Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Communication about Placement

As institutions implement the use of multiple measures for placement, communicating campus placement policy to students becomes both more important and more complex. Communication with students can be facilitated in person through the offices responsible for high school outreach, admissions, testing, advising, and scheduling, as well as through print and web-based institutional materials.

System and Campus Practice

Institutions have utilized an array of strategies to ensure effective communication about multiple measures policies, including:

  • Starting in high school: In California’s State University system, communication about course placement begins in high school. The state system provides high schools with literature and posters that describe placement processes and requirements. It also funds coordinators of the Early Assessment Program (EAP), a state-mandated college-readiness test administered to all juniors, to engage students in conversations about what test results mean and how placement decisions are ultimately made.
  • Increasing capacity to communicate in person: At College of Coastal Georgia (CCG), scheduling for freshman courses is facilitated by an advisor in a one-on-one session. Although placement decisions are made based on a complex index and system of possible exemptions, this high-touch scheduling process allows advisors to communicate directly with students about the requirements for their chosen pathway of study and the measures on which they are being placed in order to ensure that students understand how placement will affect their trajectory.
  • Revamping web and print materials: As part of their “Next Steps” guide for new students, Washington’s Highline College has designed an interactive webpage which allows students to choose the right “placement pathway” for them based on past educational experiences. For example, a student who has graduated from high school in the last three years with no prior college credits would select that pathway and then click through a drop-down list of potential measures for placement. Students can find information on how to prepare for and submit each measure, what the college-readiness threshold scores are, and what courses they are qualified to Large poster versions of the “placement pathways” graphic are displayed at the Admissions Office and the Placement and Testing Center.
  • Designing guided self-placement tools: More and more institutions are giving students the option to use online “self-placement” modules. For example, students at Ozarks Technical Community College in Missouri who opt to self-place are prompted, through a series of links, to check the requirements of their intended certificate or degree, review relevant prerequisites, view diagrams and links to resources such as class syllabi and sample assignments, and then decide on the right English, Math, or Reading course(s) for them. These tools go beyond traditional communication about placement to engage students directly in the process of assessing their own college-readiness.

Lessons Learned

  • High-tech and high-touch communication approaches are being used to improve student understanding of the placement process. However, most campuses report that communication remains a challenge and not all students understand how they are placed.
  • Additional staff capacity will be needed in the offices that serve as first points of contact with incoming students. Face-to-face conversations about placement take time and require that staff are trained and up-to-date on placement requirements and resources, whether they take place during recruitment, admissions, orientation, testing, or registration and scheduling.