Barton Community College will take a step back from a new procedure for how online students are assessed for college readiness.
Acting Vice President Elaine Simmons said a change to assessment tests implemented in January appears to be discouraging online enrollment. Students who were previously tested online for free now have to pay a $25 fee and find a proctor to monitor them as the take the placement tests for reading and math.
The tests are used to determine whether students need to take remedial courses. In the past, BCC students used ACT’s Compass, or similar tests from Asset or Accuplacer. But in 2015 ACT announced it is phasing out Compass. Meanwhile, the Kansas Board of Regents showed interest in requiring community colleges and universities to use a uniform test. Because Barton had already started using Accuplacer as one of its options, KBOR used the college’s data as it looked at a possible mandate, Simmons said.
“We started to move all of our assessments to Accuplacer,” Simmons said. Simmons told college trustees last Tuesday that weekly enrollment reports looked good in the fall. The move to Accuplacer-only started in January. February saw “modest declines” in enrollment and March saw “significant declines.”
“Did we implement too fast? Perhaps,” Simmons told the trustees. However, thanks to a change of personnel at KBOR, the state mandate has stalled, at least temporarily. Simmons said the college can either “stay the course or step back while working on the processes.”
Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman suggested the latter option.
“My belief is we need to take a step back,” he said. The $25 fee and proctored tests will disappear, at least temporarily. However, KBOR or the Higher Learning Center may eventually mandate proctored tests.
This does not affect students who attend traditional classes, because they can take a proctored test on campus without paying the $25. But an online student in western Kansas, for example, would need to go to another institution such as Dodge City Community College and see if the test could be proctored there.
By taking the step back,in-house assessments can be done.
Heilman noted that about half of BCC’s enrollment is in online courses. BartOnline is successful because, “we don’t put roadblocks in the way.” BartOnline also offers a more flexible schedule. “We offer immediacy and opportunity for students.”
College trustees were told about the planned move to Accuplacer last year. At the same time they approved a $61,000 contract with BioSig, whose software deters cheating by recognizing the unique handwriting of each student online. BioSig requires students to “sign in” on a touchpad.
Administrators knew going in that both changes would have a negative effect on enrollment, although they could only guess to what extent.
Heilman said there has been no adverse student reaction to BioSig so far. However, use of the security tool has been limited. It will be used more in the next three years.