Today on Teaching & Learning Champions, we’re joined by Erasmus Addae, AVP Distance Education, Kellie Alford, Academic Coach, & Monica Burmicky, Supervisor, Academic Coaching Services. We’re talking about the impact & importance of monitoring student progress and related technologies in supporting Guided Pathways.

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Episode Transcript

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[Matthew Evins:] Welcome to another episode of Teaching Learning Champions. I’m Matt Evins, Director of Instructional Technology and Digital Resources in the Teaching and Learning Excellence Division at ACC. Today I’m joined by Erasmus Addae, Associate Vice President of Distance Education, and Kelli Alford, Academic Coach and Veronica — excuse me, Monica Burmicky, Supervisors of Academic Coaching Services. We talk about the impact and importance on monitoring student progress and related technologies in supporting Guided Pathways. Thank you, everybody, for joining me today.

[Monica Burmicky:] Thanks for having us.

[Erasmus Addae:] Thank you, Matt.

[Kelli Alford:] Thanks for having us.

[Matthew Evins:] Yeah, let’s go ahead and start with Monica and Kelli from the coaching side. Can you tell us a little bit about what the mission and goal is of academic coaching services?

[Monica Burmicky:] Yeah, sure. This Monica, the Supervisor. And I, you know, our mission as academic coaches is really to promote student success. And we want to do that proactively before it gets to that. And we do that by providing really personal and holistic evidence based support. We have a very assessable non-judgmental and student centered format that we do that through. We like to talk about it in a motto with students as having — helping them have better grades and doing it with less stress, which really can benefit any student out there. So what we do in our sessions is really assess each student’s needs. And then we’re going to design a strategy that will address the areas that that specific student wants to improve in. Oftentimes, these services are in areas such as time management. We talk to them about note taking and textbook reading strategies, test preparation and overall goal setting.

[Matthew Evins:] Great, Kelli, anything else you want to add to that?

[Kelly Alford:] No, I think she covered everything that we really focus on as coaches.

[Matthew Evins:] Okay. Perfect. All right. Let’s talk a little bit about how the Office of Distance Education supports Guided Pathways across the college.

[Erasmus Addae:] Okay, so Distance Education support the fundamentals or the pillars of Guided Pathways. First of all, we provide a structured onboarding process that provides students with clear actionable and usable information they need to get off to the right start in online learning. So for example, we do have self-assessment skills for them to try and assess their capabilities and abilities to be able to thrive in an online learning environment. Also, we provide academic maps — academic roadmaps that detail the scope and sequence of courses required to complete a credential efficiently and transition to baccalaureate degrees. So because of that we do have — we came up with that initiative in the spring of 2018 called ACC Online. What ACC Online does is categorized all the services that students — that are available to students in the institution that they can take advantage of. And as part of the ACC Online package, we also have the academic roadmaps that are provided for students. Beside that we also provide proactive academic and academic advising from the staff through completion and or transfer with assigned point of contacts at each stage. Prior to the ACC Online initiative, we didn’t have advisors dedicated to Distance Education students. Now as part of Guided Pathways, we now have dedicated advisors to student education students. We do have counselors that also cater to the needs of — specifically to the needs of Distance Education students. We do also started experimenting with an earlier lead system aligned with interventions and resources to help students stay in the pathway and persist and progress. We started that with the Gateway Courses. They high enrolled courses that students have to take first before they get far in the educational journey. So we do have that system available to students to take advantage of. So instead of we waiting for students to get in touch with us with their problems, issues, we proactively pursue the students to make sure that their needs are taken care of so they are successful. In addition to that, we provide instructional support and — align instructional support aligned with classroom learning and interest. And so you have online tutoring, for example, that fulfills the needs — designed to fulfill the needs of online students. We have embedded to DREAM project in which two days are embedded in students classroom courses. So that they are part of their course and are providing the support that students need to be successful. So in summary, this is how the Distance Education supports the guided pathway initiative at ACC.

[Matthew Evins:] That’s wonderful, thank you very much, Erasmus. Kelli and Monica just to piggyback off of what Erasmus was talking about, with the idea of students who are taking courses fully online. Do the academic coaching services provide those types of services to distance students or is it only students who are physically attending one of our campuses?

[Monica Burmicky:] Yeah, we are absolutely open to early college, high school students, adult ed continuing ed, online, face-to-face. I will say a majority of our students are face-to-face students that are often coming into the accelerators. And we’ve tried to really lay a strong foundation with our virtual services. Earlier on we started that back in the summer. And I will say that we haven’t had a whole lot of traction with online students. But we’re really grateful that we had laid that foundation. Because that’s, you know, the majority of the way we’re connecting with students currently. But absolutely, our services can really supplement, enhance some of the great work that Eras was just talking about.

