student characteristics

This is an October 2008 summary of introductory research for a student population profile assignment in CCE 542 (Classroom Management)

1. Student participation in online or hybrid courses.

The SBCTC reports in “Selected Program Student Characteristics” 2003-2007 [pdf] that it is clear that students are increasingly participating in online or hybrid courses (pdf at 8-9).  From my perspective, this means that there is a growing opportunity to meet the diverse needs of students.

2. Technical capacity of the school / technology available to students.

While this may not seem to necessarily be a student characteristic, I think that the technical capacity of the school and the technology available to students is a significant learning-related issue for students.  I think that until schools offer adequate online resources to students, teachers will have to make due with limited resources that do not meet the needs of their students (See “Building a Culture of Evidence for Community College Student Success” MDRC/CCRC May 2007 [pdf] at 48, pdf at 79).

In a 2007 study sponsored by the Ford Foundation, “Communications Case Study: Washington State” [pdf], it appears that Washington State Community and Technical College system has had a significant increase in available resources (pdf at 9) and Washington State may be in a good position to demonstrate that adequate online resources can enhance the student learning experience and address many barriers that exist for student success.

3. Literacy

via NAALLiteracy in Everyday Life: Results from the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy” April 2007 [pdf – executive summary], Key Findings: Number of Adults in Each Prose Literacy Level:

30 million (14%) Below Basic: no more than the most simple and concrete literacy skills

63 million (29%) Basic: can perform simple and everyday literacy activities

95 million (44%) Intermediate: can perform moderately challenging literacy activities

28 million (13%) Proficient: can perform complex and challenging literacy activities

These stunning statistics appear to present a significant challenge and a significant opportunity for the development of online coursework.  Particularly in light of the report that “low-skill adult students … make up one-third of the approximately 300,000 students served annually by the [Washington State Community and Technical College] system” (See “Building Pathways to Success for Low-Skill Adult Students: Lessons from Community College Policy and Practice from a Statewide Longitudinal Tracking Study” by David Prince & David Jenkins, April 2005 [brief] [abstract]) and:

“many students who enter community college are not academically prepared to do college-level work. Research shows that approximately 60 percent of freshmen beginning at community college are in need of at least one remedial or developmental course” (“Building a Culture of Evidence for Community College Student Success” MDRC/CCRC May 2007 [pdf] at 1, pdf at 27)

4. Student goals

In “Building a Culture of Evidence for Community College Student Success” MDRC/CCRC May 2007 [pdf], it is noted that “For low-income people, in particular, these colleges offer a pathway out of poverty and into better jobs.” (pdf at 9).

I have seen this theme repeated throughout reports that I have been looking at, as well as an overall sense that community colleges are not doing a statistically impressive job at helping students reach this goal (at 18, pdf at 44) (See Also Using Longitudinal Data to Increase Community College Student Success: A Guide to Measuring Milestone and Momentum Point Attainment By: D. Timothy Leinbach & Davis Jenkins — January 2008. CCRC Research Tools No. 2. New York: Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University, pdf at 8).

This kind of information leads me back to the idea that online coursework may be able to significantly help improve the rates of success for students, because the flexibility built into online programs can help address several barriers to ongoing student participation in community colleges.

5. Income

It is reported in CCRC Research Tools, No.1: Using Census Data to Classify Community College Students by Socioeconomic Status and Community Characteristics By: Peter Crosta, D. Timothy Leinbach, Davis Jenkins, David Prince & Doug Whittaker — July 2006.CCRC Research Tools No. 1 New York: Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University:

“… research shows that SES is a key factor in college access and attainment (Adelman, 1999; Cabrera, Burkum, & La Nasa, 2005; Long, 2004; Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005; Rouse, 1995).” (abstract, pdf at 1) (2000 SES chart at pdf at 11)

In addition, it is noted in “Building a Culture of Evidence for Community College Student Success” MDRC/CCRC May 2007 [pdf] that “[s]everal studies have shown that students from low-income families not only enroll in college at lower rates than do students from high-income families but are also less likely to earn a credential.” (at 32, pdf at 58)

6. Prior college experience

via “Building a Culture of Evidence for Community College Student Success” MDRC/CCRC May 2007 [pdf]:

“many students who enter community college are not academically prepared to do college-level work. Research shows that approximately 60 percent of freshmen beginning at community college are in need of at least one remedial or developmental course” (at 1, pdf at 27)

I think that a lack of college experience can be a significant characteristic that relates to how to effectively design and implement coursework.  A lack of college experience in a large segment of the student population suggests that there is a need to not only teach the subject matter of the course but to also educate students about the college experience, including the expectations of the school and strategies for success.

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