As part of ongoing efforts to understand what leads to student success at Illinois, the Student Success Initiative is working to improve key areas impacting the student experience. Prominently placed as Goal 2 of the university’s Strategic Plan, Provide Transformative Learning Experiences, the initiative aims to assure the quality of learning outcomes and improve key areas impacting the student experience.
After gathering feedback from the campus community, Chancellor Robert J. Jones and Provost Andreas C. Cangellaris charged several committees to assess and address prominent areas of interest.
“All the work of the Student Success Initiative is guided by a core value to promote systemic change across the university. With students at the heart of every decision, the initiative has implemented strategies, programs and policies to improve the student experience and will continue to ensure that Illinois is a place where the possibilities to achieve are endless,” Jones said.
After comprehensive review, the initiative identified several strengths, gaps and priorities to even further advance student success factors for undergraduate students, including areas related to mental health, learning experiences and policies.
Improving mental health resources
The initiative implemented a comprehensive wellness website, e-tools, a pilot of the Faculty and Staff Mental Health Ambassador Program, and a Mental Health statement for syllabi. The committee dedicated to this work also contributed to a system-wide Mental Health Symposium and received a grant to create Wellness Spaces on campus.
Accessing learning management
One finding of the working groups was that the proliferation of Learning Management System (LMS) and LMS-like systems across campus was difficult for students to navigate. With a focus on adopting a more streamlined LMS experience for students, the university transitioned to Canvas and assisted faculty with migrating teaching and learning materials to the platform.
Creating educational resources
The committees responded to COVID-related learning loss and reduced classroom materials costs by providing grant funding for faculty to adopt, adapt, and create Open Educational Textbooks, and funded $750,000 in grants for instructional support and innovative programs.
Reviewing academic policies
A review of Academic Policies and Regulations within the Student Code was conducted using an equity-centered approach to consider clarity of the policies for students and instructors, accessibility of information, and accuracy of the Code with respect to institutional values. Findings have been recommended to the Office of the Provost and will be implemented in the 2022-2023 Student Code.
Building on the work of the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities’ Powered by Publics Initiative, the initiative sought to examine grades in key gateway courses, analyze rates of grades of D, F, and W , and review courses in which disparities in “DFW rates” exist between the general student population and under-represented students.
In February 2022, the inaugural Student Success Initiative Symposium engaged over 200 faculty, staff and students in thinking critically about undergraduate success and their experiences. Moving forward, the initiative will work to understand and improve the first-year student and transfer student experience, increase access to the institution for under-represented students, and professional development for faculty to ensure excellent student experiences and outcomes regardless of where a student is located.
To learn more about the Student Success Initiative, please visit the website.