For Proposal to Require FYS for All Students
Introduction and Rationale
It has long been accepted that students benefit from a comprehensive orientation to college life. Typically, this orientation is condensed into a few days prior to the start of a student’s first semester. However, it has been suggested that orientations are most effective when they extend over the entire first semester and incorporate study skills, information about college resources, and reflective activities to build students’ attitudes about learning (Stovall 2000). Research conducted on First Year Experience courses at other 2- and 4-year colleges show positive results in students’ academic performance, involvement in college life, retention, persistence, and graduation (Stovall 2000). Based on the positive results seen at other community colleges, NECC developed the College Success Seminar, now the First Year Seminar, as one of the initiatives under Achieving the Dream designed to increase students’ retention and completion by improving their college readiness and achievement from the first semester.
The current FYS101 course was developed through a pilot process and has been further refined over the past 3 academic years. During that time, three beliefs guided the development of FYS101:
- In order to master learning strategies, students need to constantly refine them and to try them out in new situations, which is not always a smooth process. Providing support and guidance to students lessens the chance that they will give up on a perfectly good strategy just because they are unable to figure out how to revise it for college.
- During a period of transition, students’ sense of efficacy for learning tasks is at risk. In an unknown situation, strategies become vulnerable until the student has learned how to use them to meet the new challenges. This may be especially true for students who have never experienced failure or the need to revise their strategies, as they have the least experience with this process. High achieving students often come in with the most fragile self-efficacy.
- Faculty and staff are comfortable in academia, but our students may not be; the expectation and the norms of college culture might not be clear to them, especially if they have never been a part of a discussion about college expectations.
With these beliefs in mind, the FYS course was designed to help students meet the challenges associated with the transition to college. In fall 2015, CSS101 College Success Seminar was re-named FYS101 First Year Seminar to distance the course from its developmental roots, and to better align the course for transfer to other institutions. This new name also better reflects the timing and nature of the course to help students understand its place in their larger experience at NECC.
FYS 101 – First Year Seminar Course Description and Course Goals
Official Course Description:
The First Year Seminar introduces strategies for personal, academic and professional success. The content focuses on strengths and self-advocacy, critical thinking, goal setting and problem solving, communication, and study skills. Additionally, class activities promote teamwork and a sense of community at NECC.
- Strengths & Self Advocacy: Provide students with the opportunity to discover and develop their learning styles and strengths, as well as their academic and career interests and goals.
- Critical Thinking: Provide students with reading and writing assignments that will require students to use critical thinking and problem solving skills.
- Goal Setting & Problem Solving: Introduce students to various college resources that will help them create and implement academic and career goals: introduce students to self-management skills aimed at helping them solve academic, personal, and social problems to overcome barriers to their success.
- Communication: Provide students with learning opportunities and assignments that will help students strengthen their writing, listening, reading and oral presentation skills.
- Study Skills: Provide students with tools and strategies that will help them be emotionally, physically and academically prepared for the various examinations they will encounter in college
Examples of FYS Courses at NECC
FYS101 First Year Seminar can be offered as a theme-based course in which the instructor chooses a focus or subject connected to student success. The instructor selects course materials and designs assignments that bridge the course theme with the 5 goals of FYS. Theme based sections of FYS allow instructors and students to approach the transition to college through a focused selection of materials that allow students to experience college level expectations while also learning about topics that instructors are passionate about, and which relate well to students own experiences, interests, and future endeavors.
Example: Taking Charge of Your Success
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.” Dr. Seuss, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”
In this course, we will explore the idea that YOU are in charge of your own success. As part of the course theme, we will read a variety of materials designed to help identify your strengths, learning styles, interests and aspirations. Career exploration will be an important part of our course theme, as will utilizing the resources available at NECC designed to help you succeed in your educational path.
FYS101 First Year Seminar can also be designed as a program- or discipline-specific course that orients students to college and to their chosen program concurrently. One reason for developing sections of FYS that are program-based is to give students an orientation to the field they have chosen. Career readiness will play an increasing part in the FYS curriculum, regardless of the type of section a student takes. By working closely with faculty, whether in a specific program or in a theme-based section, students will have more opportunity to investigate the possibilities that a college degree can afford them.
Example from Lab Sciences
We will be examining the skills and techniques necessary for academic success in college level science classes. To this end, we will be exploring one scientific phenomenon in more depth, the interaction between mentos and soda, to practice and discuss critical thinking and the scientific method, information literacy, reading, note-taking, studying, and test-taking skills. Explorations of your individual strengths, interests, major options, and potential careers will also help you build educational and career goals to guide your time at NECC.
