Response to

“Dillon Community Concerns about Implementation of the

X1 Program in the Fall Semester of the Year 2004”

presented by John B. Schuyler, Jr. of Dillon, Montana

 to the

Montana Board of Regents of Higher Education, July 10, 2003

Karl E. Ulrich

Interim Chancellor

The University of Montana-Western


Background

In a document (Attachment I) presented to the Montana Board of Regents of Higher Education on July 10, 2003 John Schuyler, of KDBM-AM/KBEV-FM in Dillon, Montana, presented some concerns that he reported had been presented to him by certain students and faculty at Western as well as by certain citizens of Dillon.  This document is a response to the concerns as summarized by Mr. Schuyler. The underlined headings are those used by Mr. Schuyler in his report.

 

The first concern expressed by Mr. Schuyler was that the Fund to Improve PostSecondary Education(FIPSE) grant received from the U.S. Department of Education outlined a three year process in which the final decision to institutionalize the Experience One (X1) scheduling was to have been made in the third year of the grant, rather than in the second year as was accomplished by the campus.

 

An inquiry made of Frank Frankfort, U.S. Dept. of Education, FIPSE (and program officer for Western’s FIPSE grant) regarding FIPSE’s view of implementing the scheduling model campus-wide ahead of the dates listed in the grant proposal drew the following response:

Karl, the measure of success for FIPSE is the degree to which an individual grant meets or exceeds its stated goals.  The actual date of your campus-wide implementation is determined by internal factors, but if the goal of the grant was to develop, evaluate, and implement the new block curriculum, then FIPSE would consider any move in that direction and the expansion of any stated goals as a positive indicator of success.  FIPSE is in the business of supporting new and innovative models of teaching and learning.  Your institution is helping to achieve that for comparable institutions throughout the nation.

FIPSE and the U.S. Department of Education thus do not consider Western to have violated the terms of the grant, but to have accelerated its stated goals of delivering a successful scheduling model to greater numbers of students than what was expected to meet the minimum standards of the grant.  Two yearly reports have been filed with FIPSE.  The most recent report in July of 2003 described the decision to adopt X1 campus-wide with a fall 2004 target date. 

 

History of Experience One Scheduling Model at UMW

 

  • Formal consideration began in 1998 as part of The University of Montana’s strategic planning process.  A visit to Colorado College, which pioneered the scheduling model, by three Western faculty and administrators occurred as part of this planning process.

 

  • In 1999, Western’s faculty (Western lacked a Faculty Senate at the time) recommended by a two-thirds majority vote that they would like to proceed with the implementation of Experience One-type scheduling (then known as One-Course-At-A-Time or OCAAT).

 

  • Campus administration decided that funding was needed to study the scheduling system before implementation could occur.  Funding was sought from the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE) of the U. S. Department of Education.

 

  • FIPSE funded a pilot project of three years beginning in academic year 2001-2 with a year of planning for the pilot teaching of a cohort of 75 freshman students, most of whom completed their general education requirements during academic year 2002-3.

 

  • During 2001-2, students volunteered for the pilot program class of 2002-3.   The pilot group was selected from these volunteers so that they matched as closely as possible the characteristics of the incoming freshmen as a whole.

 

  • The academic year 2003-4 X1 cohort filled up rapidly with 75 students with another18 studentson the waiting list.  This represented over half of the full-time first-time freshman in the entering class.  This recruiting was accomplished with minimal promotion and marketing.

 

  • During July 2003 the annual report was filed with FIPSEdescribing the experiences with the first year cohort.

 

Few changes instituted at Western or elsewhere in the Montana University System have been as well researched as the change to Experience One scheduling has been at The University of Montana-Western.  Relatively few changes have any pilot-testing.

 

During February of 2003, Chancellor Hulbert formed a single X1 Implementation Planning Task Force with two subgroups, Academic and Administrative.  There were students on each of the subgroups.  The charge to this Task Force was to outline the tasks that would need to be completed should the decision be made to fully implement X1 scheduling.  The Task Force gathered concerns that needed to be addressed from across campus, including concerns that had been expressed over the entire five-year period that the campus has been considering adopting the scheduling model.  The Task Force was not to be involved in making recommendations as to whether or not X1 scheduling should be fully implemented across campus.  The subgroups met on a weekly or more frequent basis during February and March and prepared detailed reports on the tasks that would need to be accomplished should the decision for full implementation be made.  The reports included tasks that would need to be accomplished, those responsible for the tasks, and the order in which the tasks would need to be accomplished and timelines for accomplishing the tasks.  These tasks were delineated with a Fall 2004 target implementation date.  The reports were posted on the campus website adjacent to other information on the X1 implementation.

