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August 2016: HLC Key Action Items List

Dedicated work by RCTC criterion teams (comprised of over 60 staff, students, and faculty) continues on the feedback provided in our System Appraisal Feedback Report (SAFR). In order to be fully reaffirmed during our Spring 2017 visit, RCTC needs to eliminate any areas identified in the SAFR as “unclear or incomplete” and improve areas identified as “adequate, but could be improved”.

Much good work is taking place! It is now important that everyone continues the progress we're making so everything is complete and in place by the end of the fall 2016 semester.

To facilitate this work, each criterion team reported a “Checkpoint” at the end of the spring semester. Using these “Checkpoints” an HLC Key Action Items List was created during the summer. This list summarizes key evidence and identifies actions that are critical to complete in order to receive reaffirmation. This Actions Items document is available for any RCTC employee to see and is located here. Please take a look to see all the good work your colleagues are doing.

March 2016: RCTC’s Third AQIP Action Project for Accreditation: Strategic Enrollment Management--Improving Student Retention

After their hard work at the recent Higher Learning Commission Strategy Forum in Chicago, an RCTC work group, in collaboration with the college’s Strategic Enrollment Management Council (SEMC), finalized RCTC’s third AQIP action project. Such projects are the major college initiatives RCTC implements in order to improve quality at the college. According to Dave Atwood, Math Instructor, “The strategy forum was an intense process, but we got a lot of good work done. The goal of this SEMC project is entirely focused on student retention.” Lisa Mohr, Dean of Student Success, said that the this action project is important as well. “Our goal is to improve student retention,” Lisa said, “and now everyone is focused on putting those puzzle pieces together.”

The plan for this action project is straightforward.
• Establish a single, institution-wide retention goal.
• Create targeted strategies for three to five specific student populations in order to achieve this goal.
• Monitor the action project by measuring student persistence and retention rates.

The entire campus community will have a role in this action project during the next three semesters. The best way to improve student retention, after all, is through collaboration.

SEMC is responsible for the implementation of this project and will engage workgroups and institutional functional areas as appropriate based on identified tasks. SEMC meets twice a month to discuss issues, analyze data, and make decisions about improving retention and student success. Smaller work groups include SEM Academic Affairs; SEM Retention/Student Success; Outreach and Marketing; and Admissions Processes. These groups also meet twice monthly.

This action project is important for two reasons. First of all, over the next few years RCTC will face increased competition from other colleges for prospective students, a tight labor market, and declining high school graduation numbers. In other words, there will be fewer possible students with more choices available to them. More significant, though, is that RCTC has always been committed to student success. We want our students to stay in college and achieve their goals so that they have bright futures ahead of them. That’s why this action project is so important.
SEMC and its work groups are always seeking willing helpers. If interested, contact Lisa Mohr, Dean of Student Success.

February 2016: RCTC team develops institutional assessment plan at Higher Learning Commission workshop

​A team of seven RCTC faculty and administrators recently attended a two-day assessment workshop sponsored by the Higher Learning Commission. The workshop was designed to provide plenary and breakout sessions focused on assessment best practices, and to also allow teams extensive group time to work on institutional assessment projects. Going into the workshop, the team had the following goals:

  • Learn more about applying best practices from other institutions, developing rubrics, using data, building an assessment culture, engaging faculty, and assessing general education.
  • Implement meaningful assessment practices and processes upon return to RCTC.
  • Begin development of an Institutional Assessment Plan with specific goals, an identified timeline, and built-in milestones.

The team discussed RCTC’s assessment of student learning history and acknowledged that certain academic areas are already performing ongoing valuable assessments of student learning. However, the structure is not institutional. Other program and service areas need training to generate meaningful and manageable course, program, and institutional level assessments.

Through the productive use of extensive team worktime, the group developed the initial outline, structure, and process to create an institutional assessment plan that addresses both RCTC’s academic and service areas.

This spring, discussions will begin on how best to train faculty and staff in developing program level outcomes, program/service outcome mapping, developing or enhancing formative and summative assessment mechanisms and strategies, connecting course outcomes to both program and institutional outcomes, and how to create a comprehensive Outcome Assessment Map.

An additional take away from this workshop is that RCTC needs to reestablish a campuswide body and technology infrastructure to ensure and sustain the important work of assessment across the institution. After extensive discussion, it is the recommendation of this assessment team that RCTC creates an Institutional Quality Council (IQC), consisting of representatives from across the institution. The IQC will drive institutional quality initiatives and continue the future development and maturity of high impact assessment strategies that currently exist in a variety of areas within the College.

