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Responses to Recommendations
RESPONSES TO RECOMMENDATIONS
Of the 2003 Accreditation Visiting Team
Results of Last Comprehensive Visit
Ventura College 's last comprehensive evaluation took place in 1996, with reaffirmation of accreditation granted by the Commission. A directed midterm report on the 15 recommendations of the 1996 visiting team occurred in 1998. The college was asked to provide a progress report in 2000, as a follow-up to the 1198 midterm report. It was to focus on a description of the college's efforts on the prior recommendations involving visioning, hiring practices and the self-identified issue of strategic planning. In an attempt to synchronize the accreditation visits for the Ventura County Community College District colleges scheduled to occur in 2004, Ventura College was asked to conduct an abbreviated self-study in 2002. This abbreviated study was to include a thorough response to the recommendations contained in the 1996 evaluation report, as well as noting the college's efforts to maintain progress on the three issues addressed in the April 2000 progress report.
A six-member team visited Ventura College from March 19-21, 2002 . The team found that the format and preparation of the report was not representative of the college's current status or progress on the recommendations of the previous team and did not have appropriate involvement of the college constituencies to ensure an accurate portrayal of the college's current situation. The college was placed on Warning status and given 10 recommendations to respond to within the next year. A second site visit was scheduled for April 2003. The Commission asked that the college, in addition, to responding to the 10 recommendations, provide a summary and discussion of Self-Identified Issues that were to be identified through review of the 1996 Standards.
A six-member team again visited the campus on April 2 and 3, 2003 and was comprised on the chair and three members of the 2002 visiting team, joined by two new members. A very large committee co-chaired by the Executive Vice President and Academic Senate President prepared the Progress Report. Committees were assigned to each of the ten recommendations and to each of the ten 1996 standards. The team found that there had been a demonstrable difference in participation, involvement and communication about the issues of accreditation. Ventura College 's Warning status was removed and accreditation was reaffirmed in a letter to the President, dated June 30, 2003 .
In review, Ventura College will have had three site visits by accrediting teams in three years. Further, the college has had two self-studies in the past two years. The college has reviewed, the 1996 report with 8 standards, completed a mid-term report that focused on the revised 10 standards, and most recently, completed a self-study on the new 4 standards for the October 2004 site visit. In spite of all of this, the college constituency was active, willing participants in discussions and in all activities that led to this final report. The willingness with which the college responded was largely due to a demonstration of their great concern to rectify the reputation of Ventura College ! If not for this great sense of campus pride and professionalism, this report would never have been completed within the designated timelines.
Responses to Recommendations
The team recommended that, the college had sufficiently addressed the concerns of six of the ten recommendations. The team also noted, that the four recommendations that were not sufficiently addressed, had shown progress since the previous visit. They were noted as Recommendations 1, 3, 6, and 9 in the Progress Report, April 2-3, 2003 and are noted as follows:
The College should implement a broadly based, institutionally supported program to offer the faculty the broadly based, institutionally supported program to offer the faculty the opportunity to explore a variety of student learning styles and the associated teaching strategies (1996 Standard 4A.1, 4B.3, 4D.5)
Over the past six years, an array of projects and programs on teaching strategies have been instituted, establishing student learning programs/practices and services aligned with Ventura College's purpose, character and student population. The college has begun to demonstrate its effectiveness by making use of evidence of student learning to evaluate systems and programs, make changes to improve student learning, and evaluate the results.
Institutional efforts at Ventura College to support and enrich teaching and learning effectiveness have been derived from an array of departments, groups and individuals. The combined efforts of numerous projects display a campus-wide willingness to explore new teaching strategies and methodologies. Pages 1-13 and pages 33-43 of the "Ventura College Progress Report for Accreditation Site visit April 2-3, 2003 " chronicle many such initiatives throughout the college. Some of the more prominent efforts are briefly noted as follows:
Teaching Techniques Exchange Group : For the past six years, this group of full-time and adjunct faculty has been meeting monthly to discuss, share and evaluate successful teaching, learning, classroom management, and assessment techniques. Innovations noted: 1) Paired classes that include back-to-back courses in English and Biology that allow students the opportunity for a paired learning mode centered on environmental studies; 2) Faculty participation in "Best of the Best" staff development activity that focuses on reports from the Great Teacher's Seminar; and 3) Symposia for Teaching and Learning held as part of the last three years' Fall Flex Weeks. The symposia covered topics such as meeting the needs of a diverse student population, paired classes and learning communities, service learning, and teaching techniques exchange.
