by Sharon Juenemann, Learning Skills Specialist 

At Mt. Hood Community College, we recently adopted On Course as the primary text for our one-credit freshman seminar course (HD 100: College Success).  The adoption of On Course was part of an institution-wide initiative to increase student persistence.  While HD 100 has been offered at our college for many years, this year was unique.  First, the course was offered for free, and faculty/staff across the campus were recruited to teach the course.  Our college president even taught a section!  Second, advisors actively recruited new students into the course.  Finally, faculty and staff teaching the course had a one-day On Course training in which faculty learned about the On Course Principles, focusing on Self Responsibility, Self-Management, Self-Motivation, Interdependence, and Lifelong Learning. We also provided follow-up training for faculty and staff through Houghton Mifflin, publisher of On Course.

Data on student persistence from Fall 2004 to Winter 2006 was collected via our student data management system.  Below are the results:

Retention Rates for Mount Hood Community College First-Year Students

  Retention of All First-Year
Students NOT in HD 100, the On Course Class (N=9451)
Retention of All First-Year
Students in HD 100, the On Course Class (N=458)
Retention in the
On Course Class
Fall 2004 to Spring 2005 53% 80% +27%
Fall 2004 to Fall 2005 28% 54% +26%

By all accounts, the effort was a wildly successful effort, with students from the On Course group persisting 27% more the following term than students not taking the freshman seminar.  We also conducted a survey of students taking the course and approximately 75% of students responded that the On Course text was either “helpful” or “very helpful.”

This improvement in persistence is even more impressive when other factors, such as student drop-out proneness, are considered.  The Noel-Levitz College Student Inventory was administered to all sections of HD 100 in Fall, 2004.  On a scale that is correlated with factors contributing to increased drop-out risk, 30% of students in the experimental group scored at or above the 90th percentile.  This is many times higher that the equivalent amount in the comparison group whose results are distributed in a bell curve pattern with relatively fewer students scoring in the extreme ranges.

Our institution continues to offer HD 100 tuition-free to all first-year students.  Our goal is that nearly every incoming MHCC student will take the course so that all MHCC students can experience the successes that On Course students do.