Stay tuned for additional details related to the development of the Institutional Quality Council, program/service student learning outcome mapping, Closing the Loop, and other assessment topics.

Members of the assessment team that attended the February HLC workshop are: Jamie Mahlberg, Teresa Brown, Anne High, Michelle Pyfferoen, Veronica Delcourt, Lisa Mohr, and Greg Mosier.

February 15, 2016:Assessment “Closing the Loop”: An Accreditation Action Project

On December 9th, 2015, RCTC officially registered its “Closing the Loop” (CtL) assessment action project on the Higher Learning Commission’s AQIP Action Project Directory website. Action projects are the major initiatives AQIP-accredited institutions, such as RCTC, undertake to continuously improve the quality of the education and services provided by the college. This action project will be completed by the time of the Higher Learning Commission’s site visit in April 2017.

The goal of the CtL action project is to improve student learning by developing, implementing, and evaluating a course-embedded assessment process across the college. Each semester, every instructor at RCTC will choose one evaluation that measures one student learning outcome in one course. The results of these evaluations, and the gains made in student learning, will be reported systematically through an online form. Furthermore, these results will be available to help faculty make important curricular decisions.

The reason for implementing this project is that RCTC needs a student learning assessment process that provides consistent feedback for faculty to continuously advance the learning that is taking place in their classrooms, is easy to use, repeatable every semester, and with accessible results. Decisions made about course, program, and college-level student learning outcomes, after all, depend upon the amount and quality of data available. This new action project will improve student learning and help streamline the assessment process.

This assessment project will require the engagement of all full-time and part-time faculty to input, analyze, discuss, and adjust curriculum as needed. That’s why it’s called “Closing the Loop”. The Student Learning, Assessment, and Teaching Effectiveness (SLATE) committee will oversee the project, providing necessary resources and technological assistance. SLATE will also provide opportunities for professional development so that faculty can understand not only the form itself, but also how to align course assessments with course, program, and college level learning outcomes. Finally, SLATE will make sure the CtL is meaningfully embedded in each department’s Academic Program Review to ensure accountability as well as continuous improvement of the process.

How will RCTC faculty and staff evaluate this action project? The action project’s success will be assessed first by seeing increasing numbers of faculty using the online CtL form from semester to semester. The first complete annual cycle will occur during the spring 2017 semester. Faculty will define success at their individual course level, programs will define success at the program level, and SLATE has defined the benchmark for success at the college level. Because of this three tiered approach, along with measuring the amount of increased student learning that is taking place, it will be possible to measure whether more students are meeting established targets for course, program, and college level outcomes. Each semester will provide a data set that can be used at all three levels.

February 8, 2016: RCTC Master Academic Plan, an Accreditation Action Project

RCTC has embarked on the creation of the institution’s first long-range Master Academic Plan (MAP). In fall 2015, the MAP Steering Council was formed and began working on the structure of the plan and the planning process, and the creation of planning tools and templates to assist departments and programs across the institution in the development and writing their Area MAPs. This is an institution wide project that will collect and evaluate information from all for-credit academic programs and disciplines, non-credit classes and workforce education programs, early college programs, academic support services, and student support services.

Through the comprehensive collection and analysis of information provided from these many areas, the finalized Master Academic Plan will provide the roadmap to advance RCTC’s academic mission, vision, and values for the next three years and beyond. The final plan will also provide important data to help inform decision-making processes for the College’s Master Facilities Plan and Master Technology Plan. Informational and training sessions have already begun campus-wide and will continue throughout this process. Individual areas will submit their Area MAPs by the end of the spring semester. During the summer, the MAP Steering Council and RCTC administration will finalize the document, post for campus review and input, and submit to MnSCU during the fall 2016 semester.

The MAP is also an important tool in RCTC’s accreditation process. It is one of RCTC’s three AQIP action projects for the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Action projects are the major initiatives undertaken by colleges in order to improve the quality of education. By the time of HLC’s site visit in the spring 2017, RCTC will be using data and strategies from the MAP to make the great education offered at RCTC even better. ​


November 23rd, 2015: RCTC Launches Higher Learning Commission Steering Council to Guide Accreditation Process

The HLC Steering Council met for the first time on November 23rd, 2015. The steering council is coordinating RCTC’s steps towards its accreditation site visit in spring of 2017. The council has faculty, staff, students, and administrators from all areas of RCTC. The first main task of the steering council is to help RCTC faculty, students and staff gather the necessary evidence for spring 2017 site visit. To do this task, six teams will collect data and report back to the steering council.

