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LeagueTLC Innovation Express
Exploring Issues, Innovations, and New Developments with Information Technology Professionals

Miramar College's Personal Learning Assistance Center: The PLACe for Student Success

Diana Fink, Director, The PLACe, Miramar College, San Diego Community College District

Colleges are often perceived as non-intrusive; that is, they provide courses, programs, services, and opportunities while the student retains the responsibility for taking advantage of the college's offerings. Miramar College, one of the three colleges in the San Diego Community College District, believes educational institutions have an obligation to share the responsibility for the student's involvement, and they have committed the college to promoting the most positive educational experiences for students. Vice President of Student Services, Bob Garber explains this commitment: "Students are the essence of our mission. It is essential to provide students with every possible opportunity to succeed and accomplish their educational goals."

Since attrition is expensive in loss of revenue and human potential and since Miramar strives to maximize its resources to enhance institutional effectiveness, they have developed strategies to directly address retention. One front-line approach is the establishment of The Personal Learning Assistance Center, or The PLACe, a centralized tutorial center dedicated to empowering students to attain educational success. 

The success of an institution and the success of its students are inseparable. Miramar College believes the quality of an institution ought to be measured by the institution's contribution to student learning and development, the motivation of students to persist and complete their educational goals, and the ability of students to successfully fulfill a variety of adult roles after graduation. 

To determine the impact the PLACe has on learning, the center begins by looking at the number of students who attend tutoring sessions and workshops, and who use the many different computer programs and online tutorials in the High Tech Lab. Each semester, the PLACe also measures feedback from students through written Tutor Assessment Sheets. This process allows students to evaluate the tutors as well as the quality of assistance they receive from the sessions. One of the best overall methods for evaluation is the PLACe Retention Study, an ongoing research project established in 1992 to highlight formative development needs and underscore quantitative outcomes related to student success. The data indicate, by percentage, success factors for students who participate in tutoring services at the PLACe compared to students in developmental education courses who have not. Table A and B reflect subject areas and categories of evaluation related to student retention, persistence, and success as indicated by course completion with passing grades. Proportionate samples were randomly selected at the beginning of the 1999 fall & spring semester and performance was tracked to the close of the academic year. The PLACe participants attended tutoring sessions and workshops an average of 6.8 hours a semester, while Other Students represent those placed in developmental math & English courses who never enrolled for any PLACe services. 

Table A. Developmental English Students

  PLACe Participants Other Students Variance
Dropped 19.82%  29.33% 9.51%
Withdrew 12.35% 26.52% 14.17%
Incomplete 32.16% 55.95% 23.79%
Received Passing Grades (A, B, or C) 57.16% 36.56% 20.60%

Table B. Developmental Math Students

  PLACe Participants Other Students Variance
Dropped 16.08% 23.70% 7.62%
Withdrew 21.88% 29.09% 7.21%
Incomplete 37.94% 52.80% 14.86%
Received Passing Grades (A, B, or C) 51.75% 40.05% 11.70%

The numbers indicate significant gains for students enrolled in the PLACe, underscoring that students who take advantage of the PLACe services perform better in classes and complete their developmental courses rather than dropping, withdrawing, or stopping out. More important, the mission of the PLACe and Miramar College has become anchored in the future of their students. When students learn and feel successful on campus, they stay. Retention is a critical performance outcome indicator, and colleges that learn to assess and manage retention are positioned to excel in today's educational climate. 

For additional information or reference, contact Diana Fink



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