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Cultivating Connections

“e medium is the message.” Marshall McLuhan’s famous phrase reminds us that a communication medium fundamentally aects the way people receive messages and construct their perceptions of reality. e medium itself drives changes in behavior.

Community colleges can apply this concept to their eorts to connect with students.

  • e challenge is twofold: (1) using data to understand the status quo — which students

need to be better engaged; and (2) nding ways to use each interactive medium — such as individual face-to-face exchanges, classroom experiences, online services, and social media — to create meaningful, lasting connections.

Increasingly, colleges are using technology to reach out to students. Recent data show signicant growth in the use of online courses and support services, including online developmental education classes, orientation, and tutoring. e eectiveness of these classes and services varies — in part because success depends on execution and in part because some programs and services, and some students, are better suited to online delivery than others.

Whatever the mechanism for reaching out to students, the work of connecting is ongo- ing. It requires an interaction, a feeling of personal investment, a commitment to listen and to respond.

In the following pages, Making Connections addresses four arenas: connections in virtual space, in the classroom, on campus, and beyond the campus. In each of these dimensions and at every point in time, colleges can strengthen students’ connections to the institution by fostering relationships between students and a variety of others, notably faculty, sta, and other students. Student voices and other qualitative data featured throughout this report were documented in focus groups CCSSE conducted through the MetLife Foundation-supported Initiative on Student Success.

Colleges Making Connections

Jeerson Community College (OH) increased fall-to-fall student retention from 48% to 56% over two years by making its Orientation to College course mandatory for all rst- time, full-time students.

Troubled by disproportionately high failure rates among male students of color, Halifax Community College (NC) recently established the male mentoring program P.R.I.D.E. (PReparing men for Intellectual, acaDemic, and Educational success). e program uses a variety of high-touch interventions to create an on-campus support system, builds community connections through business eld trips and college visits, and oers technology support with a loaner laptop for each participant. Students are assigned a Learning Coach who is their contact for academic, personal, career, mentoring, and other needs. Coaches also help their students develop a comprehensive college success plan and monitor their progress. HCC’s fall-to-fall retention rate for full-time black

For more information about CCSSE and the 2009 surve , visit www.ccsse.org.

The CCSSE Benchmarks of Effective Educational Practice

Benchmarks are groups of conceptually related survey items that address key areas of student engagement. CCSSE’s five benchmarks comprise 38 engagement items that reflect many of the most important aspects of the student experience. The benchmarks measure behaviors that educational research has shown to be powerful contributors to effective teaching, learning, and student retention.

The CCSSE benchmarks are active and collaborative learning, student effort, academic challenge, student-faculty interaction, and support for learners.

Every college has a score for each benchmark. These individual benchmark scores are computed by averaging the scores on survey items composing that benchmark. Benchmark scores are standardized so that the mean

  • the average of all participating students —

always is 50 and the standard deviation is 25.

The standardized scores provide an easy way to assess whether an individual college is performing above or below the mean (50) on each benchmark. They also make it possible for colleges to compare their own performance across benchmarks and with groups of similarly sized colleges.

Visit www.ccsse.org to see descriptions of the benchmarks, specific survey items associated with each benchmark, and key findings organized by benchmark.

2009 Findings

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