Rio Salado College Higher Education Breakthrough Models

Rio Salado College RioPACE application deck

Targeted Degree Program: Applied Science, General Studies
First-Year Enrollment: 1,000
Anticipated Students Served in First Five Years: At least 5,000
Tuition Model: Current tuition cost, already comparatively low for degree reduced by credit for prior learning
Geographies Served: Arizona
Targeted Students: Pell-eligible students seeking Associate of Arts, Associate in Applied Science, and Associate in General Studies degrees; with subpopulations of students seeking credit for prior learning and those enetering the program holding a GED.

Rio Salado College’s commitment to student success has been recognized on many occasions; for example, the college was named one of three winners of the 2012 Council for Higher Education Accreditation award for Outstanding Institutional Practice in Student Learning Outcomes. The college has expanded on that demonstrated commitment, designing and implementing approaches to make the completion of its most transferable degrees, the Associate of Arts and the Associate in General Studies, dramatically more attainable for the following populations:

  • Pell-eligible students seeking an AA, AAS, or AGS degree
  • Pell-eligible students entering a degree program holding a GED
  • Individuals possessing skills and knowledge obtained outside higher education who are seeking to receive credit for prior learning
Rio Salado College Student Voice
Student Shawn Lee shares his journey to a college education

As a student from one of these target groups enrolls in a degree program, he or she will access a customized online portal called RioCompass. In the portal, she can submit previously earned credits for evaluation, apply credit for prior learning, and select her intended degree to obtain a customized map of the courses needed to complete it.

The portal also provides the student with contact information for a personal advisor, a professional who will help her find her way and serve as a degree completion companion. Once the student begins to take courses online, both she and her advisors are able to use real time analytics reports and a customized intervention and assessment feedback system to ensure that any problems in learning or in completing course work can receive timely attention. Further support is also  available via a network of peer mentors drawn from the student body. These peer mentors support the student’s transition to college, college life, college resources, and college success.

The new services available for students from the target populations represent steps forward with a recently implemented early alert system at Rio Salado, RioPACE (Progress and Course Engagement).  RioPACE provides instructors with information about student performance in three critical areas that correlate with student success: login frequency, site engagement, and pace. The system displays alert levels for each student within the instructor’s online course roster – green if all areas appear on track, yellow if there are some warning signs, red if there is a serious issue.

In the new program, Rio Salado is improving the reporting system to allow more key individuals to access the performance data in RioPACE: the student herself, the student’s advisor, and key support staff who work in the instructional helpdesk. At the same time, faculty and support staff are gaining new capacities to provide enhanced feedback, consistent grading, and an improved learning experience to the student through a Guided Evaluation Assessment and Response (GEAR) system. The design of GEAR enables instructors to focus efforts on providing this kind of targeted and personalized feedback by integrating additional content and examples that make conceptual linkages and illustrate real-world applications. In this program, GEAR capability is available to the instructors of general education courses included in the degree pathways for students in the target groups.

In addition, students are tracked and monitored through a Guided Intervention and Response (GIvR) system. This system operates similar to GEAR in that targeted and personalized interventions will be provided for those students who are “triggered” in the system. These triggers include frequent calls to the helpdesk, low performance data from RioPACE, and recommendations from advisors and counselors, for example.

Through these new and enhanced learning systems and student support services, students experience a significant shift in the way they engage with content, experts, and each other. The systems and services, once tested in the degree programs for the targeted populations, may be applied college-wide.