These teams correspond with the five HLC accreditation criteria used in reaffirmation of accreditation and with federal government compliance requirements:

  • Criterion Team 1: College Mission. Is RCTC’s mission broadly understood within the College and does it guide its operations?
  • Criterion Team 2: Integrity: Ethical and Responsible Conduct. Does RCTC act with integrity; and is its conduct ethical and responsible?
  • Criterion Team 3: Teaching and Learning: Quality, Resources, and Support. Does RCTC provide high quality education?
  • Criterion Team 4: Teaching and Learning: Evaluation and Improvement. Does RCTC evaluate the effectiveness of its learning and support services?
  • Criterion 5: Resources, Planning and Institutional Effectiveness. Are RCTC’s resources, structures and processes sufficient to fulfill the mission?
  • Compliance with federal laws. Does RCTC comply with regulations, such as financial aid, the Clery Act, etc.?

The evidence collected by these teams--and the widespread participation of students, staff, and faculty on these criterion teams--will be crucial as RCTC prepares for the spring 2017 HLC site visit. Each of these criterion teams will have twelve to fifteen to members. Volunteers are welcome. To serve, contact Dr. Greg Mosier, Vice President of Academic Affairs. The reason for the large number of people on these teams is that reaffirmation of accreditation is an inclusive process that involves the entire campus, not just a select few individuals.

The second main task of the steering council is to guide RCTC’s progress on three AQIP action projects, which are the ongoing projects HLC reviews to ensure RCTC is focused on continuous improvement. RCTC’s action projects are: strategic enrollment management, the master academic plan, and student learning outcomes. Once again, volunteers are welcome. If interested, contact Dr. Greg Mosier.

The final main task of the steering council is to maintain the rigorous schedule of events and trainings leading to the spring 2017 HLC site visit. The schedule includes several steering council meetings, criterion team meetings, AQIP strategy forums, and HLC forums.

By focusing on criterion teams, AQIP action projects, and scheduling, RCTC is doing what it needs to do in order to have its accreditation reaffirmed in the spring of 2017. Please contact Dr. Greg Mosier with any questions or for any opportunities to help.

November 20th 2015: RCTC Team attends Higher Learning Commission Training Session on Changes to the AQIP Pathway

A team of RCTC faculty, staff, and administrators attended a Higher Learning Commission (HLC) training session at Hennepin Technical College on November 20th, 2015. HLC is the accreditation body in charge of RCTC’s accreditation process.

At the training, the team learned about HLC’s revised accreditation processes for schools on the Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP) accreditation pathway. RCTC is an AQIP institution.

HLC has made changes to the eight-year AQIP pathway, in particular for RCTC and other schools in year seven of the cycle. At the end of the eight-year pathway, the accreditation of institutions will be reaffirmed. Some institutions will be given the option to choose between the three accreditation pathways (Open, Standard, and AQIP). Other institutions will be placed on the Standard pathway with additional monitoring from HLC. According to the HLC representatives doing the training session, half of the institutions overseen by the HLC have some type of monitoring.

The HLC trainers also covered the steps RCTC needs to complete this academic year in order to prepare for the HLC accreditation site visit in the spring of 2017. RCTC needs to get the following tasks done.

  • Update its three official action projects, which are the focused efforts RCTC engages in to improve quality. RCTC’s three action projects focus on strategic enrollment management, the new master academic plan, and student learning outcomes.
  • Review the HLC appraisal report and identify areas for strategic improvement. The appraisal report is HLC’s response to RCTC’s AQIP portfolio.
  • Prepare for the HLC site visit by filling in gaps pointed out in the HLC appraisal report and improving the quality of evidence.
  • Submit a brief quality highlights report to HLC that explains RCTC’s responses to the HLC appraisal report.

Finally, the HLC trainers explained what institutional teams need to do in Strategy Forums, another of AQIP’s core processes. An RCTC team will attend a strategy forum this coming February 2016. Basically, strategy forums allow HLC trainers and institutional teams to develop key process improvements in response to the HLC appraisal report.

Overall, RCTC is taking the appropriate steps in year seven of the eight-year AQIP cycle in order to be ready for its reaffirmation of accreditation after the spring 2017 HLC site visit.

September 2015

The Higher Learning Commission provided its Systems Appraisal report to RCTC, which has detailed feedback on RCTC’s Systems Portfolio.

May 2015

RCTC submitted its Systems Portfolio to the Higher Learning Commission.

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Rochester Community and Technical College, a member of Minnesota State.
RCTC is an affirmative action, equal opportunity educator and employer.
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