Multicultural Collaborative Learning Consortium: The Consortium was formed to promote learning strategies for diverse student populations. The three-year project engaged faculty in conferences and workshops that promoted collaborative learning through innovative classroom structuring that addressed a variety of learning styles for diverse student populations.
Title V Faculty Projects: Following this project, a five-year Title V grant for Hispanic-serving institutions has funded, and continues to fund, many discipline specific and interdisciplinary projects which explore new teaching techniques which focus on meeting the diverse needs of Hispanic students with difficulty succeeding in gateway classes.
One Book/One Campus Program: Ventura College began this annual event in the spring 2002, in support of the One Book/One State Program. Its phenomenal success has led to making this an annual event, coordinated by the English department, library staff, faculty and managers. This innovative six-week program is a cross-discipline collaboration involving the whole campus in teaching and learning about a selected novel. Instructors in such diverse disciplines as political science, history, learning skills, economics, art, photography, ESL, biology, child development, nutrition and anthropology (to name a few participating disciplines) developed classroom activities. The program and results are discussed in depth in Standard Two; it is worth noting here that in response to a questionnaire on the fall 2003 program-82% of the respondents said they better understood what they were learning in classes because of their participation in the One Book/One Campus program.
Professional Development: Ventura College is proud of its comprehensive staff development plan, which provides vision and direction to the diverse staff development activities that occur throughout the campus. Under this plan, Ventura College has implemented numerous activities and opportunities for faculty to explore, develop, evaluate and implement different teaching strategies to broaden the variety of delivery methods available to enhance student learning. Displays of institutional enthusiasm for teaching and learning effectiveness are demonstrated in the form of financial support from the College Foundation and the College Staff Development Committee-although funds through the latter are currently limited.
Although the college has much more work to do in this arena, it has begun a dialogue about the need for the development of measurable indicators of student learning which will eventually lead to a college-wide plan for the assessment of student learning outcomes. During the spring of 2003, a number of faculty and mangers attended a conference sponsored by WASC on assessment of student learning. They, in turn, planned college-wide mandatory activities on the topic for all staff for the first day of the fall 2004 semester. The college-wide discussion of assessment of student learning outcomes began that day with a workshop by Dr. Tinto entitled "Student Retention: It Really Is Everyone's Business." This was followed by discipline specific discussion groups, led by faculty and managers who had attended the assessment conference and facilitated by Dr. Tinto.
These discussions continued as the academic year progressed and many faculty and staff attended WASC training in preparation for accreditation self-studies. In doing their work for the self-study, accreditation task forces were surprised to learn that some colleagues are using classroom assessment techniques already, some departments have in place on-going projects focused on identifying and assessing student outcomes, and all Title V faculty projects incorporate a student learning assessment component. Late in the spring the college hosted a state-wide conference on assessment which was attended by many staff interested in continuing their education on the subject.
The college takes seriously the recommendation to develop a coordinated approach to the assessment of student learning outcomes at the course and program level, and, knowing the magnitude of the paradigm shift which this entails, it will continue to educate its staff about assessment, it will develop a comprehensive plan for assessing student learning outcomes and it will support and institutionalize assessment and planning efforts.
The College should assess not only the delivery of services, but also the structures through which the services are provided in determining the levels for staffing required to ensure timely and accessible services to students. (1996 Standard 5.3, and 5.10, Standard 7Aa.1)
The College agrees with the last visiting team that while student services would benefit from additional staff, given the current fiscal situation, the College must address unmet needs through alternative delivery systems. At the same time, the college is committed to providing greater access and expanded services.
