EGSC is committed to providing quality and accessible education to its students, and one of the many steps EGSC is taking to enhance students’ education is creating and implementing a new Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). Amidst the changes and challenges that COVID-19 brings to the academic environment, EGSC’s QEP calls for student learning communities (SLCs), as a tool to increase student persistence and improve learning. SLCs consist of two or more courses that are linked thematically and share the same cohort of students, reading materials, and assignments designed to provoke deep learning through forming interdisciplinary connections. EGSC’s QEP is a carefully designed plan that enhances and supports student learning while accomplishing the mission of the college. Selecting a QEP topic is a multi-step process that includes a comprehensive review of data as well as input from faculty, staff, students, and alumni gathered through surveys and meetings. East Georgia State College has selected “Student Learning Communities: Learning to Associate” as the topic of the institutions QEP. If students come to EGSC to “get associated,” then EGSC is going to teach them “how to associate.” “EGSC faculty and students have expressed enthusiasm for learning communities. The students anticipate more time to learn, as these communities share common assignments. Faculty anticipate that students will experience deeper learning, as they explore themes through the lens of two or more disciplines,” said QEP Director Dr. Ren Denton.
One of the big opportunities the QEP provides to students is linked courses. Two professors collaborate to design an interdisciplinary experience for their shared students. For example, students enrolled in a learning community made up of psychology and a literature-based writing course, will learn how to apply the concepts they learn in their psychology course to understanding the literary characters they encounter in their literature course. Giving students the opportunity to apply information from one to the other course encourages critical thinking, shows the usefulness of the information they are learning, and forges connections that students may not have made without the linking of the courses. “National research of leading education experts has proven that linked courses improve learning, socialization, and student success,” said Denton. “SLCs combine the social aspect of learning with the academic aspect and produce increased satisfaction in the student’s college experience. These communities will be especially crucial to the intellectual and socialization aspects should COVID-19 safety measures continue through the spring 2021 when the QEP begins its implementation.” In providing students with opportunities for collaborative learning that lead to greater course success, EGSC meets its goals to facilitate student success and persistence, even as SLCs also promote active-learning pedagogies and teaching practices and better enable students to identify and use campus academic support resources. By better supporting the learning process for traditional and non-traditional students, EGSC’s QEP advances the institution’s mission in that the learning community experience prepares students for success in the 21st century global workforce through creating equitable, interdisciplinary learning environments that promote active and collaborative learning, personal growth, and a sense of belonging to a diverse community. About East Georgia State College: East Georgia State College - a state college offering two-year degrees and targeted bachelor degrees - provides affordable access to quality higher education, enabling all students to achieve their academic goals with minimum delay and expense. EGSC’s specialized attentiveness effectively supports a wide range of academic abilities and preparation levels. Students can pursue associate’s degrees, targeted bachelor’s degrees and transfer paths to other institutions. EGSC’s most recent prominence is in being among the first and few University System of Georgia institutions approved to award associate degrees with disciplinary distinction, which provides students a foundation of courses in a specific major, rather than just the core curriculum. EGSC has one campus in Swainsboro and satellite sites in Statesboro and Augusta.