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Creative Learning Techniques Equal Continued Success for Students in QCC’s Gateway to College Program

January 2021
  • Gateway to College Director Marci Skillings (L), Gateway Grad Joe Poirier and Senior Gateway Outreach Counselor Jenna Glazer.
    Gateway to College Director Marci Skillings (L), Gateway Grad Joe Poirier and Senior Gateway Outreach Counselor Jenna Glazer during Gateway's innovative Graduation to Go.

For the fifth year in a row, QCC’s Gateway to College Program has received the nationally recognized Program Excellence Award from its national network, Achieving the Dream.

“Nationally there are approximately 35 Gateway to College programs and we’re always in the top 10 percent. Since the first year they’ve given this award we’ve received it and not many are at this same level every year,” said QCC’s Director of Gateway to College, Marci Skillings.  “We’ve been called on a lot by our national network to present programs on our best practices.”

The Gateway to College program helps students who have dropped out of high school or who may not graduate. Through this program students can obtain a high school diploma and earn college credits at the same time. QCC’s Gateway to College is in partnership with Uxbridge High School and graduates of the program receive their high school diplomas though a partnership with the high school.

“Without our amazing high school partnership we could not support this program,” Ms. Skillings said, adding that the success of the program is also due to the amazing QCC Gateway team that includes Senior Gateway Outreach Counselor Jenna Glazer and Gateway Clerk Glenda Rodriguez. “We are a great team together.”

Quinsigamond Community College Gateway to College staff have not missed a beat in their quest to help students attain their dreams of a brighter future. Since March 2020 when QCC transitioned to remote instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gateway staff have worked on creative ways to keep students engaged. During the Fall 2020 semester, 41 students were part of the Gateway program and through the staff and faculty’s ongoing engagement, 12 students earned their high school diplomas (graduating in December) and eight have continued their education at QCC. The remainder of the students (with the exception of two) have continued with the Gateway program.

“All of our professors have helped us tutor the students. We couldn’t do this without everyone believing in and supporting Gateway,” Ms. Skillings added.

Prior to the pandemic, the Gateway staff saw students face-to-face on a daily basis. With the advent of remote learning, the staff had to figure out ways to continue that daily engagement.

“We set up weekly Google meet chats with each student for check-ins. This gave the students a live person to talk with about their classes and concerns.  We also put together an interactive website that was shared with students and their parents and was updated weekly,” Ms. Skillings said. “We were lucky to be able to use Google Suite (Google voice, calendar, Google chat/meet), as all of the students had a Google account from QCC.  We did a lot of communicating via text and emails and Google meet. “

In addition to sending out weekly emails to students and parents, the students documented their lab time for academic study hall in an online lab tracker. Yet, the faculty and staff noticed that students needed more support with how to navigate study time in a remote learning environment.

“This Spring semester we’ve developed study pods for all Gateway classes,” Ms. Skillings said.

Study pod sessions meet outside regular class time and are a proctored online study group. Students are required to be in a Zoom session with a proctor present. The proctor can assist with questions and make sure students stay on track with their work and don’t fall behind.

“If students need to go into breakout rooms to work together for 10-15 minutes they are able to do so, and we can check on them in case they have any questions,” Ms. Skillings continued. “We had this type of academic lab on campus (pre-pandemic) and students found it beneficial and were able to more effectively get their work done. So many thanked us afterwards.”

To learn more, visit QCC’s Gateway to College program.