 

Various timelines have been established for tasks that need to be fully accomplished for the fall 2004 implementation target to be met.  It has always been realized by the campus administration and by the President of The University of Montana that the timeline is ambitious and that if certain key deadlines for task completion cannot be met, the campus will either plan some type of phased implementation, probably serving freshmen only in 2004-5, or delay the full implementation until fall of 2005. 

 

The most recent recommendation to adopt the scheduling model campus-wide came through Western’s established system of shared governance, centered on Faculty Senate, which has student and staff representation.  Faculty Senate meetings are open to the public.  The Faculty Senate had two consecutive meetings during March 2003 at which the implementation was discussed.  In between those two meetings, Vice Chancellor Ulrich met with each department to explain the proposal and to answer any questions and address any concerns that the department might have.  Most departments then had a vote on whether or not to recommend adoption to their Faculty Senate representative, with all departments voting in the affirmative, several unanimously.  Faculty Senate then conducted a vote on whether or not to recommend implementing Experience One scheduling campus-wide.   The vote on the resolution was 8 to 0 with one abstention from an at-large member who was not representing a departmental constituency.  Chancellor Hulbert then consulted with President Dennison before making the decision to implement the scheduling model campus-wide with a target implementation date of fall 2004.

 

In October of 2002, the Commissioner of Higher Education and his staff visited the Western campus and were advised of the possibility of implementation of the scheduling model.  It was their opinion that the Board of Regents would not need to review the change since it would operate within the traditional semester system and the campuses are normally granted the latitude to schedule courses within the semester system, as they believe best. 

 

Chancellor Stephen Hulbert and Vice Chancellor Karl Ulrich met with students to address a list of concerns that was prepared by Student Senate in March 2003.  A Web information site was established to answer these concerns as well.  Both Chancellor Hulbert and Vice Chancellor Ulrich had numerous meetings with individual students, some in favor of adoption, some with concerns, during spring semester 2003.

 

Risk

 

In addition to the three campuses mentioned by Mr. Schuyler as using the scheduling model planned at Western, Salem International University of West Virginia also uses a similar scheduling model that they refer to as a “Mod” calendar.  There is also Sea to Sky University of British Columbia that will accept its first class in 2005-6 under the same scheduling model.  Western is unaware of “an Oregon school” that tried and discontinued the program or if The University of Alaska-Anchorage was considering a similar type of block scheduling.  The term “block scheduling” is sometimes applied to systems other than one-course-at-a-time scheduling such as when a different course is taught on each day of the week or some other variation.  These variations are as different from the model adopted by Western as they are from more traditional scheduling models and have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. 

 

Visits were made by Western faculty and staff to all three of the institutions that currently offer the one-course-at-a-time block scheduling.  No evidence that the scheduling system would not work at a public institution was ever discovered during any of these visits.  As part of the FIPSE grant project, Dr. Timothy Fuller of Colorado College was hired as a consultant.  He has indicated that he sees no reason that the scheduling model would not work at a small public institution such as The University of Montana-Western. 

 

Appropriateness

 

Western recognizes that its class profile is quite different from that of other institutions that use the same scheduling system.  One reason for designing the pilot program was to see how the scheduling system would work with students with the same academic profile as a typical Western freshman class.  The pilot program has worked very well for students across the full-spectrum of academic ability.

 

The typical full-time student takes 15 to 16 credits per semester at Western under the current scheduling model and this would be very similar under the X1 scheduling model.  The amount of homework should therefore be the same under either scheduling model.  If students are able to handle athletics and hold jobs currently, then they should also be able to do so under the new scheduling model. 

 

Demand

 

Western has demonstrated that it can recruit students into this scheduling model and that these students will be more successful than those educated under the traditional scheduling model.  Overwhelmingly, students educated under the new model do not want to return to traditional scheduling. Fifty-three of the pilot program students signed a petition to that effect last spring. Almost all student concern about the implementation has come from students who have not participated in the pilot.  As reported by Mr. Schuyler, much of the research done by Colorado College indicates that many potential students, without experiencing it, do not necessarily consider the scheduling format to be attractive.  However, that same representative of the firm that does the research for Colorado College also reports that the alumni have the highest satisfaction with the institution, and its scheduling model, that he has ever observed. 

