Innovation

Advancing College Equity Through Adaptive Learning: Teachable Lessons from the NLU Case

As the new reality of the pandemic continues to sink in, colleges and universities are beginning to rethink some basic assumptions about how they conduct classes and deliver instruction. Particularly, administrators and faculty are reflecting on how they might optimize their technology and resources to best accommodate a virtual learning environment – the new norm in an educational sector whose traditional modus operandi has been shaken to its foundations.

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College Recruitment During COVID-19: How National Louis University is finding creative ways to connect with prospective students

New students at NLU’s Undergraduate College Orientation, August 2019

By: Rebecca McDermott

For high school seniors across the nation, their final semester has unraveled in a way they could have never imagined. The milestones that mark their transition from teenager to young adult have one by one been taken away. No prom, no college visits, no graduation ceremony.

For colleges and universities, recruiting their incoming class is going to look and feel different. Approaching this recruitment season with grace, patience, and empathy is essential, and National Louis University (NLU) is leading their efforts with these values embedded into each decision.

A recent national survey reports that one in six high school seniors who were expected to attend a four year college in the fall may change their plans. Additionally, three in five seniors are rethinking their first choice college.

Students who had previously committed to a university are now weighing if their college option still makes sense during the COVID-19 pandemic. As millions of Americans continue to file for unemployment, the financial situation for families across the country is dramatically shifting. Students who are healthy and able are taking jobs where they can to support their household, or are paying more attention to their immediate financial needs.

Being closer to home and taking out fewer student loans may start to emerge as important factors for students finalizing their college decision. National Louis University’s Undergraduate College has always been committed to keeping tuition affordable. Students who qualify for the full MAP and Pell Grants after filing FAFSA have a $0 out of pocket cost for tuition. The need for a college option that students can pay for without taking out student loans will likely be more in demand than ever.

Finding an option that provides high value at an affordable cost will also prove imperative. NLU’s focus on career development and professional experience offers an opportunity for students to achieve that high value without taking out student loans.

Campus visits and admitted student days are typically large recruitment events that help seniors get a better feel for a school and make their final decision. With students unable to visit campus, National Louis University has found creative ways to connect with students and help them feel comfortable with their enrollment process.

Virtual information sessions, drop-in hours, and virtual Admit Days will be lively, engaging substitutes for campus visits. These events are opportunities to chat with different NLU departments live and have questions answered immediately. Engaging with students conversationally at these events and being patient with questions and uncertainties around technical issues are essential for assuaging the anxieties many prospective students are feeling at this time.

While live virtual events can be helpful for students, there are many who do not have consistent internet access at home. Students who are balancing work with school and taking care of their family may find themselves too busy or overwhelmed to login for a live event. This is where NLU’s YouTube playlist and social media have also proven essential for connecting with high school seniors.

NLU’s New Student Enrollment Playlist on YouTube features videos that walk students through their enrollment milestones step-by-step. Students can start with a pre-recorded information session, watch a walkthrough of the online application, and be guided on how to access their award letter and submit their tuition deposit. Several videos are available in both English and Spanish to reach more students and their families and help them feel comfortable completing steps to enroll at NLU from home.

On social media accounts, NLU has shared several student testimonial videos to help show prospective students why others chose NLU as their college selection. Instagram and TikTok have allowed a unique connection between students and their college options. Students can engage actively with NLU through Instagram story trivia quizzes and Q & A sessions. They also have the opportunity to watch short campus tours on Instagram TV.

Obviously, this is not the spring semester any student imagined for themselves. It is tough to focus on the future when circumstances change daily. However, many students are still planning to continue their education. These high school seniors were born in the wake of 9/11 and are graduating high school during a global pandemic. These resilient students can and will persevere.

National Louis University is going the extra mile to make sure students feel ready and empowered to take the next step into their future and enroll for college. Students showing the fortitude to continue their education in the face of today’s unprecedented situation remind us that this incoming class will be more than strong enough to meet the challenge.  

NLU Is Highlighted for The Continuing Effort in Supporting Prior Learning Assessment & Adult Learner Lifecycle

Joseph Levy, Executive Director of Assessment and Accreditation and Tracy Costello, Assistant Director of Prior Learning Assessment of NLU believe that adult students need to feel validated and know their experience and knowledge has value and worth. Consequently, they are taking the proper steps to ensure these students are acknowledged. In The EvoLLLution online newspaper, Levy and Costello’s discuss considerations for ensuring student success through PLA programs, while also highlighting example practices at NLU. Prior Learning Assessments (PLA) allow a student’s experiential learning to be evaluated for potential credit award while recognizing and validating the non-traditional learning they bring with them to college.  

Through trial and error and finding the right balance of support, Levy and Costello have developed effective PLA options for undergraduate and graduate students such as credit by exam, credit by portfolio, credit by licensure and certifications, and course by arrangement to support students’ whose experience surpasses the coursework needed for completion of certain courses within some programs. These assessments are described in detail in the article and more information can be found on NLU’s PLA website.

