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About U Message from the administration.

Chaucey Aboutu

Working to improve student retention at CCU

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By Robert Sheehan, Provost and /Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs

Welcome to the start of Fall 2012 semester planning. As we move forward with our renewed efforts to improve student retention at Coastal Carolina University, we recognize that various parts of the university contribute in both unique and common ways in order to advocate for students and help them succeed. The process of retaining students starts with recruitment and ends with graduation, but it greatly depends on the many things we do with our students between these two milestones. We expect the new academic facilities opening on campus this year to have a positive impact on the retention of our students (the Information Commons; the new academic building; the Swain Science building), but improved facilities alone will not greatly increase student retention. To further address student retention, we are reviewing our admission standards, and have lowered class sizes for certain courses that have high failure rates. Also, we have updated our math placement testing and introduced modifications (on a pilot basis) to our entry-level mathematics course (Math 129).

With the aid of our retention consultant, we have identified three important classroom practices that positively contribute to successful retention:
1. Taking attendance continuously throughout the semester;
2. Mid-term grading; and
3. Effective, documented advising.

General faculty responsibilities for these areas are addressed on Pages 22 and 23 of the 2011-2012 Faculty Manual.

Research and common sense point to a strong correlation between regular attendance for first-year college students and retention. The current University Catalog obligates students “to attend regularly.” Accordingly, with this memorandum, effective Fall 2012, we are administratively directing all faculty and instructional staff to take continuous semester-long attendance for all “100 and 200” level courses. Faculty and staff are encouraged to make use of the online attendance system available on the CCU website Portable swipe card readers for student IDs can be purchased by departments from ITS for those classrooms equipped with computers or faculty laptops. Alternatively, paper-based attendance checking is permitted. The two most important components of attendance checking occur when faculty state on their syllabus that they will be checking attendance, and when faculty hold students responsible for missing class by following up with advising of students who miss classes, especially those students who have two unexcused absences in a row. Proof of attendance checking for 100 and 200 level classes will now be part of the annual faculty evaluation process.

The second administrative directive for all faculty and instructional staff is the requirement, beginning this fall, that all 100 and 200 level courses include mid-term grading. We require the use of the online mid-term grading module provided in WebAdvisor, which operates identically to end-of-term grading. Prior to each reporting period, the Office of the Registrar will electronically notify each instructor with mid-term grades to report, and provide instructions on how to do so. Class syllabus materials should clearly state that mid-term grades for 100 and 200 level courses will be provided. Proof of mid-term grading for 100 and 200 level classes will now be part of the annual faculty evaluation process.

We are sure that you have all experienced a case where advising suggestions were offered, but the student failed to take note of such advice, even declaring at the time of graduation that such advice was never given. We have also heard students complain that they corresponded with a faculty member and did not hear back for a long time. In many cases, the definition of “a long time” varies greatly between students and faculty. This results in numerous appeals and special requests. We are currently in the process of exploring how Datatel’s e-Advising tool can be used to electronically document advising sessions – for students and their instructors, much the same way that medical cases notes are now routinely digitized. In the coming weeks we will provide both training on electronic advisement and expectations on using e-Advising within that framework.

In the meantime, we advise all faculty and instructional staff to ensure that course syllabus materials contain office hours for advising as well as specifics concerning any communication standards faculty and instructional staff have established for responding to student queries by email or telephone (e.g., expected response times).

We will be in further correspondence regarding the ways in which all CCU faculty and staff can positively contribute to student success. Thank you for all you do to advocate for the success of our students at Coastal Carolina University.

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