EUREKA – When a group of small colleges joined together to offer online courses to each other’s students as a way to boost enrollment in those classes and help students who could not get into a class they needed, Eureka College leaders got an idea.
“We heard about it and we started to use it for an entirely different reason … helping students recover from a bad grade,” said Eureka College Provost Ann Fulop.
This approach, tried for the first time last summer, already is proving successful.
According to Fulop, 22 students in academic jeopardy took online courses in the summer and all but one returned in the fall.
She added if a student fails a class, he/she can take it elsewhere and the credits would transfer, but it would not change their grade point average at EC. If the individual takes the online course as part of the Council of Independent Colleges program, the new grade replaces the old one.
“We gave them very specific goals,” telling them exactly what grades they needed,” Fulop said.
She went on to mention it works well for students who “just need that one more chance.”
Nathan Schertz of El Paso was one of those students.
The communications major, now in his senior year, admitted he “ran into a rough patch” last year.
When grades came out, “I got a call from the provost,” said Schertz.
After Fulop outlined what he needed to do to stay in school, Schertz took four classes over the summer — both online and on campus — and liked the flexibility it gave him to work at his own pace.
“It really taught me time management,” he said. “I found it a fantastic option. It gave me an opportunity to succeed.”
Students pay EC the usual tuition rate and the institution pays a portion of that to the college offering the online course. EC has agreements with the school offering the course, ensuring it matches what they offer.
According to Fulop, students in academic trouble were not the only ones to sign up. She noted a total of 47 students enrolled in 112 online classes. Some saw it as a way to pick up classes for a double major or minor and still graduate in four years.
The online course option is only one way EC seeks to help struggling students.
“We're doing a lot of other efforts to support students,” Fulop commented.
For several years, EC, like many schools, has had an “early warning system” under which “anyone can send a retention alert” if they see a student who is in danger of dropping out or not returning.
Sometimes the problem is financial rather than academic, but the college tries to help any way it can.
For struggling students, Fulop said, “I put students in a study hall,” which they are supposed to attend from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. “It's not detention. It's not punishment,” she explained. Rather, it's similar to study tables many schools have for student-athletes.
Fulop mentioned a math center, writing center and library support present to help those in the study hall.
“Many of the students are grateful,” she said. “I'll probably continue to do it.”
As for Schertz, “I'm grateful for the opportunity to get my grades back on track. … It showed me people can do whatever they make up their minds to do.”