With student support in place, Levy and Costello also created outreach initiatives that support and encourage adult learners including a PLA video showcasing students of PLA, redesigning the NLU website to provide testimonials, and program specific information fact sheets to demonstrate the PLA process (e.g., undergraduate examples here). By doing so, these efforts educate and reinforce PLA programs to students, faculty and staff, and are excellent examples for other institutions to consider. “At NLU, our institutional legacy is defined by its mindfulness in ensuring access to a diverse student body. With this in mind, we have made it our mission to provide equitable PLA opportunities for all students, supporting their unique individual backgrounds” state the innovative creators Levy and Costello. Read the article in The EvoLLLution online newspaper and learn more about NLU’s PLA services at https://www.nl.edu/pla/.

These results, as well as other workshops from various adult education groups will be discussed at the CAEL (Council for Adult and Experiential Learning) Conference “Plug in: Energize Adults Pathways to Success” at the Palmer House on Wednesday, November 6 to help support and promote the continuing efforts for PLA options for adults in and around the Chicagoland area. NLU is sponsoring the event, and the conference is opened to anyone would like to attend. More information can be found here.

NLU’s Viola provides Keynote address at China Community Psychology Conference

After two faculty members from China attended the Society for Community Research and Action (SCRA) conference hosted by National Louis University in June, they were enthusiastic about asking Associate Professor, Dr. Judah Viola, to attend and present as the keynote speaker at the 5th annual National Conference of Community Psychologists at Hebei Normal University in Shijiazhuang, China. The keynote address, How Community Psychologists Support Health and Wellness in the United States and What Relevance this has for Community Psychology in China summarized the range of applied research and action that U.S. based community psychologists are involved in today and presented community-based research findings from Dr. Viola’s work in Chicagoland and across the country.

(Dr. Judah Viola with Dr. Houchao Lyu, Southwest University and Dr. Jiehua Huang, Guangzhou University in Shijiazhuang China)

The address described the health and social issues of chronic disease prevention and management in a variety of settings ranging from government agencies and universities, to private companies. Dr. Viola provided an overview of the work happening across the United States in collaboration with coalitions to prevent obesity, training people with disabilities and their parents to partner with schools and local officials to more fully include people with disabilities in community settings, and supporting men who are coming out of drug treatment or jail to rebuild relationships with their children. The presentation provided quantitative and qualitative data that will help China-based community psychologists to design, evaluate, and adapt similar projects described in Dr. Viola’s presentation. The research collaboration begun this summer aims to support relevant cultural, social, and health related issues across the globe.

“I was thrilled to represent NLU and U.S. community psychologists as we had a vibrant exchange of ideas with colleagues from across over 20 universities in China.  The visit will continue to bear fruit as I collaborate with Chinese community psychologists on cross-cultural research and engage National Louis students in this work going forward,” Dr. Viola stated regarding this opportunity for collaboration. Dr. Viola exemplifies NLU’s mission by sharing innovative ways to engage in the support health and wellness locally and globally. You can learn more about Dr. Viola’s research and scholarship here: https://works.bepress.com/judah_viola/.

NLU Faculty In Action: Gates Foundation Data-informed Instruction Case Study Supports Underrepresented Students

Five National Louis University faculty members partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in a new case study that explored instructional strategic “best practices” and “strengths-based approaches” for supporting students inside and outside of the classroom using data informed learnings. Tara Bryant-Edwards, Lisa Downey, Bethany Harding, Doug McCoy, Margeaux Temeltas, and Stephanie Poczos contributed their expertise to the study.

The case study spotlights the usage of data to support teaching, including faculty content meetings that help with instructional planning to meet learning objectives, individualizing instruction, and interventions to promote success with at-risk students. The case study uses specific data such as the “early-warning sign data” to provide critical support for students to persist towards graduation. These data points promote collaboration amongst other colleagues and departments to give undergraduate students the best chance at success.

The data described in the case study support faculty intervention and allow for intentional adjustments in best practices for the classroom, while also assisting in reaching students on a holistic level. The data provide faculty members the ability to make accommodations in the classroom lectures, to utilize resources on campus in the classroom such as the writing support team and student success coaches, and to create individualized plans to help break down assignments in manageable sections.

This case study led by NLU faculty and sponsored by the Gates Foundation is another step the institution is taking to support undergraduate students, ensuring the best practices are being applied in and outside of the classroom. The methods described in the case study support the use of technology, data-driven instruction, individualized instruction, faculty collaboration, interaction with students, and active classrooms. The case study can be found here.

Case Study: NLU Data, Team Helps Students Make Breakthroughs Coaches, instructors team up to monitor data for early stumbles, reach out to help students

As a National Louis University team of instructors and success coaches met for its weekly review of students’ data, they noticed that the A and B grades of one sophomore in the Pathways at NLU program had begun to drop. After conferring quickly around the table, they decided this student’s coach should reach out to the student.