 

Western has demonstrated that many students are attracted to the scheduling model, if its advantages to them are explained well.  This has been readily demonstrated for 2003-4 where the pilot program filled up rapidly and a waiting list for the program developed.  There are a number of students, unable to get into the pilot program, who have elected not to attend Western at all.  This has been with very limited promotion and marketing on behalf of Western.  Western plans to spend significantly more on marketing this program than it has spent on marketing the pilot program.  This is possible due to funds made available from The University of Montana as part of its Strategic Growth Initiative for the smaller UM campuses.

 

Western is one of the few institutions offering this type of scheduling and thus will not be competing with very many other institutions for students who consider this type of scheduling to be an important factor in their choice of college or university.  It would be the only affordable option of this type available to Montana students.

 

This system is expected to open up opportunities for students who are not able to come to a campus during the first month or months of a semester, such as firefighters, workers in the agricultural industry, workers in the tourism industry, or those with personal situations that prevent them from coming to a campus.  It would also allow those students who need to leave a campus early in a semester to earn some credits before departure.

 

Retention

 

The retention rate from fall 2002 to spring semester 2003 for Experience One students was about 90 percent compared with about 80 percent retention for the rest of the freshman class.  Student losses were, therefore, cut in half in the program.  Preliminary data from the Western Experience One office also indicate that a higher percentage of Experience One students are returning to Western this fall, as compared with the control group.  These numbers will be verified by the registrar’s office after the final numbers for fall semester are realized on the 15th instructional day of the semester, September 17th

 

Both groups contained nearly identical percentages of student-athletes.  Experience One is not a “special activity”--- it will be open to all students, not just those who participate in particular activities.  Participation in other activities, if those also promote retention, will further contribute to the retention numbers.  

 

Other studies or evaluations

 

Experience One-type scheduling has been successfully used at four private institutions in the U.S.  There is also a new private university, Sea to Sky University in British Columbia, Canada. This university is in the start-up stage and will also use the same scheduling model.

 

The Western administration has identified the major areas of transition costs and has allocated resources to cover those costs.  Some of the costs have been covered by internal reallocation, some from a grant from The University of Montana, and some from the remainder of the FIPSE grant. 

 

The annual report on the results from the 2002-3pilot program was prepared by Professor H. Mark Krank during the summer of 2003.  Highlights from this report include the following:

 

§         Fall to spring semester dropout rates for students participating in the FIPSE project were one-half the historic dropout rate for Western.

  • Within the traditional, lecture-based program significantly more at-risk, under-prepared students failed to finish fall semester or enroll in spring semester than average or above-average, well-prepared students.

 

  • Within the FIPSE program, dropouts were more evenly distributed across below-average, average, and above-average categories.

 

  • Student comments regarding the X1 courses indicated positive experiences in terms of using blocks of time and experiential learning.

 

  • Most FIPSE students completed their general education program during their first year. Only a fraction of the traditional, lecture-based students completed their general education program.

 

  • Faculty reported superior performance by the FIPSE students as compared to previous students in the traditional program in both quantitative and qualitative terms.

 

Compatibility

 

Western’s programs will continue to be competency-based with defined outcomes and assessment of those outcomes.  Students who complete Western’s general education block will continue to be covered by the Montana University System’s Policy 301.10 - General Education Block Transfer Policy.  Western plans are to minimize course and program changes as much as possible during the transition.  Most courses that currently have equivalent courses on other campuses will continue to have those equivalencies after the scheduling system transition. 

 

Western will work with all Montana University System campuses to evaluate new and changed courses as to their transferability to other Montana University campuses.  Similarly, transfer equivalencies will be worked out for all students transferring to Western.  Ease of transferability will be a major factor in any restructuring of Western’s degree programs.