Sections of existing 100-level courses can have the FYS101 course goals embedded into the course outcomes, similar to the way in which Core Academic Skills outcomes are embedded in designated intensive courses. Embedded sections are ideal for programs with no free electives, or highly scripted program pathways that do not provide space for additional courses.
HES102 Learning Strategies for Success, has already been developed by the Health Services program and approved by the AAC. Faculty members who have taught FYS101 used the teaching objectives from one of their required introductory level courses and from FYS101 to create the new course. This embedded/intensive section meets the requirements of both classes from which it was developed to prepare students in the Health Services program for exactly the academic and career strategies they will need to be successful. This course also allows that to happen without creating an overload of courses or credits for students in the program.
Transferability to Other Institutions
Currently, three institutions accept NECC’s FYS course as transfer credit. Fitchburg State University accepts it as GENS1990 Transfer Elective, and Southern New Hampshire University will take FYS as a free elective requirement or general elective equivalent. Salem State University will allow NECC students to transfer their FYS credits and accept the successful completion of the course in place of their own first year course, FYID 100. We are currently pursuing additional transfer agreements, and are hoping more institutions will treat the course the way Salem State does.
Other institutions have their own version of FYS and prefer that students take that version upon transfer because it, like FYS at NECC, is considered a part of students’ orientation to that particular college and its systems. Even for institutions that will not accept our FYS in place of their own, the course credits do transfer as a free elective, provided students have a space for those credits in their schedule.
Evaluation and Oversight
Consisting of representatives from faculty and staff in Advising, Enrollment Services, The Center for Professional Development, the Student Success Center and Academic Affairs, the FYS Steering Committee meets periodically throughout the academic year. The Steering Committee, led by the FYS Coordinator, will provide oversight during the expansion and assist with developing an application process for new program-based or embedded/intensive courses. The Steering Committee is also tasked with program assessment and integrity as it expands.
In addition to collecting data on course completion, persistence, and GPA in order to evaluate course outcomes across all FYS (or equivalent) sections, instructors of all courses that intend to fulfill the FYS requirement must include the common goals in their syllabus and apply rubrics that have been developed to measure those goals (demonstrable outcomes and specific behaviors covered within the curriculum). The rubrics will also be used for student pre/post assessment. Trainings will be offered to support faculty in the development, delivery, and assessment of the FYS course.
Additionally, the Steering Committee will work with the Marketing and Communications to develop a dedicated webpage that will provide information on the progress of this initiative. The webpage will serve as both a resource for incoming students and their families to learn more about the FYS course options and their benefits, and as a marketing tool for the course.
FYS equivalents and exemptions will be coded in Banner and reflected in Degreeworks. The process will be similar to that used to code the Core Academic Skills.
A new FYS block will be added to Degreeworks to show how the requirement has been met. We will follow current processes as for Core Academic Skills wherever possible. All courses that meet the five FYS outcomes and the graduation requirement will have an attribute attached so that the requirement is shown as satisfied in the FYS block of Degreeworks.
FYS & the Integrated Student Experience
Whether students enroll in a theme-based, program-based, or embedded FYS course, they will receive the same level of support from instructors and advisors. The instructors will continue to have an informal advising role with their students, incorporating information from enrollment services, academic advising, financial aid, and other offices at the college for ongoing orientation throughout the semester. FYS should serve as an extended orientation to NECC, and set students up to continually be successful at NECC because they have had the opportunity to create a cohort, ask and have answered essential questions pertaining to their student experience, and have made connections with faculty members.
- Discussion of proposal at department and division meetings, led by FYS Coordinator with the support of steering committee members
- Advisory vote at ACA meeting with an online voting option for those who cannot attend
- Bill Heineman uses the voting outcome to make a decision on the proposal
- If the decision is against implementation, FYS101 remains on the schedule as an elective course.
- If the decision is to implement, then:
- Registrar codes the requirement and exemptions in Banner and Degreeworks
- Assessment and Testing Center removes current requirement for FYS from placement process
- (Fall to Spring) Steering committee members work with instructors and departments to develop additional stand-alone or embedded courses that meet the FYS requirement
- CPAC and faculty advisors get training on new requirement in advance of pre-registration for fall 2017
- Full implementation of new graduation requirement
iKentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. Administration of the First-Year Seminar:Key Decisions and Decision-Making Criteria. By Joe Cuseo. Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, cpe.ky.gov/NR/rdonlyres/ 7EF712C1-4262-4B98-8FBA-3510ED8BBA60/0/AdministrationoftheFirstYearSeminar.pdf. Accessed 26 Sept. 2016.