Iowa Community College Online Consortium
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Smarthinking Helps Deliver Consistent Academic Support
High-quality support reaches on-campus and off-campus students alike.
Iowa Community College Online Consortium (ICCOC) was founded in 1999 by seven of Iowa’s community colleges to provide innovative online educational opportunities. As partners, each community college provides resources, including faculty, staff and information technology, to the consortium. The ICCOC supported over 42,000 student enrollments during the Spring, 2011 semester.Download PDF
Originally, students enrolled in ICCOC’s online classes did not have access to tutoring like their on-campus counterparts. In keeping with the goal of “delivering the same student services to all regardless of course delivery method,” ICCOC needed to find a way to provide academic support to its colleges’ online student population. In addition, ICCOC found that its online students needed math and English tutoring, specifically. And since they were often busy at work during the day, ICCOC students needed to be able to access the help in the evening or on the weekend. After determining that providing online tutoring in-house was too costly, ICCOC turned to Smarthinking. Smarthinking answered the need to provide students with easily accessible, high quality math and English tutoring, 24/7.
ICCOC began offering Smarthinking to its online students in the fall semester of 2005. Marketing efforts were conducted by ICCOC to announce Smarthinking’s availability, including information in the student newsletter, emails, and course announcements. Student use of Smarthinking started slowly in 2005, but with increased exposure to the service, students began using it more frequently. From 2005-2006 less than 1,000 tutoring sessions were logged. In 2010, more than 6,000 online tutoring sessions were provided. In 2009, the ICCOC conducted a pilot examining the effect of Smarthinking’s Online Writing Lab on 23 students in an online English composition class. The pilot offered a qualitative examination of the students’ reactions to the Smarthinking tutors’ feedback on their essays, as well as instructor observations. Almost half the students polled believed that Smarthinking helped improve their grade and increased their confidence. The instructor noted that students’ final evaluation scores improved after using Smarthinking, and that students needed to be taught how to get the most benefit out of the Smarthinking feedback and critique method. The instructor learned the value of asking students to specifically comment on the Smarthinking critique, helping students to reflect more on their writing. Importantly, the pilot also found that retention was high in the pilot course, with 83% of the students finishing the class. Today, Smarthinking is available to all students at all ICCOC partner colleges regardless of course type: online, blended and web-enhanced.