[Erasmus Addae:] Can I add to that? Prior to the COVID-19 emergency, we had scheduled a meeting with academic coaches to try and make the service

[inaudible] for online students. So that we can be able to also service the needs of all online students. That, we could bring that to materialize because of the emergency but I’m hoping that we can reconnect and then work on that.

[Monica Burmicky:] Absolutely.

[Matthew Evins:] That’s great. Yeah, it sounds like a great partnership. Kelli, let’s give you this next question what types of technologies to the academic coaches use to help monitor student progress?

[Kelli Alford:] So we as academic coaches don’t have what you would call maybe a traditional caseload. So we — a lot of our students are coming in through their own initiative or referrals from various departments, advising, tutoring. So we use different technologies to kind of better guide our session and track the visits and then to better understand our students progress. So typically, before session if our student has scheduled an appointment, we like to get a better big picture of where the students are coming from. Kind of time at ACC. So we use tools like Inspire for advisors and Degree Map to better understand the student’s GPA, their classes, their degree path. We can see whether they’ve registered for classes. And we can even see how many times they’ve logged into Blackboard. So we kind of use all these tools to gather information to better set up a session. And then after our session, we use a tracking tool called Academia where we input all of our data. And so we can kind of use that to run reports and see how much traffic we’re getting at each campus, what kind of services students are coming in for, how many times we’re seeing a student. But honestly, I think a lot of our monitoring of student progress comes from repeat visits from students. We get a lot of emails. We see them in the Accelerator. Do a quick check in. See how everything’s going. We also use Calendly, which allows students to easily set up appointments. So they’re able to kind of reconnect with us and tell us, “Hey, I just got an A from using that textbook reading method you showed me, I really appreciate it.” Maybe we can work on a new degree — a new solution to another area that they want to focus on. And so all of these little face-to-face interactions and just reconnections with students really helps us stay in touch with them, figure out if we do need to fine tune some of the areas we are focusing on. And just develop and continue to develop those strategies that they’re going to need to continue moving forward and progress through their time here at ACC.

[Matthew Evins:] And with all the technology that you’re using and the data points that you’re collecting of the students, do you partner with faculty at all about how the faculty can then help support students through the same types of data that you’re collecting? Or is the faculty intervention with the students really standalone and separate from what the academic coaches are doing?

[Monica Burmicky:] Yeah, so as Kelli referred to, we have a form where faculty are often referring their students to us. We’re in the classroom at the very beginning of the semester, often doing these little small class visits, sharing with faculty and the students about our services, how they get connected with us. And then often through that relationship or other ways, faculty will go ahead and use that form or send us an email referring the student. And on the form that they’re referring, they can mark on there if they would like progress updates about that student. And you know, just when they came in basic kind of updates. If they don’t have access to Inspire, maybe they just don’t want to go in there and see the notes. So when a faculty member does, you know, mention that they want to have progress updates on that student, we’ll continue to keep the faculty member involved on some of the intervention strategies that we’ve employed. And then it really creates a great partnership with them and us as well kind of working with that student to create a whole network of support.

[Matthew Evins:] Great. Erasmus, talk a little bit about what technologies your office uses and makes available to instructors who are teaching online in order to monitor student progress.

[Erasmus Addae:] So currently, what we use is the LMS tracking tools as you’re aware. ACC’s LMS is Blackboard. And it’s got some good tracking tools that are built into it. For example, the Gradebook. The Gradebook provides a snapshot of student performance in the course. But faculty also can get details of the student — sorry, of students’ grades in the Gradebook as well. Now other tools that we use, okay, let’s still focus on the LMS. The LMS also has ability to be able to track the last time a student logged into Blackboard, for example, how long they were in Blackboard. So for the faculty to know if the students are doing their work or not. Now beyond that, there are also communication tools in the LMS that allows faculty to stay in touch with students checking in with them. There’s also the Comments section in Blackboard that allows faculty to provide feedback to students to make sure that they are on the right track in their studies. Now, we also have when everything fails using the technology, we rely on person-to-person contact, for example. So we do have a form on the ACC

[inaudible] website. If the faculty is unsuccessful in reaching out to a student, they fill out the form. It comes to our office. And then we’ll use good old telephone to try and contact the students and find out what is going on with them and get them back into class. So these are some of the tools that we use to support faculty in tracking the progress of students. I’ll also want to ask that the college has purchased Blackboard Analytics that would — it’s not predictive. But it provides a lot more data for faculty to be able to make decisions about students in their classes.

[Matthew Evins:] And so all of those tools within Blackboard as well as Blackboard Analytics, those aren’t just available to faculty teaching strictly online, correct? As long as you’re making use of Blackboard in some instance, they’d be able to have at least some version of analytics on their students, even if they’re teaching face-to-face classes, is that correct?

