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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Transforming Higher Education: The Guided Pathways Approach | EDUCAUSE Review

Community colleges must move from a model that promotes access to enrollment to one that supports access to completion. Leveraging technological resources can be a key to instituting transformative change. STAR was the Guided Pathways technology needed to provide a deep transformational shift across the University of Hawaiʻi system, community colleges included.

"The landscape of student success in higher education is changing. Practitioners recognize that merely providing institutional access won't suffice — institutions must take responsibility for serving students from a multiplicity of backgrounds and with varying preparation." says Rachel Mullins Veney, project manager, Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success in Higher Education Grant, University of Hawaiʻi Honolulu Community College and Lara H. Sugimoto, interim dean of Student Services, University of Hawaiʻi Honolulu Community College. 

We must strive to keep our promise to help students through to graduation. Although historically not designed to promote completion, community colleges must move from a model that promotes access to enrollment to one that fosters access to completion. Previous efforts at reform have not had broad impact. The Community College Research Center finds that limits of prior reforms have largely resulted from their focus on one area of the college or on a small population.1 The CCRC proposed the Guided Pathways Approach model of deep transformation.

Guided pathways "start with the students' end goals in mind, and then rethink and redesigns programs and support services to enable students to achieve these goals."2 The model focuses on laying out a clear, cohesive academic program for students and aligning the support services to assist students down their program path to successful completion. Visionary leadership and a sense of urgency are essential to drive the change. Further, for this model to truly transform the institution, the changes must occur across structural, process, and attitudinal domains.
Considering Adrianna Kezar's research, CCRC explains these multiple levels of change as they relate to the work of Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success (IPASS).3 They argue that for change to be transformative, it must occur at all three levels: structural, process, and attitudinal.
  • Structural changes are "…changes to the organization or design of systems and business practices."
  • Process changes are "…changes in individual engagement, behaviors, and interpersonal interactions with systems and business practices."
  • Attitudinal changes are "…changes in core underlying attitude, values and beliefs."4
This article examines the adoption of a new degree planning, audit, and registration system, in concert with multiple other initiatives, at Honolulu Community College as a case study on the complexity of transformational change. We will discuss the importance of leadership across levels and of urgency, and will use Melinda Karp et al.'s framework on transformational change to examine the process of creating transformation. In using this framework, understand that distinguishing between domains of change is inherently difficult because
transformation bridges the micro/macro divide. Institutional changes can encourage and reinforce (or discourage and restrain) micro level changes, and vice versa; as individual changes bubble up or percolate through an institution, its overall culture begins to shift. The relationship between the micro and the macro is iterative. At times, it is difficult to discern where individual change ends and institutional change begins because the two interact, reinforce one another, and span various stakeholders' engagement.5
Therefore, although change will be laid out along structural, procedural, and attitudinal domains, keep in mind that these changes overlap domains and interact with each other.

Honolulu Community College Transforms the Student Experience 
The guided pathways approach, adopted after the implementation of other success measures, has quickly become the guiding framework for the University of Hawaiʻi Community College system's student success work. Academic programs are built to support student objectives of employment or transfer. Support services are designed to quickly enter students onto a pathway, assist them in staying on the pathway or in moving them to a more appropriate pathway, and building the skills for students to thrive beyond the scope of the community college. Technology is deployed not as an extra tool, but rather as an instrument to guide students along a pathway to success.

Honolulu Community College (Honolulu CC) is a small, urban school located in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. The main campus, along with several satellite facilities, serve roughly 4,000 students per year in career technical and liberal arts programs. The college is part of a larger 10 college system. The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (a land, sea, and space grant institution) is the flagship campus, with two other baccalaureate granting institutions and seven community colleges spread across four islands, with an additional satellite campus on a fifth island.6 The college serves many Native Hawaiian students, Pell Grant recipients, military veterans, and a variety of other underserved populations. Meeting the unique needs of these students lies at the forefront of Honolulu CC's mission and work.

Honolulu CC has, for many years, committed to a "student-centered, student-focused" mission. Student success sits at the center of Honolulu CC and the broader system's mission and strategic plans. Putting the mission into action has required cross-department and cross-campus collaboration; a willingness to make structural, process, and attitudinal changes; and support from administrators in the form of visionary leadership to drive those changes. It is a deliberate process that requires piloting, data collection, review of impact, refining, and scaling. This process is cyclical, and evaluation is ongoing. The task of reimaging new structures and technologies to support student success has never relied on one initiative or tool; instead, it is a concerted effort to implement multiple initiatives, practices and supporting technologies simultaneously, a series of steps in optimizing the student success framework.

STAR: Technology as a Catalyst for Guided Pathways 
STAR is a degree planning, audit, and registration tool founded in the belief that Guided Pathways improve students' success. The development of the tool began in 2005 with three primary goals, as explained by Gary Rodwell, a key STAR founder:
  1. Create transparency between institutions and their students, allowing students and advisors to become partners together in creating degree pathways and tools to helps student stay on track.
  2. Unite all of the 10 public postsecondary institutions and their 60,000 students in Hawaiʻi (seven community colleges and three four-year institutions), so seamless degree pathways could be created using courses from any UH institution.
  3. Feed all the student degree pathway data back to the programs offering the degrees, so the programs can analyze, understand, and overcome the constraints that are restricting their throughput (such as a lack of seats in core courses or overly complex degree requirements).7
Laying out a clear academic pathway for students minimizes barriers to degree completion. A structured, clearly outlined degree path can reduce students taking off-program courses, accumulating excess credits, and planning to take courses in a semester they are not offered. Students save money because they do not pay for excess credits and do not run into financial aid issues by taking unqualified off-program courses. Institutions can maintain a high level of academic program guidance even in the face of understaffing or budgetary cuts...

Recommended Reading

The AI-First Student Experience by Aric Cheston, founder of Big Tomorrow and Drew Stock, lead designer for Big Tomorrow.
"Thoughtful application of artificial intelligence can help advisors and faculty help students, and help students themselves stay on track and take full advantage of the resources available to them through their college or university." 

Source: EDUCAUSE Review