Network” system throughout their entire collegiate experience. Digital notes on the students will stay with them as they progress in their studies. Students can schedule advising appointments, communicate with advisors, track their academic progress, and learn how and where to find increased support, such as tutoring. FAU also launched a pilot study of additional Starfish features, in particular its early warning system. With this system, instructors can flag students as “at-risk” if they have poor attendance—or even give “kudos” to students who excel. The system also can automatically generate these flags by pulling performance data from instructors’ grade books. The Fall 2014 pilot took place in the two highest enrollment courses, College Composition I and College Composition II. Faculty participation was impressive: 70 percent of the instructors in these courses submitted 1,134 early warning “flags.” Advisors responded to these flags by promptly contacting the students and, when necessary, arranging in-person interventions.
FAU: Final Monitoring Report | Page 3 The University expanded this intervention feature in spring 2015 to all general education courses. Faculty members were asked early in the semester to raise flags on attendance concerns in their classes (especially important in mathematics, the sciences, and foreign languages) and, later in the semester, to address any concerns about students who are underperforming. Out of a total of 62,724 seats in the Intellectual Foundations Program, faculty members distributed 4,580 notices that a student’s average course grade was below 70% (some students received multiple notices). Roughly half of these flags resulted in students improving their standing in the course by the middle of the spring term. It is also worth noting that the advising system enables faculty members to send positive notes about student performance. 2,838 individual “kudos” were distributed to students via the system in the spring term.
FAU is also working with Starfish Solutions to include data on all student tutoring sessions, attendance at Supplemental Instruction, and participation in review sessions.
Finally, we are developing mechanisms to assess the effectiveness of advising overall through data provided by Starfish. FAU wishes to ensure that there is a clear system of accountability in place: in the advising offices to ensure that the advisors are meeting with students and making the necessary interventions to ensure student success; and among students, to let them know that they must take responsibility in the end for their own academic performance.
C. Launch “Jump Start” pilot for undergraduates admitted in summer
JumpStart launched as a pilot program in summer 2014 with 210 students. Students enrolled in the JumpStart pilot voluntarily. The purpose of JumpStart is to ensure student success by creating a unique support system. Students establish relationships with academic advisors and faculty; build a community of friends with other first-year students and develop stronger bonds with FAU; and acquire the academic support tools necessary to ensure their success in later semesters. Students enroll in two regular general education courses (6 credit hours), as well as a zero-credit Learning Community Experience course that meets six times over the summer term. The purpose of the Learning Community Experience course is to inform students about strategies for success and to connect students to university resources and support offices.
FAU: Final Monitoring Report | Page 4 The average grade point average for summer 2014 JumpStart students was 3.28, with 98 percent of students earning a GPA of 2.0 or higher and 47 percent earning 3.5 or higher.
Only one student did not return for the Fall 2014 semester. Beginning summer 2015, JumpStart is mandatory for all students admitted conditionally (currently includes those with a high school GPA between 3.0 and 3.29). The program is also open to all students admitted for the summer term. Based on program assessments, future JumpStart students who successfully complete the summer portion will be required to take in the Fall SLS 1503 Learning Strategies & Human Development, a success skills course designed to offer students strategies for achieving their collegiate and professional goals.
The purpose of the JumpStart program remains the same: to provide the resources necessary for student success but also give students a head start on their university coursework, thus ensuring more timely graduations for FTICs.
D. Develop study plans for undergraduates, also known as “Flight Plans”
Previously, FAU had no standardized study plans for its undergraduate students. While some of the colleges, departments, and degree programs independently established stepby-step roadmaps to track academic progress, the reliability and thoroughness of these plans varied greatly. This complicated the advising process, making it difficult for advisors to tell when students had deviated from their plans. In the Fall 2014 semester, every baccalaureate degree program had completed a Flight Plan template, which lists the specific course requirements and other academic milestones and identifies the term-byterm plan that students must follow in order to stay on track with their studies. Some of the degree programs even offer accelerated versions of the Flight Plan if students are able to take full course loads in the summer semesters. For example, the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program offers a 32 credit track for students who are already Registered Nurses. These RN-to-BSN students can choose a 3, 4, 5, or 6 semester Flight Plan to complete these 32 credit hours, allowing FAU to cater to working students who have additional family or professional obligations. At the same time, the BSN also features a traditional four-year Flight Plan for the 100 students who are annually directly admitted into the program as FTICs. A complete list of Flight Plans is available online.
With the guidance of their advisors, students now customize these templates into study plans that fit their unique needs. As of May 2015, all students who entered the institution as FTIC students in Fall 2014 have completed individualized Flight Plans. The standardization of Flight Plans is also assisting the university administration in FAU: Final Monitoring Report | Page 5 establishing a predictive course scheduling process based on more reliable data, such as student demand.
E. Launch bachelors of general studies (BGS) degree program