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22st Annual OLC International Conference
November 16-18, 2016 | Orlando, Florida | Walt Disney World Swan/Dolphin Resort

OLC Innovate 2016 - Innovations in Blended and Online Learning
April 20-22, 2016 | New Orleans, LA | Sheraton New Orleans Hotel

Blended Interventions to Aid Transfer Students' Transitioning From Face-To-Face to Online Courses

Cheoleon Lee (UMUC, USA)
Alexandra List (UMUC, USA)
Denise Nadasen (UMUC, USA)
Session Information
July 8, 2014 - 3:30pm
Teaching & Learning Effectiveness
Areas of Special Interest: 
Institutional Initiatives
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Research and Evaluation
Institutional Level: 
Universities and Four Year Institutions
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Plaza Court 1
Session Duration: 
50 Minutes
Information Session 2

We will present findings on the effectiveness of four interventions, delivered through various mediums, in helping community college students transition to a four-year, online university.

Extended Abstract

Description of Context

For community college students, the transition to a four-year university has been described as a time of great stress (Laanan, 2001) and as an experience of "culture shock" (Davies & Dichmann, 1998), requiring them to adjust to a new and more challenging academic context. Davis and Casey (1999), through interviews with community college transfer students at a four-year university, identified two factors that seemed to differentiate students' experiences at these two institutions: classroom experience and student-life support. First, community colleges offered students higher levels of individual attention and more contact with faculty, while universities presented more difficult coursework. Second, at the community college level students reported having greater access to networks of social support and to campus resources (Davis & Casey, 1999). Indeed, transitioning from a two-year community college to a four-year university appears to require a deficit-based adjustment, wherein students must grow accustomed to less individual support and faculty contact as well as more limited access to campus resources.

Such a transition presents substantive challenges for learners; challenges that may be further exacerbated when students make the transition from community colleges, offering primarily face-to-face courses, to universities with online or blended models of learning. Limited research has examined the experiences of such students, but there is reason to suggest that the nature of online learning may require students to be more autonomous and independently responsible for their achievement, as well as more motivated and self-regulated (e.g., Nagia, Hodson-Carlton, & Ryan, 2004). In online contexts faculty may be less accessible and it may be more difficult to form relationships with classmates and to access academic resources and supports.

The proposed presentation will describe and share findings from four interventions, funded by the Kresge foundation, developed to support the success of community college transfer students, accustomed to taking face-to-face classes, as they adjust to online courses at a four-year university. The interventions represent blended approaches to supporting students, as they connected learners to academic resources through courses, workshops, and online materials and to social-support, through peer mentoring and advising.
Questions. This presentation will examine the extent to which four intervention programs were successful in improving students' (a) GPA, (b) successful course completions, with a grade of C or above, and (c) rate of re-enrollment in a subsequent term.


Four interventions will be discussed. Collectively these interventions aimed to offer students academic and social support through a variety of mediums and targeted the unique issues faced by online, non-traditional learners.

Coaching Undergraduates for Success and Persistence (CUSP). The CUSP program was designed to help students with online learning by developing their academic writing skills. First-term, PELL grant eligible students (N=53) were matched with a peer mentor and a writing advisor, who provided students with individual support and designed writing workshops on a variety of topics. Participants completed a writing diagnostic at the start of the program and writing projects throughout the program to demonstrate improvement.

College Success Program. First-term community college students, transferring from two area schools, were randomly assigned to a control (n=33) and test group (n=90). Students in the test group were each paired with a peer mentor, who had transferred from their same community college and had been successful at the University. Mentors sent weekly emails to mentees with advice and study tips and supported new students throughout their first semester.

JumpStart. The JumpStart intervention was a course offered free to all new students, intended to serve as an orientation to online learning and to specifically address the needs of adult, career-oriented students. As a part of the course, students (N= 40) completed academic diagnostic measures, developed school- and career-related goals and a course plan, and were taught to use a variety of online tools, including a course planner and resume-builder.
Students completing the JumpStart course were compared to those students, who also expressed interest in taking the course (n=35), but who were not enrolled due to spatial limitations.

Student Resource Checklist. First-term community-college transfer students were randomly assigned to a control (n=100) or test group (n=240). Students in the test group were sent a Student Resource Checklist by their advisors. The goal of the checklist was to orient students to the academic and social support resources available from the university, both online and face-to-face. To complete the checklist, students had to use the university website to find information about advisors, discipline-specific academic tutoring, writing assistance, and library resources.

Preliminary Results

Three outcome measures were investigated. Specifically, students' (a) term GPA, (b) percent successful course completions (i.e., ratio of courses completed with a grade of C or above to total courses taken), and (c) rate of re-enrollment (i.e., registration for courses in a subsequent term) were compared across the control and test groups. Overall, interventions were found to have a positive effect on students' GPA and successful course completions. Findings from students' evaluations of each intervention will also be discussed.


The efficacy of intervention programs as an avenue for improving students' success and retention in online learning contexts will be discussed. In particular, the extent to which transfer students require orientation to learning in online classrooms and dedicated support from a peer mentor will be explored. Findings from these interventions will speak to the import of meeting students' dual needs for academic and social support.

Discussion Interpretation

This presentation is designed for student success and retention specialists, academic planners, provosts, and innovation specialists interested in potential ways to improve students' online learning and specifically, to address the needs of special populations, including community college transfer students, adult learners, and low-income students. This talk will also present a model for evaluating intervention effectiveness through experimental design and the use of both performance and self-report indicators to measure program efficacy. Following a presentation of key findings from each intervention, there will be time for audience questions and further discussion. Participants will walk away with ideas, handouts, and sample materials for developing and assessing interventions at their home institutions.