Student retention focal point of focus groups

The students have spoken. 

Over the summer a group of students got together to share what they like and dislike about the college experience in a series of focus groups. 

Jamie DeLeeuw, the coordinator of research evaluation and assessment at MCCC, was in charge of the project.

During the focus groups, the students offered feedback over many different topics, such as developmental math classes and course scheduling. 

The general reception of the developmental math courses was negative, DeLeeuw said. Many students felt lost and alone when taking these classes.

“They would like someone to ask the questions instead of just wait, and they feel like they missed out on that interaction,” DeLeeuw said. 

Some of the feedback given by students included things such as having class schedules available more in advance, or having more classes with online options. 

DeLeeuw noted that some students commented about classes being canceled and needing to wait a year or more for the classes to be reoffered. 

DeLeeuw noted that it was not just academics the students talked about. 

“Lot of stuff about student groups and clubs, and having those advertised more, or opportunities for student interactions,” she said.

The reasoning behind the focus groups was to gain solid personal opinions from students who attend MCCC, as opposed to guessing based on numbers like attendance. 

“For instance, one of the things I saw in the quantitative data was it seemed like students didn’t feel very supportive of the college,” DeLeeuw said. 

“How support is defined in these questions and how these factors are comprised, it’s like ‘do you attend tutoring services’ or ‘do you attend computer lab services’ and we’re like, okay, maybe our students don’t attend these things a lot, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t feel supportive.”

DeLeeuw said she started with a random selection of students.

“I then realized that students don’t really want to attend a focus group session for a $10 gift card, especially around finals time, so then I opened it up to everyone,” she said.

DeLeeuw said she wanted to get the feedback of three different groups of students: dual-enrolled, 18-23-year-olds, and those over 23.

The focus groups were created with the intention of getting opinions from the students.

“Basically just looking for suggestions on how to improve,” DeLeeuw said. “What are the student issues so that we can improve the college.”

DeLeeuw said college President Kojo Quartey has promised to implement at least three changes based on the feedback given.

About 30 students attended the focus groups. Ideally, according to DeLeeuw, each group should have had 5-8 students each.

While the turnout was not optimal, DeLeeuw was pleased with the feedback received from each group.

“I actually learned a lot more about how the college worked myself,” she said. “In whatever position you’re in, you can only see so much. It was fun to learn and see the student’s experiences.”

As for how she might do things differently in the future, DeLeeuw said she would like to offer a larger incentive to students who come.

Additionally she would like to reach out to students who had left MCCC in the past without completing a degree, but that isn’t feasible at this time.

“I was also interested in interviewing students who had a goal of getting a degree or certificate, but they left early and didn’t come back. 

“But then to track them down and actually get them to want to come back would probably take a lot more resources,” she said.