Considering that almost half of all undergraduate students enrolled in U.S. higher education institutions attend community colleges and the rate at which those students obtain a bachelor’s degree within six years is only about 15 percent, figuring out how to best support students at community colleges is critical to the success of college completion efforts. With that critical need in mind, the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College, Columbia University partnered with Macomb Community College to study the process of redesigning services to better meet the needs of community college students. CCRC assisted Macomb Community College in a three-step redesign process in which they:
1. gathered data on how students experienced intake, orientation, registration, advising, and the overall process of academic decision-making;
2. used the findings from phase one to identify areas for improvement and assembled work teams to devise and implement solutions; and
3. conducted research on the new processes and procedures that were implemented in phase two in order to assess their impact and then refine and improve them
After concluding the redesign process, a four-part publication emerged offering insight gained from the efforts to redesign student services on a community college campus. The packet, geared toward student affairs practitioners at community colleges, is broken down into the following sections:
· Gathering Data – Four different methods of data collection are outlined in this section: interview, focus group, survey, and performance. In an effort to provide practical guidance on how and when to use the various data collection methods, the format and purpose for each form of inquiry are outlined. For example, the report distinguishes between the utility of one-on-one interviews versus surveys, pointing out that interviews “allow in-depth exploration of individual attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors” while surveys are better suited for quantifying attitudes or opinions on specific topics.
· Using Data –What strengths did students identify? What processes, activities, or departments were mentioned the most? Who should be involved in initial conversations? After answering those questions and analyzing the data, the report details key steps in implementing redesign changes. Readers are taken from initial stages such as assembling work teams and establishing goals all the way to creating student services labs and redesigning new student orientation.
· Evaluating a Redesign – Once the redesign process is complete, it is important to determine: (1) which key outcomes to measure, (2) for whom those outcomes should be measured, and (3) when these outcomes should be measured. This section guides practitioners through the process of analyzing and translating the data in ways that will inform future improvements and modifications to the specific student services being examined.
· Sample Documents – The appendix includes sample documents from all stages of the process that can be used as templates for institutions hoping to embark on a redesign process. Some of the sample documents include informed consent forms, interview protocol, organization charts for work teams, and pre- and post-redesign academic catalogues from Macomb, to name a few.