First In The World Project

The First in the World (FITW) FLEXspace project involves three key elements designed to increase access and completion while reducing the time to degree for a target population:

  • accelerate time to completion for underprepared students through a developmental education redesign,
  • design student-centered classrooms in which instructors trained in high-impact pedagogic techniques of active learning engage learners to achieve learning objectives, and
  • design an information commons space on each campus that includes a realignment of key support functions.

The target population includes students who require at least one developmental education course, which indicates they are underprepared for college. These students will be placed in the redesigned developmental education courses and receive targeted interventions meant to improve access and completion, as well as time to degree. Results include: increased completion; decrease in time to completion; higher engagement of underprepared college students; creation of a new organizational structure that is scalable and replicable; and identification of specific strategies statistically significant to student success.

The FLEXspace Project is a four-year project that will take place from October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2018 and will be implemented at all three of Gateway's campuses, located in Boone, Campbell, and Kenton counties. FLEXspace stands for Flexible Learning and EXploration space. The FLEXspace Project was funded by the U.S. Department of Education Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE).

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View the Project Components:

Developmental Education Redesign

At the time the FITW Grant proposal was being developed, the college followed the traditional developmental education model in which students were placed in the appropriate level of remedial coursework based on ACT or COMPASS placement test results. Students progressed through the sequence of remedial courses before placement into college-level, program of study area courses. Data regarding this model indicated that most students never completed the developmental sequence. Data also indicated that if they did complete the sequence, a significant percent were successful in their college-level coursework. The college used this data to create a redesigned developmental education model utilizing a co-requisite format with student supports intended to promote student retention and completion.

Gateway's developmental education redesign incorporates a co-requisite developmental education model that places students in Gateway courses as the default. This automatically puts students into credit-bearing courses in alignment with their academic program of study. The college has revised its institutional placement policy in accordance with the project redesign. This co-requisite developmental education redesign will result in higher retention and completion rates, as well as a reduced time to completion.

Active Learning Environments

The FLEXspace projects second intervention is directly tied to the developmental education redesign. The first intervention addresses barriers to student completion pertaining to the traditional delivery of developmental education that requires underprepared students to remediate deficiencies prior to beginning college-level work. Research indicates that this restriction is not necessary given the proper supports in place to ensure student success. The second intervention addresses the need for active learning strategies within the learning environment, including the physical space and the curriculum. This approach ensures that the developmental education redesign is more than just an administrative change (i.e. scheduling, placement policy, etc.), but is a comprehensive, transformational effort to change the way underprepared students experience the college and the curriculum.

  1. Gateway will partner with Steelcase Education Solutions a cutting-edge leader in research and solutions in rethinking higher education spaces to design an active learning ecosystem. Brain science indicates learning spaces should be designed to support the ways the brain works to enhance learning. Evidence also suggests that environments impact behavior and are often barriers to behavioral change.

  2. Training and ongoing support of faculty to ensure the application of active learning pedagogy in the classroom through the Gateway FLEXspace Summer Institute. The combination of the learning environment with active learning pedagogy is a unique feature of the FLEXspace project. Neither activity alone can impact systemic change leading to significant results on student outcomes related to access and completion. Once the active learning environments are in place, the teaching and learning that happens in those spaces must be well-designed, utilizing proven strategies to engage students. Gateway's professional development plan contains training and on-going coaching as support to ensure that concepts learned in training are practiced in the classroom. See more information about Gateway's Active Learning Institute.

  3. Gateway intends to incorporate a coaching model to ensure ongoing faculty and administrative support and dialogue for active learning practices. Six cross-disciplinary faculty members will be trained as coaches each year during the grant period. These 24 coaches will be assigned to faculty members who have completed the Gateway Active Learning Institute (GALI) and who are putting into practice active learning strategies within the new learning spaces.

Information Commons

The third intervention designed to increase access and completion of the target population is the development of an Information Commons space and approach on each campus. This approach integrates the same types of research embedded in the active learning environments outside the classroom where learning also takes place. Informal learning spaces provide students with a choice of spaces to support their learning needs. These types of environments are key to the overall campus environment because they promote self-directed learning by the student. Throughout a semester or even within the same day, students may require spaces that support focused, individual study; dyadic work; or large team collaborative projects.

Gateway envisions an Information Commons on each campus that centralizes many student support functions into one place through a highly technology-driven forum. The Information Commons provides a highly engaging support environment in which students can go and receive the help they need to succeed. The Information Commons will advance student persistence and completion through the realignment of key academic and non-academic support functions.