High-Impact Practices at IUPUI

This guest blog was written by Ashley Armato, a student in the Master of Science in Higher Education program at Florida International University.  Ms. Armato attended AAC&U’s Network for Academic Renewal Conference, Student Success and the Quality Agenda, held April 4–6, 2013, in Miami, Florida, and blogged about her experience.
This blog post is a reflection of her experience attending the conference sessionIntegrating and Expanding High-Impact Practices Through IUPUI’s RISE to the Challenge Initiative, delivered by Sarah Baker, associate dean for academic affairs, University College; and Mary Fisher, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs and professor of nursing—both of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. 

Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) has implemented the RISE to the Challenge initiative, which aims to institutionalize high-impact practices (HIPs) by requiring students to participate in Research, International, Service, or Experiential learning. The RISE initiative encourages students to develop deeper approaches to learning through involvement in educationally purposeful activities in and out of the classroom and engagement in reflection and analysis. Students are introduced to the RISE initiative during their first-year experience, and required to include at least two of the four RISE components in their coursework.

During the Student Success conference presentation Integrating and Expanding High-Impact Practices Through IUPUI’s RISE to the Challenge Initiative,” the session presenters, Sarah Baker and Mary Fisher, gave a detailed account of their experiences in both the development and implementation of the initiative at IUPUI, as well as the challenges they faced and continue to face as they strive to expand and improve upon their original program design. From the student perspective, I was most impressed with the complexity of the programing, as it spans various campuses, colleges, departments, and faculty. Leadership is crucial in implementing a program of this magnitude, as is effective collaboration and communication. Assessment of this type of programing across various courses, programs, and campuses is an equally daunting task, yet incredibly crucial to the program’s sustainability and success. When developing a program, it is absolutely critical to understand the work and dedication involved in actually executing that program.

Another important aspect of the RISE initiative involves its attention to detail. Though each RISE designated course is enhanced to incorporate HIPs, the presenters highlighted the importance of building a curriculum from these courses. They explained that courses in and of themselves do not make a curriculum. Principles and goals must be threaded throughout courses, and these courses must connect to the overarching curriculum. In this way, courses become meaningful components of students’ coursework. If students cannot see the importance of these courses as they relate to their academic major, they can easily dismiss them as insignificant requirements.

An element of the RISE initiative that I found particularly innovative was the fact that RISE courses would be designated as such on transcripts. As a student, it is empowering to know that your participating in such an important initiative will be visible on your transcript and in essence follow you post-graduation. In doing this, the initiative becomes even more institutionalized and begins to truly represent and encompass the academic goals of the institution. Moreover, RISE integration adds a unique dimension and additional substance to IUPUI diplomas. Students are particularly motivated to engage in experiences that will not only enhance their education, but also prepare them to enter the workforce and afford them advantages over other applicants. This type of branding appears innovative and effective, and seems to encourage successful outcomes.

It is critical to examine one’s own institution in order to examine how high-impact learning can be implemented, particularly depending on the discipline. Course objectives will vary from department to department, and thus it is essential to understand the various forms these initiatives must take in order to be successful across the board. The sessions raised several important questions: How might you determine which HIPs are most effective for particular disciplines and at which points? How might you determine which HIPs are most effective for which groups of students? This session also emphasized the need for constant program review and assessment. How will we know whether our HIPs are impactful? Student involvement in program development was not discussed at length, but I would argue that the student perspective in programing is vital. I would be interested in furthering the conversation by discussing potential student roles in RISE assessment and retooling.

AAC&U also offers several publications on high-impact practices. Available now for purchase are George Kuh’s High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter, and Five High-Impact Practices: Research on Learning Outcomes, Completion, and Quality. A new forthcoming publication from AAC&U, Ensuring Quality and Taking High-Impact Practices to Scale, will be available this summer.


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