The reality is that staff has been reduced in the general funded areas like the Transfer and Career Centers, Admissions and Records, Financial Aid, Counseling, the Women's and Re-entry Center, Student Activities and the International Student Office. Even specially funded areas such as the Student Health Center and the Educational Assistance Center have lost and are facing future cuts. All classified staff have experienced furloughs and loss of pay. What has been remarkable is the solid positive support all staff have given to the College and its students. Staff have volunteered to take on more responsibilities and have contributed to many discussions regarding the restructuring of services to students. More staff time has been contributed to testing and improving the applications of the district wide computer Banner system. There has also been greater participation among student services staff in program review and planning.
The College has looked for technological ways to deliver information and services to students and the community that are not dependent upon staff. Since the last accreditation, the College has added an on-line schedule and catalog that are user friendly. The schedule is available on both the district and college web site and can be accessed through www.venturacollege.edu . Both the college and district web sites host a link called Student Central. This link allows students to not only browse the schedule, offers many search options such as searching only open classes, classes by instructor and classes by preferred day or time. The catalog is available in its entirety and the index headings can be used as direct links to specific pages in the catalog. The schedule and catalog are also offered in alternate formats through the college's Educational Assistance Center and much of the schedule narrative is in Spanish.
Students are offered additional services such as requesting transcripts, looking up grades, registering for classes, adding and dropping classes, paying fees, filling out applications for enrollment and for financial aid. Future services may include getting book lists for classes and on-line counseling.
The College is also experimenting with new technological applications in providing services to new students. The College now offers an on-line orientation credit class. In addition, information for new students was completely reviewed and revised on the college web site. It is possible to take a "tour" of all campus services, access the new matrix of programs, certificates and degree, and find out about application process including the schedule for assessment testing. The College is also using grant money to develop a computerized degree audit system that can assist counselors and students in evaluating college academic history and academic planning. The Counseling Department is developing an "e-binder", an electronic repository of all pertinent documents, forms and computer links to improve the organization and efficiency of counselors and can be used as a training tool for new counselors.
In Student Success Team meetings, within individual student services program meetings and in informal meetings among student services and instructional staff on campus, the College is exploring ways to maintain services and provide better service to students. In the face of layoffs and reduced resources that affected student support services, the college staff have voluntarily reorganized responsibilities and altered ways of delivering services. For example, the Financial Aid office has taken over work study, the Counseling Department has taken responsibility for the career center. Student Services has worked with college management to restructure or move other responsibilities to reduce some of the load. With the exception of Workstudy, on campus job placement for students has been moved to the County's Job and Career Center across the street. The responsibility for the production of the schedule and the catalog has been moved from the Office of Student Development to the PIO office. An assistant dean has been moved to student services to handle student activities, student discipline and sexual harassment.
One well-discussed issue in Student Services has been the level of service to students and the pressure put on staff during peak registration. Resolution to this problem has become more critical with the loss of staff and the increase in the number of students seeking services prior to the beginning of classes and into the first two weeks of each semester. The Financial Aid Office has created an outdoor counter during the first weeks of the semester to answer quick questions. The Financial Aid Office is talking with members of the Counseling Department to come up with a cooperative way to assist students needing information and service in the Counseling and Transfer/Career Building. The Counseling Department and Financial Aid staff has taken some initial steps and are exploring additional actions to encourage students to use services at non-peak times. One of the encouraging notes is that the College appears receptive to the Counseling Department's suggestion to considering changing the registration calendar to allow for Fall registration before the end of the Spring Semester. While this subject has come up in previous years, the recognition that student registration is a college-wide issue and that the resources are more severely limited appear to have re-opened the possibility of a college-wide response.
At the same time, College Student Support Services has been committed to offering improved and even new services to students. There is more adaptive equipment available for students with disabilities. The Child Development Center has pursued funding that has allowed students facing fiscal problems to get credit toward Child Care. The College has opened an Internet Café to provide Internet access to all students. Students now have greater security accessing campus services and information because of the introduction to an ID number that can be used in place of their social security number. More students have access to psychological counseling, and many college services are available 24 hours a day, thanks to the web. There has been an increase in the number of transfer assistance workshops. EOPS has initiated a CARE program and a book voucher program. Student can now access more career education resources from their home computers or take an on-line career exploration class. Students and staff now have access to a crisis intervention team. Student at East Campus have access to more student services.
