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CAEL Pathways Blog

Adult Learner 360 Is Giving Students a Clearer View of CPL at UCM

The University of Central Missouri (UCM) is an innovative, public university dedicated to providing affordable, high-quality education to its students. Among their more than 7,500 undergraduate students, 42% identify as first generation, and more than 13% are 25 years or older. As they have actively worked to grow and continue to better support their increasing adult learner population, UCM has engaged with the Adult Learner 360 survey three times, beginning in 2016, when the tool was known as the ALFI (Adult Learning Focused Institution) Assessment. UCM revisited the Adult Learner 360 in 2019 and again in 2022, providing data both pre- and post-pandemic, reflecting changes in the campus environment, changes in student expectations and needs, and impact from the work inspired by their previous results. In an interview on August 29, 2023, Brenda Fuhr (manager, student transition and engagement) and Laurel Hogue (vice provost for online and learning engagement) sat down virtually with two members of the CAEL team to discuss UCM’s history with the Adult Learner 360, the impact the survey has had on their policies and structure, and to look to the future at their institutions.

UCM has received generous support from regional organizations determined to assist in obtaining longitudinal data about area institutions and their support structures for adult learners. Among those supporters are KC Scholars (a Kansas City-based 501(c)(3) supporting learners by providing scholarship funding and support structures to assist with retention and degree attainment, supported by the Kauffman Foundation) and The DeBruce Foundation (a regional organization dedicated to empowering people to create and pursue their professional goals). Leveraging the resources provided by these partnerships, UCM collaborated with CAEL to complete multiple rounds of the Adult Learner 360 over seven years. In particular, UCM wanted to have a clear understanding of the adult learner experience, directly from the students themselves. As Fuhr explained, it is possible that what an institution identifies as a top concern may not be the most pressing issue for the students themselves. By exploring the range of responses from the Adult Learner 360, the UCM team was able to refocus energy and resources on those areas of greatest importance to the students.

Among the most impactful information from the survey responses, UCM learned that their robust credit for prior learning (CPL) policies were not as well known among students as expected. While the institution had put substantial effort into making the policies clear and the structure manageable for students, lack of communication was continuing to cause challenges. The UCM team applied this information to their approach to CPL visibility on campus, restructuring and increasing advisor training and resources, including auto-triggers for students who may be eligible to receive credit through CPL assessments. Other adjustments stemming from the Adult Learner 360 results include overall greater communication, such as intensified cross-departmental collaboration; increased course offerings for career and life planning; scaffolding information with the admissions team; and optimizing key search terms.

The impact from the changes and initiatives inspired by the Adult Learner 360 resulted in quantifiably improved results, reflected in increased scores in the financing, life and career planning, assessment of learning outcomes, and outreach principles over time. While the tool is designed in part to identify areas for growth and development, Fuhr reflected that another benefit is the satisfaction of seeing the shift to more positive student responses. With so many initiatives, projects, and efforts working to address student needs, the Adult Learner 360 also provides an opportunity to celebrate the victories achieved by the hardworking team. While frequently focusing on the next step of the next project, the Adult Learner 360 gave the UCM team an opportunity to celebrate their hard work, recognize that their efforts were making a difference, and take a well-deserved moment to congratulate each other on how far they’d come. Fuhr reflected that in addition to identifying areas for growth, “this information is telling your actual success stories.”

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