Engaged learning group program may end in 2012

By Sobia Siddiqui

The 2011-12 school year may be the final year for the Engaged Learning Group program. The program began four years ago at Baylor and was designed for a five-year duration.

Through the program, freshmen are able to take a three-semester course, with an optional fourth semester, that takes the place of one of their core requirements. Participating students live in Kokernot Residence Hall among classmates.

Baylor formulated the Engaged Learning groups to satisfy a requirement given by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

“It is one of two components of the university’s quality enhancement plans [PDF] [QEP],” said Dr. Ian Gravagne, an associate professor in the engineering department who was involved in the first set of Engaged Learning Groups. “Every university that’s in the accrediting area for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has to devise a QEP and submit it as part of their reaffirmation project; [the ELG program] was part of our QEP,”

The university is not required to keep a QEP beyond its fifth year, Gravange said. However, the university is required to assess the success of the QEP and can choose to keep it of its own accord.

The ELG program will be offered next year, but the courses will only be offered for two semesters instead of three, to finish off the program evenly in its fifth year.

Gravagne assembled a group of faculty and staff members of the ELG program to assess the program and include recommendations for its further success.

Gravagne has already written a proposal for extending the program, but now Baylor must decide whether it will continue funding the ELG program.

Dr. Laine Scales, professor of higher education and the associate dean of graduate and professional studies, is available to assist students in the ELG with topics ranging from classes to career choices.

“My role is to try to enhance the academic experience of the student by connecting them to different branches of the university that, as freshmen, they may not encounter,” Scales said. “The hope is that they will be able to continue their conversations from the classroom into the residence halls. What we have found and heard from students is that really does happen.”

Different ELG’s are offered every year, and Baylor faculty are encouraged to become involved and bring proposals for new programs. The accepted proposals are then used to form a three-semester course for freshmen, and Baylor faculty work together to teach the material to students.

Some of the ELGs of fall 2010 include Pre-health, Christian Narratives, Animals and Human Society and Unlocking the Imprisoned Mind with a Digital Key.

Eric Holleyman is a religion professor involved with the Christian Narratives ELG.

“I did it because it gave the opportunity for deeper interaction with students for a longer period of time,” Holleyman said.

Holleyman said like any other course, his class has a syllabus, reading assignments, exams, papers, discussion and lecture.

If the ELG program does continue at Baylor, it will remain as it has for the past five years with one major exception: each ELG will only last for one year instead of three semesters.

“When we looked at the data, when we assessed how effective these are, we discovered that the second year doesn’t contribute very much compared to the first year,” Gravagne said. “Most of the benefit that the students get in an ELG accrues in the first year.”

The coming academic year will be a trial run for the ELG as a continuing program in coming years. As of now there is not a set date for when the final decision will be announced.