Different Approaches and Systems of Learning Assistance

The following is an excerpt from my book, "Access at the crossroads" described in the left-hand column.

Learning assistance encompasses a variety of activities and models with varying levels of efficacy for institutions and participating students. The variety of these models is a result of different policies, funding formulas, student population characteristics, historical traditions, campus culture, political decisions, and stakeholders’ expectations.  Better understanding of the choices taken when offering learning assistance occurs when it is categorized into different approaches taken at the institutional level. The three broad categories are based on where and when the particular learning assistance activity is offered: a prerequisite activity on the college campus before a student enrolls in a class for graduation credit; concurrent activity on the college campus while a student is enrolled in a class predicted to be academically challenging; and outsourcing of the learning assistance activity to another institution or commercial firm.

The goal of these three approaches is preparation of students for academic success in a rigorous core curriculum of college-level course that exceeds the average of other college-level classes and is challenging for many members of the student body. This class has high withdrawal and failure rates. Sometimes it is called a “gatekeeper” class (Jenkins, Jaggars, and Roksa, 2009).  The name used to describe classes that offer learning assistance activities specifically designed to support the students enrolled in them are called “target classes,” as the learning assistance services are customized and “targeted” for serving students enrolled in that specific course. The focus is shifted from erroneously attempting to identify students at risk in the class to students in that particular class who are welcome to use the learning assistance activities to meet course expectations or as supplemental or enrichment experiences deepening their mastery of course content. Faculty members who teach this target class are involved to varying degrees with the learning assistance activities preparing students for academic success.

The following three blog postings in upcoming weeks will share briefly about each of these approaches.