CollegeSource has been the chief sponsor of the AACRAO Transfer & Technology conference since the inception of the transfer-focused conference in 2007. As a professional gathering of individuals focused on successful transfer and the technology that supports it, as well as other key student services, the conference is unparalleled.
This year the technology discussions outside of transfer included integration between key systems, certified e-credentials, data visualization, artificial intelligence, virtual agents, student privacy, and a slew of buzzword topics like blockchain and GDPRs. Coupled with that was the general feeling that transfer concerns are once again heating up in the US, if indeed it can ever be said to have cooled.
Before I talk about my personal experience at the conference and my thoughts on transfer, I want to thank a few of our clients. The Online and Professional Studies division of California Baptist University and The University of Minnesota Twin Cities both gave independent presentations on TES® and Transferology™. It’s great to see our clients talking about CollegeSource tools in context and how they are making a difference for both staff and students “in the trenches.” The sessions given by these schools, “TES-ting the Waters of Transfer Technology” and “Transforming Transfer Credit Evaluation University Wide,” were well-attended, dynamic talks that spoke well of both CollegeSource products and the clients who presented them! The University of Minnesota also presented on uAchieve®: “Optimizing Degree Audit Data to Automatically Schedule Students for Graduation.”
You can see the full program of presentations here.
I personally gave a presentation on our newest cloud offering, Schedmule™. Though the session was early in the program and not all that well attended, it created a buzz and we had a number of individuals stop by the booth to have a look. The response was overwhelmingly positive and I’m excited about the impact Schedmule will make in the next few years.
I was also given the opportunity to spend a few minutes talking about CollegeSource in front of the assembled attendees and to introduce the keynote speaker for the day, Shanna Smith Jaggars, the Assistant Vice-Provost for Research in Undergraduate Education at The Ohio State University.* Shanna spoke for about an hour on patterns among transfer students based on statistics gathered by herself and others. Early in her discussion she mentioned the term “transfer shock,” and showed a data visualization I was all too familiar with, despite having never seen her specific slide/data before. It depicted the long understood phenomenon that students who transfer take a GPA hit in their first semester, then recover to perform as well as or even better than native students.
I had seen this pattern of behavior before. In fact, I gave a presentation at the NACADA national conference back in 2005 (Las Vegas) called “Transfer Shock, Why is a 40 Year Old Term Still Relevant.” (You can view the bibliography prepared by my co-presenter at the time, Karen Thurmond, here.) I was dismayed then to realize that this phenomenon had been identified four decades earlier and that we hadn’t been able to eradicate it. Now it is a 50+ year old fact.
Given the standard of their performance in later semesters, the reason for this dip is not an academic one. It most likely represents the various stresses and confusions that arise from changing support networks. Transfer students arrive on campus, usually without a complete orientation. Though they are somewhat familiar with how a college works, they must quickly learn how this one works. That means learning all the ins and outs of campus locations, parking, registration, etc. Coupled with that is the fact that they must somehow break into the social networks already formed by direct-entry students. They have to find their way into study groups and make friends. They must learn their professors’ names and connect with advisors. This “relaunching” of their academic career is obviously, given the statistics, disruptive to their performance.
I am left wondering why we can’t do better. I do believe there are schools out there who are more sensitive to the needs of transfer students. And I KNOW schools work hard at trying to accommodate transfer student credit. (More than 800,000 hours of activity last year by staff evaluating transfer courses in TES tells me so.) But students are more than a collection of credit experiences and CollegeSource software only goes so far to make their lives easier. If you are reading this and know of an intake program or practice that you feel does an especially good job at mentoring and assimilating transfer students, I’d love to hear about it! Maybe we can feature it in a future article and spread some best practices knowledge to schools that still struggle with transfer shock.
All in all, I had an invigorating time at the conference. The AACRAO team runs a fantastic show and are amazing hosts. The level of conversation, in and out of sessions and at our booth, was extremely high. If you have never attended this show before and you work with transfer students or in student services technologies, I encourage you to make time for it next summer.
Troy Holaday, Ph.D.
* Dr. Jaggars has published extensively on student success topics in journals such as The Journal of Higher Education, Economics of Education Review, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, Community College Review, Computers & Education, and American Journal of Distance Education. She also currently serves as an Associate Editor for the journal Online Learning. Her 2015 book from Harvard University Press (co-authored with Thomas Bailey and Davis Jenkins), Redesigning America’s Community Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success, distills a wealth of research evidence into a playbook for college redesign.
My comments on CollegeSource and introduction to Shanna Smith Jaggars can be viewed below.