[Erasmus Addae:] That’s correct. So it’s available to every faculty that utilizes Blackboard.

[Matthew Evins:] Great. Erasmus, while you’re on the hot seat, let’s move on to the next question, have you start. How would you or how has your area changed or adapted as a result of the college’s adoption of the Guided Pathways model?

[Erasmus Addae:] Okay, so I will start off by saying that it’s changed a lot as a result of Guided Pathways. Now, Distance Education is no longer in isolation. We are in collaboration with many, many more departments to ensure that students are getting the services they need. And so for that might help work closely with a student services team to make sure that every service that is available to students on campus is also available to Distance Education students. In terms of collaboration with IT department, making sure that we have the technology required for students to be successful, work closely with them as well. Scheduling department chairs, working on department chairs to ensure that faculty have what they need to be successful in teaching the students and also providing professional development and best practices for Distance Education, teaching and learning. Now, these are things that in the past, didn’t really exist in the department up until about 2018 when we did all of this to support Guided Pathways in the institution.

[Matthew Evins:] Great, thank you very much, Monica and Kelli, how about you? How does academic coaching changed and adapted as a result of Guided Pathways?

[Monica Burmicky:] Yeah, academic coaching was really born out of the Guided Pathways model. As the Accelerator started going up, we you know, started reimagining what support systems would be in place there and the academic coach model was adopted. We were originally called the Accelerator Coaches and really there to support those developmental math, the ALEKS math curriculum. Since then we’ve taken on a more holistic approach and really work on just creating that layer of support to work toward helping students persist and complete. We have a really very collaborative approach. And we appreciate all the opportunity that we have to connect with our tutors especially. We’re often positioned in a place in the Accelerators where we’re working back and forth with the tutors, whether it’s a content issue or it’s more of a study skill thing that needs to be worked out. And, you know, we work very closely with our advisors, especially on this Registration Station Project initiative that’s recently been adopted and even grown further within the college. And so the students will begin their Pathway speaking with their advisor. And then they’ll connect with us at the registration stations, where you try to really just help them through and navigate the Self Service software. There’s a lot of different, you know, class filters and different opportunities that ACC offers. Whether it’s weekend college or online or hybrid courses, paired courses. And we try to demystify that a bit because it can be quite overwhelming. And so we’ve really begin with them often on their Pathway in that approach. And then through that connection point, we then begin to work with them throughout their time at the college, working on these study skills and time management. And then connecting, as we said, with faculty along the way, to help them progress on their Guided Pathway. Overall our model is that we think that we’re co creating and really empowering students to engage with their learning, and help them to understand what kind of resources are out there. And just give them those strategies overall, that they need to persist on their Pathway.

[Matthew Evins:] That’s great. As we start to wrap up this podcast, I wanted to ask all three of you. Are there any projects or initiatives around academic plans — or excuse me, around coaching or the technologies that are used to help monitor student progress that would be beneficial for faculty and staff to know as it relates to what you’re doing around Guided Pathways? And we can go ahead and start with Monica or Kelli.

[Kelli Alford:] All right.

[Monica Burmicky:] Do you want to jump in, Kelli?

[Kelli Alford:] Sure

[chuckles]. So I mean, right now, I think the biggest thing that everybody, not just academic coaching, is working on is how to address working with our students online. So we as academic coaches have been developing different resources to address how to take notes from an online lecture. How to read an online textbook. How to manage your time. Because you know, it’s different now that you are not in class. And a lot of our students didn’t, you know, sign up for that or weren’t prepared for that. So a lot of the stuff that we are focusing on right now is really how can we better support those students? How can we get our platforms going so that we can continue to coach remotely? You know, just being, you know, fully connected to all of our students, no matter where they are, whether they are online or when we do eventually, you know, come back in person, you know, keep — continue to develop different resources and strategies to not only support our students, but connect with our faculty and all the staff at ACC. So that we are all working together to support our students.

[Matthew Evins:] Great. Monica, anything else you wanted to add?

[Monica Burmicky:] Really just to reiterate the great connection that we have with advisors. We’ve got a Google Chat going throughout the day with our advisors on each campus. So that you know, if a student has recently seen an advisor, has worked out what their pet plan is, what their classes are. And then for whatever reason, maybe a hold still remains on their account or something is going on behind the scenes, we don’t have to send that student and have them bounce from office to office. We really try to be a little bit of that one-stop-shop where we’ll, you know, connect with others in a collaborative way to just ensure that the student, you know, receives the support that they need. Sometimes it’s just those little barriers along the way in a student’s path that often just over time, kind of, you know, can get in their way for persisting and completing. And so, we’re really again, just wanted to reiterate the collaborative nature with faculty and more specifically with our advisors.

[Matthew Evins:] Excellent. Erasmus, how about you? Any upcoming projects or initiatives in Distance Education that you think people would be interested in knowing about?

