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Great Falls College MSU GraduateGreat Falls College MSU is at a midpoint in a decade of transformative change that has positioned the College to be centered on the common ground of student success. Common Ground is a strong operational plan which will aggressively accelerate Great Falls College MSU’ progress to becoming a high-performing institution with regards to student success. After establishing the foundation and structuring the college to tackle the tasks ahead, the path to improving student success has been focused into six primary areas.  The Common Ground plan articulates these areas into six goals, with accompanying tasks being tackled by interdisciplinary teams of faculty and staff.


In the spring of 2006, Great Falls College MSU began its transformation towards an institution designed, and focused, on the success of our students. From 2006 till present, the College’s faculty, staff, and community have made many accomplishments towards that end.

Over the next five years, we must continue this momentum and firmly establish Great Falls College MSU as a high-performing institution in regards to student success. The Community College Research Center’s (CCRC) Assessment of Evidence Series builds the foundation for our continued efforts. The CCRC’s work provides four general recommendations to guide us.

These include:

  1. Colleges should ensure broad engagement of all faculty becomes the foundation for policies and practices to increase student success, including active faculty involvement in student support programs and services.
  2. Colleges should work to simplify the structures and bureaucracies that students must navigate.
  3. Colleges should be encouraged to align course curricula, define common learning outcomes and assessments, and set high standards for those outcomes.
  4. Colleges should collect and use data to inform a continuous improvement process.


Goal OneGoal One – Establish and communicate clear, measurable goals for improved student success and institutional effectiveness.

Task A: Establish a new indicator that directly measures students’ success through the analysis of successful course completion, looking at the percent of students who earned a C- or higher in all coursework.

Task B: Using historical data, comparative peer data, and aspirational targets, establish FY12 goals for the College’s Core Indicators of Institutional Effectiveness.  Communicate these via a special focus IR newsletter during early fall term, with continued communication through a variety of modes (blurb in Weekly News, video screens, Facebook, etc.).

Task C: Identify the 10 courses with the smallest percentage of successful student completions, and the primary gatekeeper courses with below-average rate of student success (institutional average in FY10 is 77%), and establish multi-year goals for improvement in these rates. 

Task D: Create and maintain a SharePoint site where institutional reports (e.g., core indicator reports, enrollment reports, survey reports, etc.) can be shared with the campus community. Institutional Research will also start a documentation process for all reports so that any data used in reports can be replicated. 

Over the past several years, Great Falls College MSU has established a set of “indicators of success” (to include the new indicator based on student course grades) to measure how it is performing in key areas. The team is working to set goals for each indictor, improve how these indicators are measured and better communicate the results both on- and off-campus.

The team’s basic strategy is to collect and analyze data, communicate these data, set goals for improvement and monitor the results.

During Fall 2011, Sindicate has established the new indicator measuring student success and has begun collecting data on all indicators (Task B); FY12 goals will be set for each indicator. An e-newsletter to communicate this information is under development and expected to begin publication in January 2012. The team has identified the 10 courses and, working with the Code Blue team, will set goals for these courses during Spring Semester 2012. The list will be re-created at the end of each academic year. The IRData Sharepoint is now available; access to selected folders has been granted to all faculty and staff.
Goal TwoGoal Two -"Close the Loop" on the Assessment of Student Learning

We will systematically align institutional/instructional expectations, instructional activities, and the assessment of student learning, and institutionalize a process for capturing and analyzing student learning data.

Task A. Finalize the establishment of common student learning outcomes for all courses at the College (e.g., all ANTH 100 courses have common outcomes regardless of instructor or modality of delivery).

Task B: Design and/or identify common assessment protocols for measuring student learning on the established learning outcomes (e.g., all ANTH 100 courses would employ the same assessment protocols for measuring student achievement of the common learning outcomes).

Task C: Utilizing an institutionally adopted format, create rubrics for assessing the various levels of student learning on common learning outcomes for every course and program offered at the College.

In order to have meaningful assessment across the college, it is important for faculty to use assessment methods that are consistent and uniformly applied and measured. The Closing the Assessment Loop team will lead the effort in helping faculty analyze course syllabi.