 

Leadership

 

Three successive Chancellors at Western have embraced the Experience One scheduling model.  Chancellor Stearns was involved in the early development of the concept five years ago.  Chancellor Hulbert, although initially skeptical, soon became convinced of the desirability of the change, endorsed the pilot program, and ultimately made the decision to proceed with the implementation.  He made this decision because he concluded that it was in the best interests of Western, believed it important to make the decision by the end of academic year 2003-3, and did not believe that progress should be halted at Western due to the replacement of a Chancellor.  Interim Chancellor Ulrich has long been involved in the development of Experience One and is convinced that it is a good move for Western. 

 

The next Chancellor will not necessarily be expected to have any experience in administrating such a program.  It is therefore not correct to state that Western will have limited choices for its next Chancellor if it converts to X1 scheduling.

 

Conclusion

 

A great deal of effort has gone into providing answers to those individuals who have questions.  At least broad answers to all significant questions have been provided, in most cases many times.  Where more specific answers are called for, plans have been developed for answering those questions.  These answers have been provided on the web site, in group meetings and presentations, in the newspapers, on the radio, and in private conversations.  Some of the more detailed answers will only come as the campus works out the full details of the implementation over the coming months.  The Western administration is committed to full two-way communication with all groups affected by this transition.

 

According to the Western faculty’s collective bargaining agreement, their academic year duties end after the faculty turn in their spring semester grades in May.  It is a testament to their dedication to the success of this transition that over ninety percent attended a week of meetings in May 2003 to continue work on the academic details of the implementation.  This was with only about a month’s advance notice, which meant that many faculty members had already made other plans. 

 

Faculty also returned for a full week of meetings before classes began, again focused on the academic changes necessary for the implementation.  Faculty received no additional compensation for these extra two weeks of work.  A number of Western’s staff has also put in long hours to help assure that the program will be a success.  If this program is to be successful, it will be largely dependent upon the dedicated creative and hard work of the faculty and staff.  Western’s faculty and staff have amply demonstrated that dedication and creativity over the past several months.


Attachment I

 

DILLON COMMUNITY CONCERNS

ABOUT

IMPLEMENTATION OF THE X-l PROGRAM

IN THE

FALL SEMESTER OF THE YEAR 2004

 

Compiled by:

John B. Schuyler, Jr.

610 N. Montana St.

Dillon. MT 50725

406-683-2800 (Tel)

406-683-9480 (Fax)

deadairatgrsolution.net


CONCERNS EXPRESSED BY SOME STUDENTS AND FACULTY AT

WESTERN AND BY CITIZENS OF DILLON

 

 

Background

A FIPSE grant was used to study whether Western should adopt X-1 scheduling. The proposal submitted to obtain the grant outlined a three (3) year period for "formative and summative evaluations" [Attachment 1]. 

 

  • During year 1, data for that year and previous years was to be compiled in an institutional baseline document. What baseline was used in making the decision? 

 

  • During year 2 (after fall and spring semesters) and Year 3 (after the fall semester) there was supposed to be formative evaluations to compare the results of [X-1] and non-[X-l] classes. These evaluations were to be used to evaluate the successes and problems. Were such evaluations used for the first semester of the 2002-03 school year? If so, what were the successes and problems?

 

  • After year 3 there was to be a summative evaluation which, if it justified a decision to institutionalize [X-1], testing and surveys were to continue during the transition period. Was there a "summative evaluation" made? Is it in writing?

 

Rather than following the plan outlined in the grant application, the decision to implement the X-1 for the entire student body was made in the Spring of 2003 after only one semester of 75 students participating in the experiment. Scott Anderson's comments in his letter to the editor of the Dillon Tribune on the failure to follow the plan reflect some of the concerns students, teachers, and citizens have been expressing [Attachment 2].

 

Apparently there were four (4) committees formed to study the implementation of X-1. It is our understanding these groups were to inquire into the areas of curriculum, finance, collective bargaining and other issues such as the impact of the program on  transfers. Did these committees meet? If so, how many times did each meet? What were the conclusions of each? Did each report its conclusions in writing? Did any committee recommend an exit strategy if the X-1 program does not work?

 

Risk

Only three (3) of the approximately 3500 colleges and universities in the nation currently have block scheduling. They are Colorado College, Cornell College, and Tusculum College. All three are private, independent, residential institutions. Currently Tusculum is on academicprobation. The University of Alaska - Anchorage studied the adoption of block scheduling and decided against it. Apparently, an Oregon school tried and then discontinued the program. Were inquiries made of these institutions about the prospects for success of the program in a public institution?

