In the summer of 2005, Corning Community College began a First Year Experience Course with “On Course” as the curriculum. During 2010 two efforts were undertaken to evaluate any effect of the On Course curriculum on student retention, grade point average and other variables of interest. The first effort was an evaluation of the results of a student survey. In this analysis, the students who successfully completed the On Course curriculum showed more use of campus resources (learning centers, library, etc.), more preparation for classes and more use of the “soft skills” taught in On Course. Additionally, the survey indicated that these students had made more use of their advisor, became more acquainted with others, made more friends with whom they studied, and increased in self-efficacy.

The second evaluation, a Quasi-Experimental design (a non-equivalent control group) compared several groups of students who had completed the On Course curriculum with randomly selected “similar” students who had not taken the On Course curriculum. These analyses show both an increase in grade point average and an increase in retention. On the average the retention rate of those who complete the On Course curriculum was 12% higher and their grade point average was 0.82 points higher than those that did not.

Individually, and collectively, these analyses based on the best data available indicated that the First Year Experience with On Course curriculum improved student grade point average, persistence, self-efficacy and engagement. In almost all cases these improvements were statistically significant to a level that indicates beyond doubt that the improvement was due to successfully completing the course, not chance.

Submitted by Deb Borden, Professor of Psychology, Corning Community College, NY