The coach discovered that the student did not have a stable home and was also struggling with having a dependable job and income. Many Pathways students come from under-resourced families in underserved Chicago-area neighborhoods, so they face realities such as having to work full-time, pay rent and care for family members.  In this case, the coach worked with the student to find stable housing and employment. Without such intervention, the student would likely have dropped out of higher education.

This anecdote appears in the newly-released Case Study of Pathways at NLU, an explainer on how the Pathways team uses thoughtful data techniques, human mentoring and other strategies to help disadvantaged students enter and persist in college and graduate with four-year degrees. The team continuously refines these methods in order to improve outcomes and share the most effective techniques with other educators.

The case study highlights Pathways’ ultimate goal of educating students who might not otherwise have gone to college and preparing them for fulfilling careers and economic mobility. In the 2017-18 class of Pathways’ students, for example, 82 percent were eligible for Pell grants, 82 percent were the first generation in their families to attend college, were 94 percent underrepresented minorities and had an average high school GPA of 2.7.

Now in its fourth year, the program is succeeding on measures of growth, academic progress and retention. Enrollment has grown from the original 85 students to more than 1,000. In terms of academic performance, the number of “on track to graduate” students has grown from 60 percent for the first cohort to 76 percent for the 2017-18 cohort. The retention rate between years one and two for the first two cohorts was 70 percent, outperforming the 53 percent persistence rate for Chicago Public Schools students with similar academic profiles at other higher education institutions.

Many factors contribute to helping Pathways at NLU and its students succeed. These include an affordable $10,000 tuition rate, which is covered by grants for many students, personalized learning technology and two-day-a-week blended class schedules.

However, Pathways’ two most important weapons against failure have become people, in the form of student success coaches and instructors, and data, or more specifically, smart ways of using data to gain insights into how students are doing.

The case study explains how NLU’s Pathways team uses data to track students’ progress weekly, to help give instructors a big-picture view of how students are doing so they can adjust coursework if necessary, and identify trends or challenges in the courses and course sequences so that the team can make improvements.

Some of Pathways’ most notable successes have taken place when coaches and instructors gather weekly to go over student data, notice something that stands out, confer among themselves and then reach out to a student to offer supportive assistance. As in the story at the beginning of this post, sometimes this outreach makes the difference between a student continuing in college or dropping out.

These small successes are usually unheralded, but they are deserving of fanfare. They are the places where the “rubber” of life challenges meets the “road” of academic work, and a university prepared to help students navigate this juncture is better able to see them through to graduation. While National Louis University’s team members continue to refine methods and strategies, they are gratified at the successes so far and willing to share and expand their findings with educators, researchers, funders and others interested in closing the opportunity gap for students who face an uphill climb toward their college diplomas.

View the case study here.

Weekend Center Launches; Earn a Degree One Saturday Per Month Students can earn Master's or Ed.D.; in-person classes supplemented by online learning

National Louis University Lisle campus.

Earn a master’s or Ed.D. degree by attending class one Saturday per month at the Weekend Center at NLU. The monthly Saturday classes are supplemented by online learning between sessions.

You’re busy. You have to go to work, take care of your family and keep your household running. Still, you want to earn an advanced degree to boost your career, advance to a fulfilling position and improve your family’s situation for the long haul.

National Louis University has created a solution: the Weekend Center at NLU. By devoting just one Saturday a month to attending a class and completing the balance of coursework online, students  can earn one of the following master’s or doctoral degrees: Continue reading »

National Louis Wins 2018 Eduventures Innovation Award NLU shows 'true thought leadership,' Eduventures leader said

A jury of higher education leaders and advisors selected National Louis University as a winner of the 2018 Eduventures Innovation Award. NLU’s Aarti Dhupelia, vice president for strategic initiatives, and Stephanie Poczos, associate dean of general education and Pathways, accepted the award in Boston at the Eduventures Summit June 14. Eduventures is a research and advisory firm focused on higher education. Continue reading »

Braven At NLU Prepares Students To Get Degree-Worthy Jobs Program Gets Sophomores Thinking Seriously About Careers

On a recent Wednesday evening, seven students in a National Louis University classroom were scanning resumes of job candidates posted on the whiteboard. The students, all from the Pathways at NLU program, scribbled the positives and negatives of each candidate on sticky notes. Two adult volunteers, both working professionals, guided them through an exercise in which the students had to act as hiring managers, deciding which of the fictitious job candidates to contact for an interview. Continue reading »

NLU Offers A Google Certified Educator Course Will help teacher candidates boost their resumes, apply techniques when they student teach

 

Knowing the latest education technology (edtech) can help future teachers better manage their classrooms when they start student teaching. It also makes their resumes stand out to potential employers.

That’s why National Louis University’s National College of Education is offering a Google Certified Educator professional development course this winter and spring. Pre-service teacher prep candidates are flocking to sign up for the course, which will prepare them to incorporate the “G Suite,” a range of Google apps formerly called Google Apps for Education, into their student teaching field placements. Continue reading »