At the most basic level, the mission of any institution of higher learning is to educate and then to graduate students. Specifically, Fairmont State’s mission is “to provide opportunities for individuals to achieve their professional and personal goals and discover roles for responsible citizenship that promote the common good.”
Imagine, however, being a junior or senior who has worked incredibly hard but passing a class like physics, accounting, chemistry, or economics becomes the nemesis standing in your way of reaching your goal of completing your degree. Or, imagine you are the first in your family to go to college, and you find yourself in a difficult class where nearly half the students around you are failing, so you become discouraged and drop the class.
The reality is that these classes exist, and, in order for students to successfully reach their goal of completing a degree, they must master the required content. So, in keeping with our mission, Fairmont State strives to find ways to enhance teaching and learning in order to help students achieve their goals.
Last year, the School of Business and the College of Science and Technology collaborated to propose a program designed to do just that. Fairmont State’s proposal, titled “Revitalizing Curricula as Experiential, Collaborative and Technology-Rich”, was one of only 15 applications nation-wide selected for funding by the U.S. Department of Education Title III Strengthening Institutions Program last year. With an investment of nearly $2 million over the next five years through the Title III grant, Fairmont State will have the resources needed to pilot this program and measure its impact on student success and retention.
The program specifically targets courses that traditionally have high rates of failing grades and withdrawals within the School of Business and College of Science and Technology.
The Title III grant will fund many exciting initiatives over the next five years, including:
- student peer mentoring programs in the School of Business and College of Science and Technology
- “lecture capture” technology to extend learning beyond the classroom, enabling students to access past lectures for review and to prepare for in-class collaborative activities by completing pre-recorded learning modules before class
- a “Learn Lab” in the School of Business to provide a flexible environment for collaborative learning and peer mentoring (104 Jaynes Hall is currently being renovated and will be fully equipped in the near future)
- five new “Smart Classrooms”
- iPads and laptops to ensure students will have access to technology in the classroom
- new equipment and supplies in the science and technology labs
- faculty development for integrating experiential, collaborative and technology-rich learning in their courses
- a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Learning Coordinator and a Business Learning Coordinator to work with faculty on curriculum redesign and to coordinate the peer mentoring program
- an endowment challenge in the last two years of the grant to leverage philanthropic support for the University by providing Federal funds to match private donations
During the five-year grant period, data will be collected and evaluated to determine the impact the revitalized curricula, experiential and collaborative learning opportunities, and enhanced technology have on student retention and success in these challenging courses. However, this grant-fund program isn’t just about retention statistics; it’s about finding new ways to enable student success—helping students overcome the hurdles that stand in their way to achieving their academic goals, so that they will be able to “achieve their professional and personal goals.”