What Should a College Readiness Course Look Like?

by | Aug 24, 2018 | Learning Design

At a recent RTM Congress, university provosts and academic leaders expressed concerns about incoming first-year students lacking some essential skills as they begin their college journey. Students possess adequate discipline-specific cognitive abilities, leaders said, but are often weak in basic behavioral, communication, and critical thinking skills.

These conversations at the RTM Congress led to discussions at TEL Library about how our curriculum designs for Basic Workforce Readiness might translate to a College Readiness course. Perhaps not surprisingly, our conversations identified areas of significant overlap, particularly with regard to instilling a sense of ownership and responsibility for behavior and performance.

Building on that realization, and using our Workforce Readiness designs as a foundation, we sketched out the following course overview.

College Readiness Course Overview

College Readiness is a 1-hour course designed to help potential college students develop the mindset and essential skills required for success in college study and post-high school life. The course contains six modules focused on the thinking, study, and self-management skills required for college readiness, and emphasizes the development and demonstration of skills that will help students:

  • Understand the importance of taking personal responsibility for learning and creating specific goals for learning success
  • Take ownership of their learning and map possible pathways to achieve their goals
  • Identify skill strengths and weaknesses related to personal learning goals, as well as possible improvement for weak areas
  • Assume personal responsibility for thinking broadly and transferring acquired knowledge across course boundaries
  • Develop the essential thinking and technology competencies required to maximize the college learning experience

At the outset of the course, students complete an adaptability inventory, which is used to assist in goal setting and reflection activities. All study and activity in the course are contextualized within both college-based and workplace scenarios.

Module 1: Developing the Learner Mindset — This module introduces students to the expectations colleges and college instructors have for students, as well as the study and learning assumptions associated with most college courses. The emphasis, from the beginning, is on personal ownership and responsibility for setting goals and attaining success.

Module 2: Owning Your Time and Motivation — This module introduces students to the importance of realistic time management, as well as different strategies for prioritizing and segmenting time. This work is contextualized within students’ personal goals and also tied to strategies for self-motivation.

Module 3: Owning Your Thinking — One of the biggest challenges for high school students transitioning to college coursework and living is that they are required to think more broadly and critically. This module helps students understand this shift to learning beyond the memorization of facts and introduces tools and strategies for reasoning, thinking critically, and becoming information literate.

Module 4: Owning Your Technology — This module helps students make the transition from being adept with personal technology devices to using technology devices and platforms for learning and innovation.

Module 5: Owning Your Interactions with Others — Flourishing both personally and professionally depends on social and cultural awareness, and on effective interpersonal communication. This module explains the importance of broadened perspectives and communication skills and introduces students to strategies for taking ownership of personal and professional relationships as an adult.

Module 6: Owning Your Learning and Success — This module guides students through the process of setting learning goals and charting pathways for success based on their work in previous modules.

By the end of the course, students will have created a personalized College Learning Plan that can be maintained and updated throughout their college career.

College Readiness Course Product Design

As we are doing with our workforce readiness curriculum, we envision a college readiness course as an experiential learning product that contextualizes students via real-world scenarios and decision making. We also anticipate the need to address a range of possible uses and a broad diversity of students. Some institutions might use such a course as part of the basic onboarding for incoming students. We envision others using it as a pre-requisite course for dual-enrollment students still in high school. Finally, this course might also be used to help high school students (and their parents) evaluate their own readiness for college study.

With these and other use cases in mind, here are several product design elements we think are essential.

1. Scaffolded Essential Skills

TEL Library’s College Readiness course assumes that some students will lack proficiency in essential reading, writing, communication, and critical-thinking skills. For this reason, the initial modules in the course will be designed at a lower reading and comprehension level and with information communicated as concretely as possible. We will also emphasize problem-solving from the outset. While working to ensure broad access and comprehension, however, we will not reduce the amount or overall complexity of the information presented in initial modules. We will increase the difficulty level in the second module and reach common, advanced essential-skill levels by the third module.

2. Contextualized (Situation-Specific) Learning

To help contextualize the skills and competencies participants are expected to master, TEL Library’s College Readiness course will present core lesson content in situation-specific contexts.

3. Scenario-Based Problem Solving

Modeling is a key component in our curriculum design. As a result, in each lesson, we will feature interactive modeling in the form of branching scenario activities. These branching scenarios simulate the use of the listening, critical thinking, and core literacy skills required to be a successful student or professional.

4. Portfolio Artifacts

All learning outcomes and competencies aligned to TEL Library’s College Readiness course will be tied to course projects or activities that result in demonstrable evidence of mastery by participants. Portfolio artifacts will belong to each individual student and can be supplemented over time through lifelong learning.

5. Personalized Feedback and Recommendations

Each participant in the College Readiness course will begin by completing an adaptability inventory, which helps facilitate personalized guidance related to learning habits, goals, and curriculum pathways.

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