Innovation Plan: Reflection & Status Update


My innovation plan has gone through such a change from when I started that there’s really not very much left that looks like the original. The situation I am working to improve is developmental education–students who arrive at college but aren’t ready for college-level work (typically in English and/or math). My initial plan was to develop some remedial online courses that could be available to high school students as “college preparedness” classes (to remove some of the stigma and be forward-looking). This morphed into modular mini-courses for remediation and refreshers as necessary. Now it is more about the academic advising and planning process and more specifically about providing relevant, accurate information to administrators, advising staff, and faculty so they can make the decisions necessary to help students succeed–particularly developmental students. 

Following the research from the various literature reviews and attending workshops/webinars on developmental education have given me a much different picture of what works and what doesn’t, but being in a position at the College where I don’t deal directly with students makes it difficult to develop and carry through on a plan to apply an instructional technique. However, some of the research I followed related to artificial intelligence and machine learning points to a real synergy between the work that computers can do for us really well (finding information and pointing out anomalies)  and the work that humans are really good at (creativity and problem-solving).  Finding this approach has been invigorating for me, as I can make it a mission to employ technology to do its job (getting the data to humans) and empower the College’s employees to do their job more effectively (help students overcome obstacles to learning). It gets to the heart of why I wanted to work in education in the first place.

The primary output of this project so far is the research I performed this past fall. I analyzed a change that my college tried in 2014, changing some of the structure of English developmental education courses as well as some of the prerequisite requirements.  This change hadn’t been studied to see whether it was successful, though, so I analyzed some of the data to evaluate it. I plan to present it this spring to faculty and staff and to submit it for journal publication (so I can’t publish it on this site yet). After reviewing the results with faculty and staff, I would like to see the College employ some similar approaches for developmental math, study them to see if they were effective, and then plan future changes. 

Updates & Next Steps

I honestly don’t believe this project will ever be “done,” there will always be another way to improve and drive the process forward. However, I believe there are three primary areas of focus, each with a distinct milestone or deliverable.

1. Study Results of “Bridge to Success” Program

“Bridge to Success” (BTS) was a program introduced in 2014 that made substantial research-based changes to developmental English at SVCC. It is important to study the results of this program on student success. Based on those results, then, further research-based changes can be implemented and studied. 

The initial study is completed and show that the BTS program has indeed had a positive impact on student success. I plan to present the results at a faculty meeting this spring. In addition, after I have run some more advanced statistical analysis, I plan to submit the study for journal publication. 

2. Implement Advanced Analytics

One thing that my research has made abundantly clear is that modern analytics–including or at least laying the groundwork for AI analytics–need to be a part of the College’s solution to the challenge of developmental education. During my time as an administrator in IT, I have been able to advocate and plan for bringing in some tool or tools that will provide easier access to data. We have evaluated a couple tools and, while we are still looking for the right one, there is good support for the idea so it is quite likely that we will be able to implement a program like this possibly as early as the next fiscal year.

3. Champion Further Developmental Education Changes

This, given my role at the College, may be the most difficult, since I do not have the authority to just “make it happen.” However, it is my hope that presenting the BTS results will provide an opportunity to open a dialog with faculty and the Developmental Education Committee about some new options, for example, applying some of the same BTS changes that worked in the developmental English area to the developmental math area. Or perhaps the discussion will tend toward some other approach. Having studied the research, I (and others at SVCC) will have the tools to guide the discussion toward approaches that work.