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NDSU selected for ‘gateway’ course program

FARGO — As part of a new pilot program, North Dakota State University will analyze and transform as many as five introductory undergraduate “gateway” courses.

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NDSU was selected along with 11 other schools to participate in the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education’s Gateways to Completion program aimed at improving student success, retention and graduation rates, according to a news release from the school.

Gateway courses are foundational courses with high student enrollment and high risk for poor student performance, including D and F grades, withdrawals and incompletes, according to the institute.

Studies show that students who do not succeed in gateway courses are more likely to not finish their academic program and may not complete their education altogether.

Annual grade distribution reports for general education classes showed there were some courses with high rates of D and F grades, withdrawals and incompletes, said Larry Peterson, NDSU director of accreditation, assessment and advising.

Peterson chaired a group looking at those high failure rates, and they decided to apply to the Gateways to Completion program to address those issues.

Each college participating in the program will analyze as many as five at-risk courses based on data collected during the first year of the three-year program, according to the release.

Then the school will create “course transformation plans” to improve student learning.

They don’t want to change grading standards or course rigor, but delivery of content and course format.

“We’re looking at how these courses are offered that will be more likely to help students succeed,” Peterson said.

The school will form a steering committee to oversee the project, including two college deans, the director and a research analyst from the Office of Institutional Research and Analysis, the director of General Education and representatives from the Council on Improving Advising and the Council on Improving Retention. Faculty members from the selected at-risk courses also will be added to the committee.