Closing the Assessment is continuing with an Assessment process that was already in progress. This process involves a standard syllabus with learning outcomes, a plan for accomplishing the campus-wide Eight Abilities and Course Outcomes (Phase III) and assessment of how well that plan worked (Phase IV). Faculty members are key to the success of this effort so an online course is being developed to provide tools and examples for faculty.

The syllabus checklist was developed and approved by the GFC MSU Curriculum Committee in Fall 2011. All faculty completed the assessment phase for one course in Fall 2011. Assessment will continue for remaining courses as they are offered, with most being completed in Spring 2012. Courses that are only offered in Fall will be assessed in Fall 2012. A faculty online resource course and workshops will be offered early 2012. The course was launched in late 2011 with finishing touches continuing in Spring 2012.

Task D. Research, identify, and employ a college-wide system for storing student learning outcomes data and longitudinally tracking those data to track instructional improvement and target needed interventions to improve student success.

Task E. Implement the process for conducting assessments, recording student achievement of learning outcomes, and reporting those results. 

MUS-Great Falls has been actively working to develop measurable student learning outcomes that will allow the college to assess how well it is doing. Key to this effort are the Software Solutions team’s tasks to find appropriate software that will allow the institution to collect and analyze data that tracks progress on those outcomes; to deploy that software, and to begin collecting data.

The Software Solutions team began researching various software products – reviewing specifications, watching and working with demonstration versions, and talking to product representatives. The team is working closely with the Sindicate team to make sure the software will work with the data identified by that team.

Software research and demonstrations were conducted in Fall 2011. The team participated in demonstrations from two of the vendors (TK20 and Weave). As a result we have contacted Weave and requested a “sandbox” in order to try their product for a short period of time. Weave has provided ten logins for committee members. After testing, the team will contact other campuses using this product to collect anecdotal information. We hope to make a final proposal by the end of January 2012 and proceed to develop a proposal to the College Planning, Budget, and Analysis Committee (CPBAC) to request funds to purchase the initial license for the product and to train selected campus personnel.

Goal ThreeGOAL THREE: Strengthen Student Support Services and Programs


We will establish intrusive student support mechanisms that will:

  1. create social relationships for students;
  2. help students clarify aspirations and enhance their commitment;
  3. develop the “College Know-How” in students; and
  4. help make college life feasible for our students

Team: Career Advising Board
Leader: Courtney Johnsrud
Team Members
Holly Schott, Judy Hay, Lynn Ward, Larry Vaccaro, Rhonda Kueffler, Greg Stivers, Jamie Hauer, Eleazar Ortega, Pat Schoenen, Sandra Bauman, Linda Wurz, Leah Habel, Charlene Marshall, Sandra Allen, Vanja Velickovska

Task A. Catalyzed by the establishment of a new advising center, redesign the advising process so that it is intrusive, streamlined, and personalized. The new advising process should be designed to utilize all campus resources, including faculty, as well as be tied to a student early alert system.

Team: Student Success Course
Leader: Mandy Wright
Team Members: Heather Palermo, Lorene Jaynes, Colleen Hazen, Leanne Frost, Kirsten Bryson, Beth Cooper, Tom Oakberg, Greg Stivers, Julie Myers

Task B. Building from the COLS 102 Pilot Course, design and implement a mandatory student success course, tied to orientation and advising, for all students new to the College. This course should include components modeled after best practices such as the development of an academic and career plan to be utilized in the advising process.

Team: Journey to Lasting Impressions
Leaders: Brittany Budeski and Bridgette Pence
Members: Robin Williams, Ken Wardinsky, Lanni Klasner, Christine Perkins, EJ Suek, Lee Ann Myllamaki, Erica Rominger, Sandy Bauman, JA Sweat, Wendy Dove, Kathy Meier

Task C. Improve the “front door” experience through innovations including a mandatory, extended, and expanded student orientation, tied to advising and the student success course that includes such things as orientation to placement testing, financial literacy education.

Goal FourGOAL FOUR: Enhance and Strengthen the Learning Process through
Curricular and Pedagogical Reforms


Teaching is central to our mission, and thus it plays the largest role in whether or not our students succeed. We will reform and innovate in those areas with the greatest need and potential for increases student success.

Team: Developmental Ed Redesign
Leader: Leanne Frost
Members: Math Department Faculty, English Department Faculty, Mandy Wright, Dena Wagner-Fossen, Leah Habel, Brittany Budeski, Courtney Johnsrud, Jeff Agamenoni

Task A. Building from current research, reform and redesign the developmental education offerings to increase the percent of students who are successfully remediated for college-level coursework and at the rate in which they succeed in this process.