[Erasmus Addae:] Yeah, so I did mention embedded

[inaudible]. It is ongoing and we are looking at expanding it to cover more courses. And we really want faculty to take advantage of that service — faculty and students who take advantage of that service. Now in terms of technology, we are close to implementing the Blackboard Analytics that will provide a lot more data, academic — in fact academic data for faculty to be able to better track the students’ progress in online learning. Now, these are projects that we are actively working on and also ACC — what we call ACC Online Life Proctoring that has been born out the COVID-19 emergency. We are close to implementing that as well. So that online faculty can take advantage of that to have their tests prompted.

[Matthew Evins:] Wonderful. That’s a lot of great initiatives from both your groups that I think everybody will greatly benefit from moving forward. So thank you for that. I know that we’ve — all of us have been sort of our priorities have shifted, and our work has shifted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the last question that I have for you is not related to Guided Pathways at all, or doesn’t have to be. Is there’s something that’s giving you Riverbat pride this week. And so Kelli, why don’t we go ahead and start with you.

[Kelli Alford:] Yeah, thanks. I think really, the thing that has really jumped out at me the most is the adaptability and flexibility of all of ACC. We, as you said, with the COVID-19 weren’t really prepared to, you know, be online. But everybody has come together in such a great manner and has really stepped up to the plate. And, you know, really figured out ways how we — all of our services can become online, how we can support our students, how we can support the community, and just everything that ACC has done. It just makes me, you know, really grateful to be part of such a great, you know, learning community here at Austin Community College. And I’m just thankful every day that I get to come to work and meet with students and work with such amazing people.

[Matthew Evins:] Kelli cut out there the last probably 10 seconds or so. Can you repeat the last part that you have?

[Kelli Alford:] I just I’m very thankful that I get to come to work every day and work with such great, amazing people.

[Matthew Evins:] Wonderful. Erasmus, how about you?

[Erasmus Addae:] Wow, so

[laughter] my Riverbat pride this week is mainly about the collaboration that is going on as a result of the COVID-19 emergency. I think COVID-19 has brought a lot of constituents, I’ll say our constituents in ACC to focus on student success and then to collaborate to ensure that it happens. To ensure that students come out of this successfully. I like a lot of the conversation that is going on. Susie

[assumed spelling] and I have shared some of the conversation that is going on Facebook, for example. Where faculty are becoming innovative in finding ways to fulfill the needs of students, department chairs, Deans, I mean, teams to dream, Testing Center staff, everybody. Everybody is on board with what we are trying to do to support students. And I’m so proud about that. The collaboration that is going on in the institution in this period of emergency gives me a lot of pride.

[Matthew Evins:] Yeah, I will definitely second that. There’s been a lot of collaboration going on that we would normally not have seen if it were not for this pandemic. So I certainly agree with you on that one. Monica, how about you?

[Monica Burmicky:] Yeah, just to piggyback off of the two of them said. Absolutely. I mean, this is a really unprecedented time. And I’m just so impressed and so proud of the institutional efforts that have been made to just rise to the challenge and to meet our students where they are. I think most specifically, Matthew, I know you were involved in the purchasing and mobilization of the iPads for students. I know I’m teaching currently a class that was supposed to be face-to-face that’s now online. And daily I met with students, you know, emailing me for just issues in regards to access that they just really weren’t prepared and the fact that we were able to get that together and mobilize just to meet those needs. I’m really proud of those efforts. Also, just the keeping the DREAM initiative to raise funds and increase the support offered through the foundation through the emergency grant. You know, this is a really hard time often for students with unemployment happening so fast and growing in number. And so students that, you know, are faced with that often don’t think that their college is going to be the one to help them out. You know, that it’s got to be so hard to focus on losing your job and also on the classes that are yet to finish here in the spring. And so I’m just really thankful to work at an institution that understands these needs of our students. And instead of just kind of, you know, saying, “Wow, this is hard,” we’re really trying to rise and come up with solution based initiatives. And so yeah, it’s ACC is doing some great work.

[Matthew Evins:] Well, it sounds like I can speak for all of us on that. We all have a lot of things going on, in and around the college to be prideful for this week. So that’s excellent to hear. I want to thank Monica, Kelli and Erasmus, the all three of you for joining me today. Again, with all the things going on, the ability to take, you know, 25 or so minutes out to talk about the things that your areas are doing to support faculty and students through Guided Pathways, especially given the shift to fully online education for the college has been well worth it. And so I want to thank you for your time. That wraps up another episode of Teaching and Learning Champions. Don’t forget that you can view blog posts for each episode on the TLED website. I also encourage you to subscribe to the ACC district podcasts on any of your preferred podcast apps or listen to individually episodes on a TLED website. Thank you for tuning in, and we’ll chat next time on TLC at ACC.

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