The College should create a single comprehensive institutional multi-year technology plan that will provide the framework for systematically meeting its needs in technology. (1996 Standard 4A.4, Standard 6., Standard 8.4, 8.5)
Many of the conditions that led to the development of his recommendation still exist. These include, continuing budget uncertainties, turnover in college and district leadership, delays in the completion of the infrastructure audit and other pressing issues such as the full accreditation self-study. As a result, a single comprehensive institutional multi-year technology plan has not at this writing been completed. However, progress toward this goal has been made.
During the comprehensive self-study activities undertaken during the 2003-2004 academic year, a number of important preliminary steps were taken to facilitate the development of the badly needed comprehensive technology plan. The most significant of which were the development of a new Technology Committee and a timetable for the completion of the technology plan. The charge given the new Technology Committee is to develop and maintained through periodic review the campus wide comprehensive technology plan and to serve as a forum for discussion and formulation of recommendations concerning campus wide technology issues. The timetable for the development of the Ventura College technology plan projects the development of a draft during the summer of 2004 and a broad-based review in August/September. Review of input received and revisions, as required, will be made to enable final review and approval to be completed by October 2004.
Although not part of a comprehensive college wide plan, a number of components that will be included within the comprehensive plan have been developed. These include an updated learning resources technology plan, distance education plan, and the district wide infrastructure audit. In addition, technology components are included in a number of the new and updated unit plans that have been developed and/or revised since the last accreditation team visit.
During the 2003-2004 academic year significant improvements in efforts to coordinate technology support reflecting a more college wide approach to technology have been undertaken. A series of meetings between key administrators, Ventura College technical support staff and representatives of the district information technology department led to an improvement in a clear demarcation of respective responsibilities and the development of better procedures for coordination of projects requiring involvement of multiple departments/programs.
Individual departments/programs continue to plan for technology on an ad hoc basis. These efforts continue to help meet program specific student needs and facilitate the acquisition of technology resources not available through regular college funding mechanisms. We anticipate that these highly successful entrepreneurial efforts will continue and provisions will be made in the comprehensive plan accordingly. As improvements in the fiscal outlook appears unlikely in the immediate future, individual department/program efforts will continue to be encouraged and the plan revised accordingly.
The College should identify the nature and scope of administrative tasks to be performed by College management staff, identify administrative positions, duties, and structure to accomplish those tasks, and create and maintain a stable cadre of professionals to fill those positions. (1996 Standards 10 B.3, 10 B.4)
During the preparation for the Progress Report ( April 2-3, 2003 ) , the college developed job descriptions for the Presidents, Executive Vice President and the deans that detailed the administrative tasks assigned to each position. Even though progress was made in developing management position descriptions and through informal assessments of the management structure made by the Administrative Council, the college still needs to take additional steps in addressing this recommendation. No formal evaluations of the management structure have been conducted. This is due in large part to two critical factors.
First, the loss of management positions at the college is a direct result of the current budget crisis-and to date, there seems to be no immediate relief in sight. This is compounded with the current district full-time faculty obligation-where the hiring priorities must be faculty to improve the part-time/full-time teaching ratio. Second, Ventura College currently has a President in an acting capacity and is waiting for the permanent President to evaluate the current scope of management duties.
In spite of the issue cited above, it is important to note that Ventura College has been coping with its operational concerns. This has been done through the work of the Administrative Council-this group has evolved into an effective group that addresses seriously the day-to-day and long-term operational issues of the college and provided considerable advice to the President's Cabinet, as well as openly information with other organizational groups. Additionally, over the past couple of years, the college has become much more inclusive in its decision-making and decision recommending processes.
Ventura College , through the administrative council will be developing a formal evaluation beginning July 2004of the management structure to assist the permanent President in conducting this task. This will allow the college to conduct a more visible and inclusive evaluation of the effectiveness of the structure and provide an opportunity for the campus at large to communicate management team goals and to gather valuable and needed feedback.