Team: Code Blue
Leaders: Quincie Lords and Mandy Wright
Members: Tom Oakberg, Joel Henderson, Cheryl Stanley, Jana Parsons Cherie McKeever, Julie Freshly, Judy Hay, Jocelyn Juelfs.

Task B. Implement enhanced instruction/ learning models and other reforms, including, but not limited to Supplemental Instruction, learning communities, paired courses, and/or contextualized learning, to increase the rate of student success in gatekeeper and “Top 10 Underperforming Courses.”

Team: GAP (Grades, Attendance, Progress)
Leader: Larry Vaccaro
Members: Mary Kay Bonilla, Marilyn Besich, Susan Cooper, Tom Degel, Jason Harding, Jamie Hauer, Colleen Hazen, Tom Oakberg, Carmen Perry, Laura Wight, Dave Schuler.

Task C. Establish mechanisms for predictive analysis of student success and to target intervention. This includes the establishment of a common grade reporting system, mandatory student attendance reporting/tracking, and frequent student progress feedback (e.g., quarterly grades or academic progress reports).

Team: Computer Skills
Leader: Donna Eakman
Team Members: Teri Dwyer, Karen Vosen, Ken Wardinsky, Bruce Gottwig, Deborah Newton, Laura Wight, Amelia Ward, Julie Rummel.

Task D. Increase student preparedness for online and technical courses through the development of a systematic means to evaluate incoming students’ basic computer skills, a remedial basic computer skills course, and by evaluating the current Introduction to Computer course (CAPP 120) in order to modify its curricula based upon program needs.

Team: General Studies Certificate
Leader: Heidi Pasek
Members: Pam Christianson, Susan Gassaway, Lanni Klasner, Donna Eakman

Task E. Research and Develop a Certificate of General Studies credential and curriculum, and shepherd it through the approval process for implementation.

Team: Health Care Certificate
Leader: Pam Christianson
Team Members: Tim Obressley, Susan Gassaway, Heidi Pasek, Adam Wenz, Donna Eakman, Lanni Klasner

Task F. Research and Develop a Certificate program or credential to recognize the completion of pre-requisite coursework for Health Sciences Programs.

Goal Five

GOAL FIVE: We will work to improve the relationships and interconnectivity between the College and our primary partners in the K12 and four-year university sectors.

Team: K-12 Connections
Leader: Dean Wagner-Fossen
Members: Pat Schoenen, Judy Hay, Kyle Gillespie, Mark Plante, Lisa Albert, Christine Perkins, Bridgette Pence, Carmen Perry, Amelia Ward, Cheril Edam

Task A. K12 - through partnership with the Great Falls Public Schools, hire and deploy pathways advisors to:

  1. offer college placement test orientation and testing in the high schools;
  2. assist with college and financial aid applications and literacy; and
  3. provide orientation and support services to college, college planning, and dual credit

Team: Transfer
Leader: Greg Stivers
Members: Heidi Pasek, Tom Degel, Brad Bechard, Pam Buckheit, Lee Anne Gills, Mandy Wright

Task B. Universities - establish more formalized articulation agreements to provide opportunities for general education students intending to transfer that lead them effectively into a program of study early on.

Goal Six

GOAL SIX: We will establish interdisciplinary teams to track cohorts of entering students (first-time and transfers) along the continuum of initial engagement to student success to identify where students face irrevocable challenges in their educational journey.

Team: Momentum Points
Leader: Wendy Dove
Mary Ellen Baukol, Becky Johnson, Ed Binkley, Dena Wagner-Fossen, Heidi Pasek, Mary Kay Bonilla, Eleazar Ortega

Task A. Utilizing AACC’s Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA), identify key success points along the continuum of student success (e.g. completing developmental education, completing the first college-level course, achieving 15, 30, etc. college credits). Create cohort data sets of key student types (e.g. pre-health students, students of color, transfer students, traditional and non-traditional, etc.) and have teams follow their progress to identify areas where students struggle.

Task B. Taking the findings from above, make recommendations for improvements to services, processes or protocols to the appropriate individual or areas. Implement changes to improve student outcomes along the continuum of student success.