Posted on Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Two waves down, and one to go. Virginia’s Community Colleges are activating a new online platform designed to provide more user-friendly tools for students, staff, faculty and advisors.

“The Navigate Student tool delivers a structured onboarding experience for students, giving them the ability to define their goals, develop clear academic paths and communicate with advisors – in short, making the college experience more manageable,” said Jhansi Eturu, VCCS’s director for integrated strategies and technologies.

The new system also empowers VCCS faculty and staff with communication tools that support students with targeted notifications and tools that help simplify and improve the advising process.

“We use progress reports and early alerts in Navigate to increase math lab utilization and improve pass rates in developmental math courses,” said Brad Prillaman, co-director of academic planning and engagement at Danville Community College, one of the first wave of VCCS colleges to implement Navigate. “Students can make appointments online instead of coming to campus to sign up on appointment sheets. And they seem more willing to talk about their options and ask for online or telephone advising than when schedules were posted at their advisor’s doors.”

“One of our big goals has been to improve retention of students from the fall to spring semesters,” said Michael Farris, dean of enrollment management at Central Virginia Community College. “We encouraged students to schedule academic planning conversations with advisors to encourage long-term academic planning. Through proactive outreach in Navigate and text messaging, 115+ students have already scheduled these conversations.”

“Enrollment was up 8.5% for the fall semester and early spring enrollment is up significantly this year compared to last year”, said Greg Hodges, vice president of academic & student success services at Patrick Henry Community College. Patrick Henry has been running a multi-faceted re-enrollment campaign (campaigns from Navigate, social media, texts and emails etc.) encouraging spring 2019 enrollment for students in their SEED program.

“Advisors have been sharing their successes with note-taking in Navigate,” said Kerith Bowman, director of academic planning and advising at Northern Virginia Community College. “NOVA staff and faculty have entered more than 24-thousand appointment notes to date. We’ve been told the ‘30-second Gut Check’ information on each student, and the ability to email all their advising list have also been mentioned as particularly helpful.”

Rollout of Navigate began in April 2017 and has been accomplished at 14 of the VCCS colleges. The final implementation wave will launch on April 1, 2019. With the start of spring 2019 registrations, all VCCS colleges will be using Navigate to run re-enrollment and advising appointment campaigns.

The end goal, of course, is improved student success. And by helping students make more informed decisions about courses and schedules, Navigate also could pay big dividends.

In September 2017, a General Assembly study indicated three quarters of Virginia Community College students accumulated more than the typical number of credits needed to earn a credential.

The average community college student earns more than 20 excess credits pursuing a 60-credit associate degree. And nationally, students pay $7.7 billion dollars a year for courses that do not count toward their credentials, according to Complete College America, a national nonprofit focused on closing attainment gaps for traditionally underrepresented populations.

To see a detailed update memo about the VCCS Navigate rollout project, including the rollout schedule, click here.'

Jim Babb

Jim Babb works for Virginia's Community Colleges in the Office of Strategic Communications.

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