WWC review of this study

Scaling academic planning in community college: A randomized controlled trial (REL 2017–204)

Visher, M. G., Mayer, A. K., Johns, M., Rudd, T., Levine, A., & Rauner, M. (2016). Regional Educational Laboratory West . Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED570335

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
     examining 
    1,763
     Students
    , grade
    PS

Reviewed: August 2021

No statistically significant positive
findings
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Progressing in college outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Enrolled

Alternative counseling vs. Business as usual

1 Semester

Workshop intervention group vs. BAU;
1,570 students

77.80

79.80

No

--
More Outcomes

College persistence - enrolled in higher education for another term

Alternative counseling vs. Business as usual

1 Month

Individual advising group vs. BAU;
678 students

77.20

79.80

No

--


Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.


  • Female: 49%
    Male: 51%

  • Suburban
    • B
    • A
    • C
    • D
    • E
    • F
    • G
    • I
    • H
    • J
    • K
    • L
    • P
    • M
    • N
    • O
    • Q
    • R
    • S
    • V
    • U
    • T
    • W
    • X
    • Z
    • Y
    • a
    • h
    • i
    • b
    • d
    • e
    • f
    • c
    • g
    • j
    • k
    • l
    • m
    • n
    • o
    • p
    • q
    • r
    • s
    • t
    • u
    • x
    • w
    • y

    California
  • Race
    Asian
    7%
    Black
    1%
    Other or unknown
    35%
    White
    57%
  • Ethnicity
    Hispanic    
    13%
    Not Hispanic or Latino    
    87%

Setting

The study took place at Saddleback College, which is part of the South Orange Community College District and serves the city of Mission Viejo, CA. Saddleback College offers associate degrees and certificates and serves a suburban community.

Study sample

The demographics for the analytic sample were as follows: 51.2% were male and 70% were younger than 19 years old. Over half (56.8%) were White, 6.5% were Asian, 1.2% were Black, 35.4% were of another race or multi-racial; 12.7% of students in the sample were Hispanic.

Intervention Group

Students in the workshop condition received targeted encouragement to complete an academic plan. Students also had access to group counseling focused on completing this plan. Students received up to 11 'nudges' via email, robocall, text message, and to-do list items on their MySite college portal. Nudges encouraged students to make a MAP counseling appointment via an electronic link included in the nudge or by calling or visiting the counseling department. Students were guaranteed a counseling slot and could make an appointment for any offered time within a two-week window. The counselor-designed workshop curriculum walked students through the process of completing an academic plan and was structured so that students could leave as soon as they completed their plan and a counselor reviewed and approved it. Two-hour workshops were facilitated by one or two counselors. Workshops lasted up 19 students per session. Approximately 48% of the students attended a counseling appointment and 38% completed an academic plan. Students in the one-on-one advising condition also received the targeted nudging described above and were also offered a counseling appointment within a two-week window. Students also received the targeted nudging described above. The individual appointments were scheduled to last an hour and were conducted by both full- and part-time counselors. One-on-one appointments followed a more individualized path than the group workshops since advisors could first ask about what motivated students to attend and could spend more time learning about students' interests, needs, and current status. Half (50%) of students assigned to the individual advising intervention condition actually attended a counseling appointment and 42% completed an academic plan. The authors report that some students left the session without an approved academic plan; for example, some students needed more time to reflect on their education or career goals before completing the plan.

Comparison Group

Students in the comparison group received the standard initial email nudge only. Students can make an appointment or walk in for a one-on-one advising session with a counselor, but there were no guaranteed time slots. A small number of students received academic counseling as part of a college course.

Support for implementation

A lead counselor provided training on the MAP tool and the workshop curriculum for all counselors early in the semester. According to the director of counseling services, most counselors received 6 to 8 hours of training. The Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) West provided support with various aspects of the study including designing the nudge content and technological approach and conducting the random assignment.

Reviewed: September 2019

No statistically significant positive
findings
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Progressing in college outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Enrolled in community college for second semester

Enhanced MAP (My Academic Plan) System vs. Business as usual

1 Month

Workshop group vs. comparison;
1,570 students

77.80

79.80

No

--
More Outcomes

Enrolled in community college for second semester

Enhanced MAP (My Academic Plan) System vs. Business as usual

1 Month

One-on-one group vs. comparison;
678 students

77.20

79.80

No

--


Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.


  • Female: 49%
    Male: 51%

  • Suburban
    • B
    • A
    • C
    • D
    • E
    • F
    • G
    • I
    • H
    • J
    • K
    • L
    • P
    • M
    • N
    • O
    • Q
    • R
    • S
    • V
    • U
    • T
    • W
    • X
    • Z
    • Y
    • a
    • h
    • i
    • b
    • d
    • e
    • f
    • c
    • g
    • j
    • k
    • l
    • m
    • n
    • o
    • p
    • q
    • r
    • s
    • t
    • u
    • x
    • w
    • y

    California
  • Race
    Asian
    7%
    Black
    1%
    Other or unknown
    23%
    White
    57%
  • Ethnicity
    Hispanic    
    13%

Setting

This study was conducted at Saddleback College, a community college located in Orange County, California.

Study sample

The sample was 51.2% male and the majority (69.9%) were under the age of 19, with an average age of 21.1. Over half (56.8%) were white, with the remainder of the sample identifying as Hispanic (12.7%), Asian or Pacific Islander (6.5%), black (1.2%), or other race/multiracial (22.7%).

Intervention Group

The intervention included guaranteed access to one of two types of counseling sessions combined with targeted "nudging" to encourage students to attend the counseling session and complete their academic plan using the technology-based My Academic Plan (MAP) academic planning tool. Students in the workshop group received an initial nudge and up to 10 additional nudges, as well as a guaranteed appointment to attend a 2-hour workshop curriculum that walks students through the process of completing an academic plan. Students in the one-on-one counseling group received the same nudges as the workshop group. These students were guaranteed an appointment for a 1-hour one-on-one counseling session with a counselor.

Comparison Group

The comparison group received only one initial e-mail nudge and were not guaranteed access to counseling services. They could make an appointment for the following week or walk in, and a small number of students were able to receive academic planning counseling as part of a college course.

Support for implementation

The counseling department hired additional part-time counselors to help provide services for the study sample while maintaining normal services. Counselors received a 6- to 8-hour training led by a lead counselor to familiarize them with the MAP tool and the structure and process for the workshops.

 

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