FY 2016–2017 Initiatives

In its effort to recapture stopped-out students across the state, the University of North Carolina has focused on five main categories of initiatives. By the 2016-2017 academic year, we had made significant progress on—and/or fully executed—a number of strategies serving those initiatives.

This page highlights selected achievements for each of the five initiatives, and also reflects some of the ongoing activities we are doing to better serve adult learners.

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Improving student access to courses through flexible delivery

UNCGA used a guiding theme for these various initiatives—improving access to courses through flexible modalities, or creating academic programs that are more accessible to nontraditional students, such as online courses, 7- and 8-week courses, competency-based education (CBE), and assessing experiential learning for academic credit.


Competency-based education pilot

CompletedSeveral institutions received funding to develop competency based education (CBE) programs, which allow students to move through curriculum at a personalized pace—as they master the content rather than by the traditional concept of classroom “seat time.” Schools involved: NCCU, NCSU, UNC-CH, WSSU.

Enhancing course formats

OngoingUNC-GA awarded grants to support the creation of innovative 7- to 8-week course formats for 31 three-credit-hour, online courses, focusing on courses currently required by all students that often become "bottleneck courses." This effort includes increasing the number of courses offered in a single semester. Schools involved: ECU, ECSU, FSU, NCA&T, NCCU, UNC-CH, and UNCC.

Military credit advisory council

OngoingNC Senate Bill 761, ratified July 2014, requires the UNC Board of Governors and the State Board of Community Colleges to implement a plan for the uniform granting and transferring of course credits for military training and occupational experience to veteran students enrolled in North Carolina universities and community colleges. In response, representatives from UNC-GA and the NC Community College System (NCCCS) formed a Military Credit Advisory Council (MCAC), comprised of faculty, staff, and administrators from both systems’ institutions and systems offices. MCAC will evaluate military training courses and occupational experiences in an independent manner using standard levels of objectivity and rigor, and it will create a transparent and accessible system for informing veteran students how this credit will transfer to any community college or UNC institution.

Workshop on utilizing technology to enhance teaching and learning

FutureUNC-GA will develop a workshop for faculty and staff across the system that focuses on new approaches to pedagogy, such as adaptive learning, open educational resources, and using technology to enhance online and face-to-face classes.

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Leveraging UNC ‘system-ness’ to deliver
services and resources at scale

With 16 universities across the state, each with its own particular focus and strengths, UNC can work together as a system to leverage each university’s assets for the greater good.


Adult Learner Portal

CompletedTo improve communication to internal and external adult learner initiative stakeholders, UNC-GA will establish a system-wide Adult Learner Portal, which will house information and resources for both potential adult students and various stakeholder groups. Resources for students will include information on UNC adult learner programs and financial aid, among other topics. Resources for stakeholders will include findings from research and projects that UNC-GA has conducted and descriptions of the system's various initiatives, among other things.

Online Learner Orientation Portal

OngoingThe system-wide Online Learner Orientation Portal is a website geared towards students who have never taken online courses or are taking an online course for the first time. It will provide orientation tools, tips, and training modules to prepare students for online courses and is expected to launch in spring 2018.

October and April convenings

CompletedIn October 2016, UNC-GA held a convening, "Partway Home: Retention and Recruitment to Address Stop-out in the UNC System," which engaged teams from every UNC institution to begin a dialogue about stop-outs in the UNC system. In April 2017, UNC-GA held a second convening, "Improving Degree Completion in North Carolina: Addressing Retention and Recruitment of Adult Learners," which continued the dialogue about adult learner successes across the system. The event was sponsored by The Lumina Foundation, EduNav, Hobson’s, Burning Glass, and iGrad, and featured both national and local speakers. Plenary and concurrent sessions discussed topics relevant to the development, implementation, and success of serving nontraditional learners.

UNC Alliance for Collaborative Education

OngoingUNC has started leveraging the system’s course inventory through UNC Online, a network that allows students to cross-register for online courses at other system institutions. Building on this approach, several institutions will collaborate to offer interdisciplinary studies courses through the UNC Alliance for Collaborative Education. The five schools participating in the Alliance will work together to offer courses adult learners need to graduate. The agreement will enable adult learners to take advantage of rigorous courses from a variety of UNC institutions and to earn credits that will count toward their academic residency requirements (rather than as transfer credits), providing them a flexible, efficient pathway toward a degree. Participating schools include: ECU, FSU, NC A&T, NCCU, and UNCG.

Continue to populate transfer equivalency tool

OngoingOne component of the UNC Online cross-registration system is a course transfer equivalency tool, that maps a course offered by one constituent institution to its equivalent(s)—as determined by academic review of transfer transcripts—at all of the other UNC institutions. This system becomes more populated with equivalency data over time, but because of the importance of institutional collaboration in offering adult learners online courses, we are undertaking a proactive effort to evaluate the most common and popular courses for adult learners and get their equivalencies captured in the equivalency tool.

System-wide marketing / outreach campaign to re-recruit adult learners

FutureBuilding on the market research completed in the 2016-2017 academic year, UNC-GA will develop a system-wide marketing and outreach campaign to re-recruit adult learners. System-wide efforts, which will amplify the messages of the individual institutions, can target and reach a broader audience than any institution could reach on its own.

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Re-aligning services and policies to meet
the needs of nontraditional learners

Adult and non-traditional learners require flexible courses and course modalities, but policies and services must also be flexible enough to meet their needs. Improving them first requires an understanding of strengths and opportunities.


