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It’s not all Academic: Reflections on early college pilot

Collaboration with B.M.C. Durfee High School, Bridgewater State University and JFYNetWorks

by Eileen Wedegartner, Blended Learning Specialist

In 2018-19, Bridgewater State University, BMC Durfee High School and JFY piloted a dual enrollment collaboration. The pilot offered much encouragement and many lessons. Here are some general observations, followed by specific recommendations.

All students, especially those who may be the first in their family to attend college, need support navigating the shifts in academic rigor, independent learning strategies, time management, different technologies, and other aspects of college.

Knowing where students stand in basic academic skills is important. GPA and course work are good indicators. Standardized exam scores are useful supplements. Accuplacer can help determine how much supplemental support a student will need.

A formal early college orientation should be developed. It could begin by going over a course syllabus in detail, an essential bridge for students to cross in navigating the shift between high school and college expectations. In high school classes, the teacher may have a course outline with expectations that she reviews with students and with parents on parents’ night. This is not the case in college. Students get a syllabus. The professor may or may not go over it in detail, noting texts, technology, assignments, deadlines, tests, the need to build a schedule and manage time and access to academic resources, etc.

Early College Orientation Components

  1. Initial assessment of reading and/or math skills using Accuplacer, not to exclude students but to determine needed support.
  2. Detailed examination of syllabus, highlighting and noting information that is essential for developing independent learning strategies.
      1. Highlight the grading policy. Understanding how you are graded allows students to continually self-track their progress.
      2. Highlight attendance policies. Review the importance of letting the teacher know when you will not be there. Contacting professors before the absence ensures that the professor knows you are aware of the course expectations, and that you respect her time. This is also an essential skill in the workplace.
      3. Highlight the professor’s office hours and make a point to stop in during those office hours at the beginning of a semester. This is a practice that helps students learn to advocate for themselves in college. It is also a useful practice on the job.
      4. Highlight all major assignments and test dates. Show students how to put dates into a calendar or planner that can be accessed via computer or iPhone. This helps students develop a schedule that they are responsible for with notifications.

  1. After syllabus review, work with students on contacting professors to introduce themselves via email.
  2. Practice class expectations.
      1. In college classes, professors often lecture or hold a seminar, but there are no ongoing formative assessments like homework checks or classwork to track learning. Students are expected to do classwork on their own time outside of class and be responsible for their own learning by independently pursuing inquiry before the next class session.
      2. In math, students practice problems and come to class with questions if they did not get the right answer. They need to learn to come to class with questions on topics they need help with, taking responsibility for their own progress.
      3. In humanities classes, there is a jump from high school classes where teachers guide students in formulating a thesis through classroom discussion, guided reading questions and close readings. In college, students are expected to formulate a thesis independently. They are expected to identify passages for close reading on their own and practice critical reading skills and methods outside of class. Demonstrating and practicing these skills before classes begin will make the transition easier.

  1. Practice note-taking methods and skills. These techniques are critical tools for success.
  2. Have students explore campus support resources such as the Academic Achievement Center at BSU or similar services at other campuses. Though our dual enrollment classes are in the high school, we may be able to access these support services online or through campus visits. Helping students practice getting support is an important part of college readiness. Click here to link to the BSU Academic Achievement Center. We should plan one or more campus visits with specific objectives such as student support services. Familiarity with the campus and its resources will encourage matriculation.
  3. Practice logging into the platform the college uses for classes. At BSU this is Blackboard. Other colleges use other platforms.
      1. Help students download and upload material for a course.
      2. Ensure that students have access to content.

  1. Practice using the technology they will need for the class. This would include using Google sheets to create documents with math and creating charts and graphs for projects.
  2. Practice using the word processing programs or transferring documents across different programs to learn to transition easily between programs.

Not Just Early College, Ongoing Support

Ongoing Support During the Semester

  1. Meet with students in weekly sessions.
  2. Share updates from college professors, such as changes to the syllabus.
  3. Target students who struggle through check-ins and academic support interventions.
  4. Provide opportunities for students to work on programs with access to computers and materials for both independent and study- group work.
  5. Develop protocols with professors to keep track of students’ standing in class and flag problems early. (This is backup for student self-management.)
  6. Work with students to track their own progress, so they can map their route to success.
  7. Show students how to access the MLA manual or APA manual, depending on course.
  8. Access online library sources from the college. Give students time to do necessary research.

In general, a three-credit college class runs approximately 38 hours of class time during a semester. A high school class for course credit runs about 50 minutes a day for 180 days (or 100 minutes for 90 days), a total of 150 hours. This means that structured class time is four times higher for the high school student. To support these students as they transition from one realm to the other requires reinforcing skills that will help them succeed when structured learning time is reduced. Our job is to ensure that they develop the skills they need to work effectively in this new structure, beginning with managing their time but including becoming aware of their own gaps and working to fill them through self-advocacy.

Picture credits: B.M.C. Durfee High School twitter and Facebook pages, as well as

Related post about this dual enrollment pilot program found here.

Learn more about JFY’s Early College program here.

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