 

Appropriateness

Both Cornell and Colorado College are elite, selective institutions whose students come from the top tier of their high school classes. Colorado College students, who are from all 50 states and 35 foreign countries, have very high SAT and ACT test scores [Attachment 3].

 

Western is a "right to try institution" whose students traditionally come from rural Montana. One-third of Western's students are athletes, and seventy (70) percent receive financial aid, much of which is worked related.  Western students are told they should do three (3) hours of homework for every hour of class. If a student has a three-hour class every day, that means nine hours of homework. This will be a problem for students who work one or more jobs in order to attend school, especially if they participate in a sport. The students need some answers of how they will fit in under X-1.

 

Demand

One of the reasons given for the implementation of X-1 is it will attract new students. In February, now Interim Chancellor Karl Ulrich sent an e-mail to George Dehne in which he said  "Before adopting XI scheduling campus-wide the campus would like to have some market surveys or some other way of knowing what the demand will be like from potential freshman."

 

Dehne's reply in part was: "We have done a great deal of research work with Colorado College and the bottom line is this: in the abstract, many students do not find the one course at a time format attractive (remember this is a multi-tasking generation) . . ., but, for many, it was an acquired taste - meaning they came to CC for other reasons. . .." Timothy Fuller of Colorado College responded: "In short, if you are hoping to find that by announcing the program suddenly everyone will immediately flock to you effortlessly, that may not happen. It would still require intensive recruitment and advertising of the program and how it works."

 

When did recruiting become not important to deciding to implement the program?

 

Retention

Another reason given for adopting X-1 is that it will improve student retention. School officials say about 10% of the students participating in the program in the Fall of 2002 dropped out of school. Last month we asked Karl Ulrich if he knew what the retention figures were for the football team, the basketball team, the rodeo team, or the Chi Alpha fraternity. He did not know.  What data there is to support the premise more X-1 students will stay in school compared to students who are involved in other special activities?

 

Other studies or evaluations

  • Is there any evidence that shows block scheduling is a better delivery system?
  • Has a budget analysis been developed that shows the costs of conversion?
  • Has a market plan been developed on how to educate and recruit new students?
  • What is the projected cost of the advertising and recruiting?
  • Has a business plan been developed on how to implement X-1 and how to exit, if

needed?

 

Compatibility

Western is part of a larger system. Conversion to block scheduling will make it unique.  What analysis has been done to determine how well Western will integrate with the rest of the system? Some have said 4-credit courses will not be "transferable."

 

Leadership

When the block program was first considered at Western, now Commissioner of Higher Education, Sheila Steams, was the Chancellor. She invited the community to become involved in the discussions about X-1. The decision was postponed in part because Sheila Steams was about to leave for a new job in Nebraska and it was thought the new chancellor should be involved in the development of the program. Former Chancellor Steve Hulbert made the decision to implement X-1 at the time he accepted a new position at Nichols State. 

 

The search for a new chancellor will begin this Fall, while the interim chancellor will be in charge of getting ready for X-1 to start in the Fall of 2004. This means the new chancellor will arrive about one month before the complete implementation ofX-I. He will have no input into the planning of a program the success of which will be his responsibility.

 

This raises another question. Where do we find a new chancellor who has any experience overseeing block scheduling in a public institution? There is no pool of candidates.

 

Conclusion

Many people have raised question for which they have received no answers. Some of these are included in the other attachments. Most people are not opposed to X-1. They just are worried about how it will impact the traditional Western student. Our representative, Debbie Barrett, said she has received more calls from citizens about X-1 than any other issue since she has been in the legislature.

 

Everyone in our community wants to see Western succeed. We agree with the observation that the universities are the engines that drive the economies of their communities.

 

The people of Dillon are asking the Board of Regents to exercise its oversight power by insuring the implementation is done with the proper study, evaluation, and consideration set forth in the original plan.


LIST OF ATTACHMENTS <not included>

 

  1. "Proposal Narrative" presumably submitted to obtain the FIPSE grant to fund study the feasability of implementing the XI program

 

  1. Scott Anderson letter to Dillon Tribune

 

  1. Colorado College student body "profile"

 

  1. Anonymous "Concerns regarding the XI program at Western"

 

  1. Anonymous "Scenario"

 

  1. Anonymous "Mind Set"

 

  1. Western's Mission Statement