"Preventing Stop-out at UNC" pilot

CompletedUNC-GA funded a "Preventing Stop-out at UNC" initiative, a competitive grant opportunity to test interventions that would improve the registration of current students who had not registered for courses by the applicable deadline and to research the characteristics of this population. The desired outcome would use this data to design interventions and improve the likelihood of registration, thus preventing stop-outs and creating adult learners. East Carolina University and UNC-Wilmington tested interventions to support students who had not registered for courses by the registration deadline. UNC-Charlotte evaluated data to create a predictive model for understanding the characteristics of students who had not registered for the upcoming semester. UNC-Chapel Hill took a hybrid approach, conducting both research and outreach to adult learners and providing them with support to re-enroll.

Degree audit pilot

CompletedNine institutions participated in a degree audit pilot in which staff examined the transcripts of 100 randomly selected stopped-out students. Each auditor mapped the student’s degree path in their original major and one alternative major, while collecting information related to the number of credits the individual had earned, the time to degree in both pathways, the average time to complete an audit, and the availability of online courses. The audit revealed some interesting procedural and policy related challenges, which the team used to develop some key recommendations for the UNC adult learner program.

UNC Alliance for Collaborative Education readiness assessment

FutureInstitutions participating in the UNC Alliance for Collaborative Education will participate in a readiness assessment focused on serving adult learners and nontraditional students. The assessment will include the review of policies, procedures, and services to determine how they align to the needs of adult and nontraditional learners, and the findings will be used to strengthen areas of opportunity and capitalize on available strengths. Participating schools include: ECU, FSU, NC A&T, NCCU, and UNCG.

Policy audit

FutureInstitutions participating in the UNC Alliance for Collaborative Education will participate in an assessment focused on serving adult learners and nontraditional students. The assessment will include the review of policies, procedures, and services to determine how they align to the needs of adult and nontraditional learners. The findings will be used to strengthen areas of opportunity and capitalize on available strengths.

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) policy development

FuturePLA is the process used to evaluate for academic credit the skills and knowledge students have acquired outside the classroom through activities like workplace training, military training and service, professional certifications, etc. UNC-GA is partnering with the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), an organization that evaluates PLA practices and teaches institutions how to design and implement rigorous PLA programs, to develop consistent PLA policies and procedures to be used systemwide.

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Leveraging technology to improve
student success and program efficiency

UNC has identified a number of ways it could use technology to identify individual students who could benefit from specific services, track student outcomes, and meet course demands.


Predictive Analytics Reporting (PAR) framework pilot

OngoingPAR framework is a preventative tool used to identify students who may need assistance in completing their education. Through this pilot, UNC will explore ways the PAR predictive model can be used to identify trends among stop-out students as compared to students who persist. The pilot program will enable participating schools to test the model and its determine scalability and use the resulting data to inform policies and practices around student success. Participating schools include: ECU, FSU, NC A&T, NCCU, UNCA, UNCG, UNCP, UNCSA, and WSSU.

Technical assistance grants — iDesign / UNC-TV

Ongoing / FutureUNC-GA awarded technical assistance grants to four schools to cover the cost of instructional design and technology support from the external vendor iDesignEdu. Selected projects focused on courses required for returning adult students (such as foundations courses or interdisciplinary or general studies programs) or courses in demand by adult learners. The courses are currently being developed for open enrollment starting in Spring 2018. Participating campuses include: ECSU, FSU, NC A&T, NCCU. / UNC institutions will contract with UNC-TV for multimedia production of online course development. These resources will include Light Board, field and/or studio production, and post-production graphics and editing.

Retention tracking tools

FutureUNC-GA is currently deploying a new data visualization platform that takes data collected by the UNC-GA student data warehouse and makes it available to institution staff for graphic display and analysis. Two of the data models that will be most important to preventing stop-out are dashboards that represent student retention and persistence. While data is presented initially in the aggregate, it is near-realtime data, and the models allow the user to "drill-down" to the individual student level so that we may reach out prior to that student's departure and make efforts to solve whatever issues may be leading them to consider ending their attendance.

Degree and schedule planning  tools

FutureUNC-GA will issue an RFP for a pilot program—using adult learners as the first test group—to test the latest generation degree and schedule planning tools. These tools are used by students during registration to both map all of their major's degree requirements and to optimize their scheduling over multiple future semesters. This ensures that students stay on course sequence, make optimal progress academically, and can follow the most efficient path possible to graduation. These tools also help the institution forecast future course demand with great accuracy, and avoid schedule conflicts or course sequence problems.

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Facilitating statewide, cross-sector conversations
about post-secondary attainment

UNC alone cannot offer educational opportunities for such a large number of potential students to meet the needs of our growing economy. Higher education partners should work with one another, employers, the military, and private/nonprofits, to develop strategies that will reach North Carolina’s attainment goals.


Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro Partnership

OngoingUNC is piloting a cross-sector approach through a partnership with The Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, whereby Community Foundation representatives will provide pre-enrollment coaching to adult learners interested in returning to complete a credential. This pre-enrollment coaching will improve the likelihood of re-enrollment by supporting students through the various required processes, such as applying for financial aid and identifying funding to finance their education, connecting to social service organizations, and identifying the best fit institution based on a student’s goals and needs.

Employer Partnerships

FutureIndustry and employer partnerships need to be forged, not only to assist in identifying and marketing opportunities for students, but also to help students complete their education through tuition assistance programs and flexible work arrangements. Higher education partners should work with industry partners and military bases and entities to provide educational programs that develop the skills and abilities employers say are important to them, including critical thinking and communication and interpersonal skills.

UNC and community college partnerships

OngoingUNC and the NC community college system are working together to create programs such as the Comprehensive Articulation Agreement and Reverse Transfer, which enable students to move seamlessly from community college to university and, once they earn the proper university credits, retroactively earn their associates degrees.