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Four Strategic Essentials for Institution-Wide Improvement in Student Success

Over the past decade, colleges and universities have faced increasing pressure to improve degree completion rates and demonstrate their value to students. At the same time, evidence has accumulated about efficacy of a number of structural and pedagogical changes institutions can make to help students succeed. Tactics including remedial course redesign, proactive advising and coaching, active learning pedagogies incorporating technology, and guided pathways now have a solid research base. Yet…

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Overcoming Institutional Barriers to Innovation
Lessons from Ithaka S+R’s Case Studies

Last week, Ithaka S+R released a report on the findings of its first Higher Ed Insights survey. The survey collected the opinions of 96 higher education experts on the state of undergraduate education, and ways to make it more effective and affordable. One of the most interesting findings was that a high percentage of respondents identified institutional culture or structures as the most substantial barriers to innovation. While this finding…

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Improving Instruction at Scale

In 2008, John Immerwahr described an “iron triangle” constraining colleges and universities, in which cost, quality, and access exist in an “unbreakable reciprocal relationship, such that any change in one will inevitably impact the others.” According to this logic, making a college or university more accessible or trying to increase the quality of instruction would necessarily drive up institutional costs. Conversely, reducing expenditures would inevitably make an institution less accessible…

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Instruction Shapes Construction at the University of Technology Sydney

Over the past eight years, the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) has undergone a remarkable transition, from a tired campus that housed an unsung technical institute to a major presence in Australia’s largest city where learning and research draw the attention of students, the higher education community, industry, and the public. In our latest case study, “Making a Place for Curricular Transformation at the University of Technology Sydney,” authors Nancy…

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Small Steps Lead to Big Change at Georgia State

For more than a decade, Georgia State University has focused intensively on improving the retention and graduation rates of students with long odds of succeeding. The results of this effort are truly remarkable. Between 2003 and 2014, GSU’s six-year graduation rate increased by nearly 70 percent, from 32 percent to 54 percent.  During the same period, the share of its undergraduate population eligible for Pell grants has increased by nearly…

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A different appoach to governance at ASU

Locus of Authority deftly chronicles the emergence of shared governance as a means to further university goals, and its ossification into an end in itself and a barrier against which transformative changes crash.  As my colleague Deanna Marcum elaborates, university leaders interested in pursuing innovations in online learning and other areas have sought to evade sclerotic shared governance processes through various workarounds, such as new, agile subunits and incentive programs.…

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Assessment at Pitt

What should an undergraduate chemistry major know by the time she graduates? How can one tell if she knows it? And how can chemistry instruction be improved to ensure that more students meet those expectations? Such deceptively simple questions—for chemistry and every other discipline—have become an important focus of higher education leaders, accrediting agencies, and government. Yet many universities have struggled to develop robust processes for assessing student learning. Even…

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The New American University
S+R Report Takes a Closer Look at ASU

“The New American University.”  To the outsider, or to the leader of another higher education institution, it may sound like a brash and arrogant boast.  On the inside, for a person associated with Arizona State University (ASU), it can be an aspirational expression of pride and the opportunity to take a leadership role in U.S. higher education.  ASU’s president, Michael Crow, envisions the “new American university” as one “measured not…

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